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ViequesLove

$960,814 of $1.0M goal

Raised by 7,490 people in 5 months


On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria struck Vieques and caused wide-spread damage and destruction, leaving its residents without water, electricity or communication abilities. Electricity is not expected to return to the island until 2018 and water is not flowing consistently. The hospital has been condemned and the schools are currently not operational. The situation is still dire.

 This fund was started with the intent to provide support in whatever way possible to help the island to recover and to have a more sustainable future.  Our first priority was to communicate with people on the island by sending satellite phones in by a private plane. This communication led to the stark realization that help was not coming fast enough. ViequesLove would need to step into the role of providing immediate relief until federal aid arrived. 


Accomplishments to date:

Communications

• Utilized satellite phones to establish communication between key local entities; hospital, police, airport and team leaders on and off the island.

• Delivered a satellite phone by boat to Culebra.

• Set up call center to allow Vieques residents to call loved ones.

Media and Government Outreach

• Mounted a national media campaign to bring attention to the plight of Vieques. Vieques has been featured on CNN, NBC Nightly, CBS, Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Washington Post and many other news outlets across the country and globe.  

• Lobbied key legislators to provide more aid to Vieques and rally against the Jones Act

• Lobbied key government officials to bring more aid to Vieques and recently requested information on the relief and recovery plan from the Federal Coordinating Officer for Puerto Rico.

Supplies/Food/Gasoline

• Filled private planes landing directly on Vieques in the first two weeks after the storm with baby supplies, food, medicine, and other needed supplies.

•  Provided immediate support to police department to fill vehicles with gas

• Shipments of food distributed to Corefi, Departemento de Familia, and Alianza Cristiana y Misionera Vieques, the Boys and Girls Club

• Donation made to Banco de Aliamentos de PR so that they could continue to serve their Vieques and Puerto Rico clients.

• Worked with former NY Governor Pataki, the Governor’s office and other organizations to locate gas and diesel to bring to the island during the first few weeks after the storm.

Life Saving Needs

• Provided the hospital with enough medicine to establish the first free pharmacy at the hospital in 30 years.

• Distributed 73 in-kind solar generators to residents with critical medical needs requiring power

• Lobbied Senator Bennie Thompson for new generator purchase for hospital.

• Leveraged an evacuation triage system with the Red Cross to evacuate many critical needs patients including cancer, dialysis, and other medically fragile patients.

• Funded transportation for 13 dialysis patients from Vieques to San Juan 

•  Purchased additional generators for residents with medical needs

Water

• Purchased and delivered critically needed generator parts for the Water Treatment Plant to prevent sewage back-ups in the streets of Vieques.

Partnerships/Support

• Supported Eva Bolivar, Jose Andres and Chefs of Puerto Rico to provide meals to Vieques

• Supported Claritza Navarro and her M&M Construction team to clean-up and rebuild SunBay to encourage the return of tourism after the water and food situation has stabilized.

• Funded generator technicians to come to the island to evaluate and service the 22 generators running critical infrastructure services, like the water pumps and water sanitation plants.


ViequesLove is partnering with nonprofits across Vieques, as well as the coalition of government agencies, to meet the needs of the people of Vieques. Because ViequesLove was born in crisis and continues to operate in emergency situations, our future is unclear. To fund these efforts and related missions, ViequesLove is using the money donated to this GoFundMe by our overwhelmingly generous donors. Any funds left over after relief operations have ceased will be dedicated to creating a more sustainable future for Vieques.

ViequesLove is under the fiscal sponsorship of COREFI, a registered 501c3 organization, that has been providing relief to at-risk citizens of Vieques, long before Maria struck Vieques. Due to the scope of the project minor administration fees have been necessary. All team members are unpaid volunteers.

We want to give a heartfelt thank you to our donors. You have made many things possible on Vieques and have given many people hope. The love for Vieques is true, steady and most of all, unconditional. We thank you and continue to work for you and our island home.



