We hit the ground running! Before we left for Puerto Rico we had made contact with the municipality of San Sebastian, and they in turn connected us with Victor Viana, a local pastor who has been working closely with the Mayor's Office on a number of social service initiatives. Pastor Viana was invaluable in helping us identify families who are truly struggling in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Local law enforcement was also very helpful answering some of our basic questions, noting how much community spirit and willingness to help others there was even among those who'd suffered greatly themselves.
In the picture below is Hector, with his brother. Where they are standing is the location of a wooden extension of the cement house that once occupied the space there before Maria blew it away.
Thanks to all of you, we were able to give Hector a gift card for National Lumber in San Sebastian that will allow him to purchase supplies to begin his rebuilding process.
The woman in the royal blue blouse in the picture above is Marilyn. She lives in the mountains above San Sebastian with her three children, one of whom is severly autistic. In order to get her autistic child to and from medical appointments, she used to push him in his wheelchair over a rocky walkway to and from the road, which is about 25 yards from her home. Maria rendered the walkway virtually impassable. To improve her situation, we are financing a new driveway that will directly link her house to the road and greatly facilitate transportation for her disabled child.
As has frequently happened with people in the wake of Hurricane Maria, Marilyn did not qualify for FEMA assistance because she has no deed to the property she occupies--which was inherited, having been passed down through multiple generations when documentation might not have been so formal.
Amalia, in the photo above in the purple flowered blouse, lost her roof in the hurricane, and most of her posessions were destroyed. She recieved $850 from FEMA, an amount that won't come close to covering the cost of repair to the roof. Her case is being appealed, however, thanks to the work of pastor Viana. In the meantime, the tarp FEMA provided at least keeps most of the water out of her house when it rains. We are replacing her heavily damaged front door to provide necessary security as well as a kitchen cabinet, sink and plumbing hardwear that were also virtually destroyed by the storm. And thanks to all of you we were able to do this.
Zoraida, whose unfinished house in Rincon is pictured below and whose circumstances were perhaps the most dire we encountered, was hit really hard by Maria. She cares for two young adult children who are severely hadicapped.
The son is severly autistic and is now suffering from significant post-traumatic stress as a result of spending hours in one room, suffering from the incessant roar of the storm as it battered their unfinished home for over twelve hours. Working with our friends at "Stronger than Maria", a local grass roots organization, we were able to provide a down payment on the repairs needed by this family to make their home truly habitable--and we hope to do more in the future.
Mildred, pictured above, lives in this very modest small two bedroom house. Her bed, stove and front porch were all destroyed by the hurricane, but we were able to finance replacements for her. She too has no light, but volunteers are helping her with that.
And the financing we were able to provide Papo, pictured below, will allow him to complete repairs to the flood damage in his house only partially covered by what he recieved from FEMA.
In addition to the people we helped and photographed there were four others that needed help that were not photographed including a 90 year old man that lost his dentures.
There are so many stories and there are still so many needs that it will take years to address them all--and we look forward to continuing our efforts. We were truly humbled, however, by the importance of the what we were able to do for the few people we were able to assist--and by the depth of the appreciation they all felt for the total strangers who had helped them. Thank you all so very much for making this all possible.
Almost four months after the worst hurricane in more than 80 years 35% of the people of Puerto Rico still have no electricity, many also are still without water, and all these are still in dire need of help. Many roads are still impassable due to mudslides, and much of the island's natural beauty remains heavily damaged.
My family home sits just a few yards from a creek that flooded the home and ate away most of the driveway access to the house--which is not habitable at present acording to FEMA. But it is at least intact. Others of my relatives around the island also came through the hurricane relatively unscathed, though many live in low-lying areas that were severely flooded.
But our situation is relatively good compared to many others. We will rebuild and repair our own homes--but many others we know personally are unable to rebuild without help.
That is why my family and I, my friend and actress Luna Lauren Velez--a star of the Showtime TV series "Dexter"--along with her family and others have decided to take action together to help those we know are in dire need to rebuild their homes and lives. We have named our initiative "PaLantePR", which means Puerto Rico moving forward.
We want our efforts to have a meaningful impact, so we are reaching out to you, our friends and extended families, for any financial help you can extend. Our immediate goal is to help ten families in Puerto Rico with $1000 to $2000 per family in gift cards and cash to help them in their rebuilding process. We've deliberately limited the number of recipients so that the impact of our assistance will be meaningful, and because we are also personally undertaking responsibility for assessing rebuilding projects, delivering 100 % of the funds raised and obtaining proof of disbursements to account for every penny recieved and spent. We will post pictures on social media as well to allow those interested to monitor how donated money was spent.
Your generous contributions are what we and scores of people struggling with the unprecedented disaster of Maria need and will appreciate tremendously.
As you probably are aware, adding to the urgency is the fact that the government of Puerto Rico was in a dire economic situation before this disaster--which post-Maria is now being decribed as "apocalyptic"--so little real assistance can be expected there. In addition, federal government efforts have been neither timely nor well organized--with many people whose lives have been devasted still having recieved virtually no assistance.
So from the depths of all of our hearts, we therefore thank you in advance for any contributions you can make. Your efforts will make all the difference in rebuilding the lives of at least some of those devastated by Maria--and who are still waiting in the dark.
Thank you all so very much.
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The Profit In Puerto Rico: An American Crisis
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