On September 21 of last year Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria. Today, almost 4 months later, Puerto Ricans still struggle to put their lives, homes, farms and businesses back together. Though the losses are overwhelming and difficult to process, many Puerto Ricans see an opportunity in this disaster to rebuild and remake their island home in ways that are more resilient and more sustainable than ever before. We are a group of Vermonters who have organized a project to support this work, and to assist in the rebuilding of one small community high in the mountains in the center of the island.
Our project is supported by Monte Verde Cultural Exchange, a Vermont-based non-profit organization that was founded more than 25 years ago to foster cultural exchange and understanding between northern New England and Latin America. In Puerto Rico we will collaborate with Agua Sol y Sereno, a Puerto Rican theater company that has been traveling to communities all across the island to bring messages of strength, hope and resilience since a few days after the hurricane hit. We will also work with the Resiliency Fund of Puerto Rico, an agricultural project that aims to aid small sustainable farms in recovery and replanting so they may continue to produce good, clean and fair food for the growing local food economy.
Toro Negro is located near one of the highest peaks in Puerto Rico. The community lay directly in the path of the eye of Hurricane Maria, and many of the structures there, including the Community Center and the school, were badly damaged. Toro Negro’s community farm also sustained major damage. On Jan. 23 we will go to Torro Negro with a big group of Puerto Ricans and Vermonters, comprising carpenters and musicians, stilters and a solar expert, actors and farmers and many willing hands. We will arrive with tools and materials and expertise to aid in reconstruction, and we will also bring workshops and performances to help people process what has happened and to find inspiration to rebuild and renew their lives.
Stephan and Howie Cantor, organizers of the project, have been collecting donations for this and other relief efforts since the first days after the storm. Howie, a singer-songwriter who has found inspiration in Puerto Rico for many years, has performed several benefit concerts for Puerto Rico including one beautiful night in December at the Music Box in Craftsbury, Vermont where he performed together with many other Vermont-based musicians. The generosity of our friends and neighbors has been a great blessing. Now the time for our work draws near, and we hope that you will consider helping us to have the greatest impact possible by donating to this project. Even though the basic needs of the project are funded by the money we have already received, we are seeking additional funds to enable us to purchase more building materials and tools for construction. The need is great. Every penny we receive will be used to help put Torro Negro back together again.
Our one effort may not repair an entire island, but person to person we will do all we can in solidarity with Puerto Rico, and many small efforts all across Puerto Rico will succeed to make a very big difference. Thank you for your help in making this project possible.
Your donation to Monte Verde Cultural Exchange is tax-deductible.
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