This fund was created by:
Kelly Thompson, editor and publisher of Vieques Insider Magazine
Szaritza Yamira, FEMA/HUD Disaster Relief Specialist
Sharon Pepin, grant writer and administrator

The fund is administered by:
Kelly Thompson






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A MESSAGE TO OUR DONORS
from Kelly Thompson

When starting ViequesLove last September, we had no idea that our family of supporters would grow to become so many and would provide so much. What you have done for the people of Vieques has literally saved lives and we thank you!

ViequesLove: BORN OUT OF NEED
ViequesLove was formed literally overnight when Hurricane Maria ravaged the island. In the states friends who had all lived on Vieques or were off island visiting relatives, came together. We were aware of the enormous impact the storm would have all too familiar with the fragile infastructure of the island.

Simultaneously, on Vieques, our friends were rapidly organizing an emergency rescue team. T​hey ​took action within hours to secure the island​ and meet the immediate critical needs​.

But most importantly, YOU, our donors, were showing the island that you cared. You provided a lifeline of support that enabled us to make what needed to be done a reality. When we were able to connect via satellite phone with our group on Vieques, meaningful funds were already in place for us to provide life saving, immediate assistance.

We all went to work for Vieques and haven’t stopped since September 20th, 2017.

Five months later, we are cautiously beginning to feel more confident that we’re coming out of the emergency operations stage of our work. The most immediate humanitarian and medical needs have been somewhat alleviated, but not eliminated!


VIEQUES ENTERS LONG-TERM RECOVERY PHASE
To be clear, Vieques is not recovered. It still does not have infrastructure for real electricity and only portions of the island have energy supplied by temporary large generators. There remains a vital need for more services, medicine and supplies and to help those who cannot help themselves.

The next recovery phase must include strategies for making Vieques more resilient and less dependent on the main island of Puerto Rico. These strategies must make provisions to welcome back some portion of the tourist infrastructure for its economic sustainability, and it must reestablish the education and enrichment opportunities for children, while also bolstering the law enforcement and health system in place. Finally it must recognize the economic disparity between the deeply poor, elderly, and disabled and the second home and tourist community -- and make sure both are served justly and thoroughly.


VIEQUESLOVE TRANSITION TO NON PROFIT
ViequesLove is now in the process of carefully restructuring to start a new chapter in our organization. In considering the best prospects for our future, we would like to continue to work for the Vieques community as a non-profit focused on community development programs and fostering collaboration with many of the other hardworking groups dedicated to Vieques.

We will prioritize and focus on projects that have a long-term sustainable impact and that protect and preserve the natural environment and cultural backbone that Vieques is known and cherished for.

We appreciate your support as we transition into this new exciting (and incredibly daunting) phase. We know how much you care about preserving the magic, culture and ecology of Vieques, so please know how sincerely we welcome your questions, comments and suggestions.

THE PEOPLE BEHIND VIEQUESLOVE
There are so many members of the ViequesLove team that have worked tirelessly and selflessly for the past five months, dedicating the majority of their day to volunteering and saving the island. We will eventually introduce these heroes, our VL warriors, to each and everyone of you.

For now, I would like to give you a stronger sense of myself and introduce you to my incredible working partner on the ground, Mark Martin Bras. There is really no way to describe how instrumental Mark has been behind the scenes in rebuilding the community, focusing communication, and fostering collaboration between all entities working for Vieques. Mark has helped ViequesLove achieve the exceptional levels of success we have to date.

Allow me to take this opportunity to introduce ourselves in the attached video:

Looking ahead…
ViequesLove is currently operating under the fiscal sponsorship of Corefi, a humanitarian 501c3 here on Vieques doing incredible work. Please note, you will receive your tax exempt receipt in the coming weeks from Corefi.

