Spirit of Puerto Rico

UPDATE: WE STARTED PRODUCTION IN PUERTO RICO ON MARCH 7 and shot footage until MARCH 21 for our first round of shooting! Then against n late April through mid-May...See our trailer for the upcoming documentary! Thank you so much to our generous supporters for helping make this possible! We NEED to go back and follow-up and we need to be there by late-June! Please support our project, 'Spirit Of Puerto Rico'.

We are film makers, photographers and storytellers looking to document Puerto Rico's ongoing stories of victory in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma/Maria. Puerto Rico needs a louder voice...We will be that voice. We need your help. Everything counts. No matter how tiny and seemingly insignificant. After all, what is any ocean but a multitude of tiny drops? Read more about our humanitarian mission... 

I'm a film maker/music video director/operator of a small video production company based in Chicago, IL. Successful to a degree, with over 50 million views on over 35+ music videos, which we have produced over the past 7 years. My talented wife and I are extremely wary to start a 'GoFundMe' campaign for just about any reason...But after some careful thought and an encouraging push from a few colleagues, we've decided this one is worth everything to us. We have produced several successful crowdfunding campaigns for clients in the past but this time we've attached our hearts and souls to something much more important. To us, this project means everything and we can't do it alone. Destiny will decide, it always does. 
    We have a new goal and it needs all of us to give our immediate attention. The goal? Simple in theory but demanding and difficult to accomplish.  We want to scour the island of Puerto Rico, along side community food service workers, botanists working on sustainable farming, humanitarian groups, etc. in search of the human stories affected by Hurricanes Irma/Maria. We want to showcase stories of American (yes I said American) determination and victory! We'll tell the stories of 'the lost' but also 'the found' on hurricane ravaged, Isla De Encanto(Puerto Rico's beautiful nickname, meaning Island of Enchantment). 
By sharing these stories of struggle and victory with the world, together we can make a bigger impact, boost awareness and get them the support they need. We will be using our talents in photography, journalisitic video on our dedicated "Spirit of Puerto Rico" YouTube channel. We will be delivering online, a weekly web-series for current real time updates (possibly even a bi-weekly web series, uploaded when the Puerto Rican internet permits us) and ultimately a long form documentary which can be shopped by the pros to studios like Netflix and other avenues featuring documentary programming. We're gonna share it with the world. All of it highlighting the struggles endured but also showcasing the victories won during the recent post-hurricane season in Puerto Rico. We will be going out nearly everyday with a few very specialized groups of helpers, getting dirty, wiping tears, lending ears, digging deep and certainly squeezing out a few strong hugs...but the main purpose is finding that "elusive hope" we all wish for in times of need. 'Hope' was nearly lost in the storm. They need it returned. The simplicity a little bit of hope brings, is powerful medicine and that's what we'll have to offer. We will show the beautiful faces of Puerto Rico conquering this devastation and triumph over adversity! We want this project seen on every computer/television screen worldwide...as many as we can reach!

       In the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Puerto Rico has been utterly destroyed in every sense of the word. First came the initial chaos of a mangled homeland and searching for the missing pieces of their lives. Chaos soon turned to disbelief then utter shock. Ultimately that sentiment shifted into anger, as relief help becomes further delayed, even selective in some situations. Though recently, 130 days after the storms, I'm told that 'anger' has faded...Good news? Not really. My sources have informed me, the 'anger and frustration' has now spun into a downward spiral of 'dismal resignation'. A bleak sadness has taken hold in some parts of the island. That's where we're needed most. Over 130 days after Hurricane Maria...the determined people of Puerto Rico have resigned to their dire situation and many have simply given up. Who can blame them? Suicide rates are skyrocketing while the island's people, once vibrant, proud and strong, are now desperately weakened. Human morale has hit an all time low. Few schools outside of San Juan are open to students and some have little chance of opening before Summer or even much later.

Very little national level media coverage occurs. The news cycle has switched to something more exciting. The networks stick to the easy recovery story of San Juan. But the desperation felt in the smaller towns, the lost hope experienced in the mountain villages and the feeling of abandonment in the jungles are rarely highlighted in the news. It exists. We will find those stories, tell those stories and get the people of PR more attention and help.     As we all can see on the news (very briefly), San Juan's touristy restaurants are open and they are trying their best to move forward from 2017's devastating hurricane season. In San Juan, businesses are near 80% functioning. Many grocery stores are open for business in San Juan and also in the larger towns. The San Juan, cruise ships are in and out of the port, bringing the unaware tourists, who normally don't travel more than 1/2 mile from the cruise ship. They don't know what we know...Most of the traffic lights are up and running in San Juan. Things are improving steadily...though repairs are happening much more slowly, compared to the speedy recovery witnessed in well-funded Texas or Florida. Rural Puerto Rico is nearly forgotten. Puerto Rico is not made up of larger towns/cities. It's mostly jungle and smaller mountain communities. A much smaller scale of civilization exists there.

Even in San Juan though, things are far from perfect. An elementary school in San Juan got it's electrical power back on just yesterday, January 16, 2018, over 110 plus days after the storm(s). Painful news if you stop for a moment and think about the furthest rural elementary school from San Juan...What about the interior jungle towns or in the hardest hit areas in the south?...Nope, those schools are closed indefinitely. Again, this is not old news, this is the current situation(late January '18) over 130 days(over 4 months) after the storms have left their wake of brutal devastation.
    As you relax comfortably reading this mission statement tonight in your home,  or in your comfy office chair, you should know that only 10-15 minutes drive from San Juan, there are families who are still tossing and turning in the damp conditions, under the night sky without proper roofing or lighting. Imagine that for a second, if you dare. Forget about the comfort level and ability to 'get a good night's sleep'. They are just trying to stay moderately dry while losing the battle to save their belongings from the relentless mold. All of this we take for granted while they persevere the deluge of that Caribbean humidity, heat and rain....Do I need to mention there's very little 'shade shelter' from the unbearable daytime heat without a roof? I should mention it. It's not comfortable nor safe...Now, imagine your grandparents, young kids or even your babies out there. Feel that? Yup, you do...

