Puerto Rico Relief NOW

I visited Puerto Rico multiple times in the past year. Flying into paradise with swaying palm trees, tropical beverages and smiling locals always made me thrilled to touch down on the idyllic Caribbean island...

This week was different. As we pulled out of the airport, there were no swaying palm trees. Many were without palms entirely, only a bare stump to remain as a sign of calmer times. There were no tropical beverages. Many hotels, grocery stores and restaurants still remain inoperable. There were far fewer locals with carefree grins along their faces, their lives having been turned upside down by Hurricane Irma and Maria.

During my first day on the island, I met a five-year-old boy named Eliam. He lived in a crippling house on Crash Boat Beach near Aguadilla, an area that experienced 215 mph winds during the hurricane. Eliam was very shy, and when I spoke to him in Spanish, he answered me in English. I kept on, asking him about his home and how he was feeling after the hurricane. He told me his family cannot cook, cannot bathe, cannot drink, and cannot turn on any lights. Nobody had been to check on them in weeks. Immediately my heart broke for Eliam and his family. I handed him a water filter and a solar light with a heavy heart, showing him the light's different settings of low, high and emergency. He walked away from me that evening with a glimer of hope and a lifted spirit.

Can you imagine? No water. No electricity. No help, even a month after the storm.

This is where we came in.

Dr. Alison Thompson along with myself and 4 others traveled to Puerto Rico on a small chartered plane this week to deliver solar lights, water filters and meals to anyone we came across, to any Americans we came across. I want to reiterate that our fellow U.S. CITIZENS are in great danger as they fight to survive. They are living in the dark and a good portion of the island is without clean drinking water even four weeks after the hurricane. I can't adequately explain to you how it felt when an elderly woman looked me in the eyes with pure elation after she was handed a light source and water filter. She'd seen zero aid until we showed up. Children were ecstatic because they could see through the darkness again. When the most simplistic features and basic needs become luxuries, humanity is stripped of egos, of status, of prejudice.

After working behind the scenes at our warehouses in Miami for the past two weeks, I know exactly where donations are being stored and when they get put on forklifts to be loaded onto trucks and taken to the airport for planes bound for Puerto Rico.

We're a growing team who is tackling relief work head on, managing multiple warehouses where aid is sorted, categorized, and put on trucks to be sent over to areas most affected by the storms.

Imagine living without running water, electricity, internet, A/C, cell service, and grocery stores for over a month. Sounds pretty horrific, right? This is the current state of Puerto Rico a month after Hurricane Maria hit the island. This week, I witnessed first-hand what happens when the sun sets on Puerto Rico. Complete blackness settles over the island for the next 12 hours. Once the sun comes up, hoards of people wait in desperation to purchase food from corner stores that are beginning to operate again. Lines of people clog the airport in an effort to get off the island. A maze of cars descends upon gas stations with fuel. Entire rainforests are in ruins. Homes have been ripped apart with devastation beyond repair.

If donating to this cause has been pulling at your heartstrings for the past few weeks, PLEASE help and donate HERE to a coalition made up of Third Wave Volunteers and Global Empowerment Mission where your generosity will be recognized and delivered with a fast turnaround. Funds raised will go towards our goal of shipping 500,000 dehydrated vegan meals to the island alongside 500 solar lights and 500 water filters.

Every single dollar counts. What if it's simply the cost of one coffee and challenging 10 of your friends to do the same?

Make a difference. Touch lives. Be a light. Pay it forward.
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Lesley Murphy
Little Rock, AR

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