As we evolve into a more formally structured organization, I promise all our donors and supporters we will be communicating out to you on a more consistent basis. It took awhile to build enough of a foundation around ViequesLove to allow us a bit more objectivity and time to report back on the hard work our team has been immersed in – and the strategies for the work ahead of us.
Thank you once again for your powerful support and your undying love of our unique Isla Neña – there would be no ViequesLove without you.

Kelly


These are just some ViequesLove accomplishments you helped us achieve:
• Supplied gas for emergency & police vehicles
• Purchased gas for private flights delivering supplies
• Supplied food & water to community groups distributing across the island.
• Financially supported Generation Gives who supplied satellite wifi, allowing critical food stamp and ATM systems to function
• Attracted more media attention to Vieques
• Supplied medicine to the hospital
• Supplied health & hygiene products to the elderly and infirmed
• Purchased insulin coolers for diabetics
• Supplied 73 in-kind solar generators to sick and elderly patients requiring life support medical machinery
• Supplied 60 gas generators to needy residents or those requiring medical machinery
• Purchased exit flights for patients in dire medical need
• Purchased flights for dialysis patients to receive treatment in Puerto Rico
• Purchased parts to connect generators to gas supply
• Funded generator technicians, labor & parts keeping critical generators on the island running
• Purchased parts & oil to keep critical larger scale generators running
• Supplied numerous solar lights, tarps, tents, solar radios, and water filters
• Collaborated with other nonprofits to obtain generators, supplies, solar equipment, medicines, water filters and critical volunteers to the island.
• Purchased lights to be installed on the Pier and Cayo to ensure the safety of vessels traveling at night.
• Purchased equipment to supply internet in schools to assist teachers and administrators
• Purchased new mattresses to replace water damaged & moldy mattresses
• Provided ongoing support to groups supplying daily hot meals & food to barrios in need
• Purchased building supplies for homes in dire need and collaborated with volunteers to help those who could not help themselves.
• Became the community liason providing behind the scenes support and intel to alleviate problems before they arose or provide a solution or support immediately.


Kelly Thompson and Mark Martin Bras
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Update from Oct 15th in Spanish-Part 2

Simultáneamente, estábamos respondiendo a las necesidades comunicadas por el equipo en el terreno, y la logística era a veces sumamente compleja. Como muchos de ustedes ya saben, ya es difícil transportar artículos a Vieques cuando las cosas son normales, pero hacerlo después de la devastación del huracán fue algo casi imposible. Pero lo pudimos hacer.

Sin embargo, a pesar del caos nuestro equipo formuló los siguientes principios y planes de acción:

· Montar una campaña de RP completa para atraer la atención de los medios de comunicación a Vieques. El grupo sabía que necesitaríamos la ayuda de los medios de comunicación nacionales para presionar a la administración de Trump a incluir a Vieques en la recuperación de Puerto Rico. Los voluntarios enviaron comunicados de prensa, dieron entrevistas, ayudaron a facilitar el transporte de reporteros a la isla y fueron muy agresivos en su búsqueda de la historia.

· Priorizar vuelos directos a Vieques. Poco después de la tormenta, el gobernador de Puerto Rico firmó una orden ejecutiva que permitía al gobierno redirigir la ayuda que llegaba a la isla a su discreción. Para asegurar que los envíos de ViequesLove llegaran directamente a Vieques y no a otros lugares, priorizamos vuelos directos a Vieques excluyendo aquellos que llevaban cargas a la isla grande.
 
· Evitar que los aviones llegaran vacíos a Vieques. Varias familias fletaron aviones para transportar a sus seres queridos de Vieques y nos permitieron llenar los aviones con carga. A pesar de que el volumen de las cargas era modesto en comparación con la gran necesidad de la isla, lo que esos aviones llevaron en los primeros momentos garantizó que algunos suministros médicos y otros artículos críticos comenzaran a llegar a la isla.

