Dear friend and loved one:
My name is Juan Agostini (a,k,a Juanito), a Senior Tennis Professional and member of the New York based Sportime Family of tennis and fitness clubs. This message is intended for everyone, but is especially directed to all the friends and wonderful acquaintances that have crossed my path both on and off the countless tennis courts and clubs I have had the privilege to teach at across New York and Puerto Rico. It hurts me to the core, and it fills me with fear and dread to have to report that today, my immediate family — comprised of one son, my oldest brother and his wife and children, plus, first cousins of the Agostini-Natali family — find themselves in dire straits post-Hurricane Maria’s violent visit to the island. They are cutoff and stranded from each other due to a total breakdown of the electrical grid, island-wide, combined with near-zero telecommunications or cellular or Internet connectivity, and as such, they now face grave and dangerous conditions.
For generations, both of our families (Agostini-Natali) played a huge role in Puerto Rico’s historical and legendary coffee-growing business, tracing back to the days when coffee and other small fruits were sown and harvested by hand right near the towns of Villalba-Orocovis (near Cerro Maravilla), which, if you know anything about farming coffee, are located in the highest parts of the island; and so therefore, the most remote and isolated, even under normal conditions.
It has been almost 10 days since I shared any form of communication with them, which was just prior to Hurricane Maria making landfall. Yesterday, September 28, 2017, they were able to reach ground level for the first time, and managed to call me only barely and briefly. From what I could decipher between the static and the interrupting moments where the signal kept clipping, their crude description of what was left in the wake of the storm, in terms of shattered homes, blasted fields, unearthed terrain, washed out roads and ravaged vegetation seemed like something out of a Hollywood movie; complete and utter devastation on a level no one in the family has ever seen for generations, with some areas destroyed beyond recognition; as if a nuclear bomb had fallen.
To date, they still have no electrical power or communications, and according to all experts, these conditions will prevail for many months to come. These are very humble and modest-living families to begin with, and most of what they had has been wiped away or destroyed by mud and water. Their requirements are basic, but their needs are substantial; in short, immediate help with basic essentials in order to start a rough and uncertain road to recovery. In the most practical sense, we are talking about the same supplies and sundries needed after any catastrophe hits: dry food, bottled water, or in cartons, powdered milk, canned goods, flashlights, batteries, portable water filters, diapers, baby wipes; again, goods of the most basic and non-perishable kind.
Money, of course, is also needed to buy fuel or diesel to run generators to what is left of their homes, as well as to buy construction materials to begin making essential repairs to the houses, including portable power tools and portable electric generators. Money is also needed to buy seeds and trees to replant and restore the soil. No trees or crops on their farms were spared Hurricane Maria’s uncaring fury; roughly 80% of the workable land has been totally razed by the storm. The structure that serves as our family warehouse has been severely damaged, along with the farming gear, landscaping equipment and all other tools that would be needed to begin repairs of their homes and terrain.
As you have all heard reported, basic emergency relief shipments have made it to the island, but only to sit on the piers untouched, waiting for the kind of leadership that would manage the logistics and transportation and distribution challenges of getting this relief even to the nearest of people, making any attempt to reach out farther to those people in such remote towns as those where my family and other stricken families reside nearly impossible at this point.
I proudly served with distinction with the U.S. Navy for 12 years of my life, and I was part of instrumental services that included several humanitarian campaigns in South East Asia and the Middle East. I never thought then, and it still now challenges me to think, that I would someday see myself on the opposite end of a disaster relief effort. Yet, here I stand.
They say if you want things done right — or right now — you have to do them yourself. While I am no expert, I do have disaster relief experience most civilians don’t. And because the impact of this storm on the Island’s most basic infrastructure has proven so crippling, and the devastation to the environment has been so complete, and because of the fact that all this, and so much more, is now conspiring daily, even hourly, to threaten more lives in Puerto Rico, and not just those of my family, but island-wide, I find myself faced with the charge to care for my family myself, where they cannot, and, yes, to do execute this relief effort myself. This is why I have reached out to you now with this heartfelt S.O.S.
As such, this relief campaign and the donation request before you will be handled and executed by me personally, withdrawing the funds from my US bank account and deliver them to my brother bank account who is the primary beneficiary.
Again, and I wish to be extremely transparent here, all funds gathered will go to the assistance of the Agostini-Natali family (Diego Agostini as beneficiary), and a bank account has been established under his name to ensure that those funds arrive surely and directly to them. I will provide photo evidence once the transfer has taken place from my bank account statements.
In addition, I have made plans to gather as much as I can in terms of foodstuffs, supplies and additional monetary funds to hopefully either get on a plane myself within the next 3 weeks and bring these essentials with me to them, or to find some reliable method to ship them, in order to help my family members, survive the next challenging months and to eventually get back on their feet.
The mission is daunting, but I feel the sense of duty and honor bubbling in me again that was ingrained in me during my years of military service. I hope that you can empathize with my sense of responsibility — not just to family, but also to country, as Puerto Rico is American and its people, American citizens — and share in my need and desire to help.
Please forward this message to any individuals you feel would be willing to help. Your assistance in this will be so very appreciated.
God bless you for your help, God bless you for support, and God bless the island and the people of Puerto Rico.
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