The 2017 hurricane season is now over but it will be back with a vengeance before we know it. Storms will once again be ramping up, just off Africa's west coast and heading East to the Caribbean very soon. That's why it's so important to do all we can NOW...not later.        An island surrounded by water doesn't sound like a place for a water shortage does it? Fresh drinking water is scarce and many still use 'mountain water run-off' to fill their drinking buckets a few times a day. Picture that scenario for your family...A major highway with lines of cars waiting on the shoulder for their family's turn to fill a bucket from a trickle waterfall, coming down a highway polluted cliffside and into the gutter. That's the reality. The elderly and very young have died and are dying without their life saving medications, they are malnourished and some are nearly starving. In some of the remote villages there is just too much overwelming work to complete and not enough support is getting to the people who need it. Doesn't really matter why...not anymore.        

The need for this mission nor the failure of the situation cannot be blamed on any one political party. We don't care for that kind of useless debate. These are fellow humans who need your help regardless whom you like or dislike in Washington. You can blame FEMA, Puerto Rico's Electricity provider(s) or blame any one of the corrupt agencies in Puerto Rican or the U.S.  government for the delayed rebuilding efforts. It doesn't matter. Not now. The need remains. No blame. Only solutions.       Ah, the solutions....That's where you and I come in....Here's the good part of the story. We are in direct contact with a few amazing 'community volunteer help groups', non-profits and charities, who are up and running, already organized in Puerto Rico and doing great things for their communities every single day...but many of those organizations are struggling by themselves to stay afloat. Some of the relief workers have two regular jobs to support their own families and homes...Yet, they volunteer their blood, sweat and tears. With little thanks and minimal support, they push on into the jungles every day, sometimes in borrowed cars, giving food, building homes, caring for the elderly, bringing potable water, installing 'blue tarp' shelter roofs, planting sustainable vegetable/fruit gardens while teaching small farming techniques and even lending their talents for medical help to those in need. One of the groups has partnered with members the food service industry, by reaching out to food shop/small restaurant/bakery owners who were affected by the storm, offering to help repair and reopen them. Their one and only request? Just one promise...Once repaired and re-opened they will help by serving their own communities with food. Another amazing group with whom we are in contact, builds legit roofs, re-frames houses and makes all kinds of construction repairs to damaged homes, schools and churches...for free. This is a real island community effort. Many who are lost in desparation are planning on leaving their homes or have already left....Yet many have stayed and persevere every day to save their beloved island. We wanna be there.

Our goal is to bring to light their stories in photo, word and video, on an ongoing basis...This needs to be documented for all to see. To highlight the efforts of those who stepped up and helped...but mostly we want to share the victories won by the resilient people of Puerto Rico, whom they diligently serve. There are some amazing stories out there. 

Your contribution will be used for a few specific things: Travel back and forth from Chicago , we will need modest, safe, wifi enabled lodging(to share online everyday), proper insurance for all our expensive gear, vehicle rentals,food/water/fuel/other expenses for production crew for 9 weeks or more, in chapters, gathering footage in PR, editing in Chicago and also light production help. We will prefer using local camera operators instead of importing non-local talent from the mainland when possible. These amazing people are talented, skilled and need work. They wanna work. There's plenty of untapped talent on the island. We plan to begin production in Puerto Rico starting as soon as humanly possible. hopefully, we'll have enough funding and support by Mid-Febraury or God willing, sooner. We've put every bit of our own resources we can muster towards this project. We are counting on you and hope you can spare some of your hard earned dollars to support this human project.

You can help the people of Puerto Rico by helping us share their stories with the world! If today isn't a good day for you financially, we get it. Please share this important campaign on your social networks. It would mean the world to us and also to the people of Puerto Rico. We ALL can 'do something'. Sharing this with your peers at home or at work is greatly appreciated and is pivotal for success. We're counting on you.

Now listen, let's not hide this fact...We know you can donate your contribution directly to large and well funded charity group or even a small one. You can do your part that way. If that makes more sense for you then please follow your heart...but 'do something'. When you generously choose to support THIS important humanitarian project, your dollar will not be squandered and not a single dime shall be wasted.  Our budget is tightly managed and designed to maximize our production time on the island. We have some pretty cool rewards if that's any incentive. If your budget can't quite manage those levels of support, we get it. Even a couple dollars will help and is greatly appreciated. Everything counts. 

To wrap it up here, the whole point of doing this project is simple...Puerto Rico needs a much louder voice! We want to be that voice! We want to bring back the "Spirit of Puerto Rico" in all it's colorful glory...and we know you do too. Thank you for your time and thoughtful consideration. If we don't meet our modest budget goal, we'll find a way somehow...but it would be tough to withstand any more delay when the timeline is so crucial! With 100% of our goal met, we will have no 'Plan B' to battle with and we can get working on the island right away! If we exceed this 'production phase goal', then we can continue taking the next steps in making this project even bigger! This is our long term commitment. Again, destiny finds a way. It always does. 

Please help and be a part of this 'hope' project. It is meant to help the people of Puerto Rico using the talent and resources we've been given. I know that 'together', we all can accomplish this goal.

Thanks again...

Davo and Heather, humble servants for the 'Spirit of Puerto Rico'.

Your move...

Article from the LA Times
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Organizer and beneficiary

Davo Paul
Chicago, IL
Heather Lea

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