· Aprovechar los donativos de artículos recibidos de otras fuentes antes de gastar el dinero de nuestros donantes. A pesar de que en ViequesLove no hemos tenido la capacidad de distribución para recolectar y enviar donaciones de ropa, productos enlatados y otros suministros, hemos aceptado generosos regalos de fundaciones, organizaciones de socorro, compañías de suministros médicos, pilotos y ciudadanos preocupados. Seguiremos priorizando el aprovechamiento de estas oportunidades en conjunto con las inversiones monetarias que estamos haciendo en la isla.

· Colaborar con grupos comunitarios basados en Vieques e invertir recursos localmente para apoyar la economía de la isla. Rápidamente nos dimos cuenta de la importancia de trabajar y apoyar a los grupos comunitarios locales que ya han establecido redes de voluntarios. En el futuro, es importante para nosotros que, en la medida de lo posible, trabajemos para distribuir nuestras contribuciones localmente a la economía de la isla.

· Evitar tomar decisiones basadas en rumores o en imágenes de vídeo filmadas en la isla grande. Nos hemos dado cuenta que los temores y rumores que circulan en los medios sociales no deben informar nuestras decisiones sobre cómo gastar los fondos o identificar las necesidades en el terreno. Con este fin, contamos con un equipo de absoluta confianza en el terreno en el cual nos seguiremos apoyando para tomar decisiones.

Ninguno de nosotros en el equipo de ViequesLove se despertó el 20 de septiembre de 2017 sabiendo que en menos de 24 horas nos convertiríamos en guardianes voluntarios, con la enorme reponsabilidad que nos ha dado el voto de confianza de todos ustedes. Dicho esto, estamos orgullosos y entusiasmados de cumplir con este papel y nos estamos tomamos muy en serio esta responsabilidad. Es de vital importancia tomar decisiones acertadas con nuestros recursos y actuar con rapidez para tener el impacto deseado en la isla. No todo el mundo estará de acuerdo con las prioridades que fijamos, pero, por favor, confíen en que estamos tomando decisiones muy bien informadas.

A pesar de nuestras buenas intenciones, no les hemos proporcionado actualizaciones con la frecuencia que esperábamos pero planeamos mejorar esto y compartir nuestros éxitos y próximos pasos de manera más regular. A nivel personal (porque a fin de cuentas, todo esto es personal para todos nosotros), quiero dar las gracias a todos los que me han preguntado por mi hija, Sky. La nena ha mostrado una valentía increíble, adaptándose bien a una nueva escuela y a su vida aquí en Pensilvania por el momento. Claro que echa de mucho de menos a su papá, su hogar y a su familia isleña tanto como yo y esperamos volver pronto. También agradezco muchísimo el interés mostrado por mi padre quien, en medio de todo esto, tuvo una operación quirúrgica de emergencia la semana pasada.

Mi confianza en el equipo de ViequesLove es absoluta. Su amor y devoción al pueblo de Vieques es incuestionable y evidente. Mi corazón está con todo el equipo, que incansablemente ha seguido hacia adelante con fuerza y energía– y especialmente a los miembros del equipo en Vieques por trabajar en tan duras circunstancias, Mark Martin y Robert Becker. Su compromiso desinteresado de hacer siempre lo correcto me inspira y me llena de humildad. Confío totalmente en ustedes dos.

Pero lo más importante es que sepan los donantes y voluntarios que apoyan nuestros esfuerzos y otros esfuerzos en el terreno, que seguiremos adelante trabajando de corazón en las prioridades y los intereses de nuestra isla.

En ViequesLove, Kelly
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Update from Oct 15th in Spanish-Part 1

Queridos amigos,
 
Decirles que he me sentido abrumada por el amor y el apoyo que todos ustedes han mostrado por Vieques desde que el huracán María pasó por nuestra pequeña isla, sería subestimar la situación. No les puedo expresar con palabras mi agradecimiento por su generosidad hacia la gente de Vieques y la calidez con la que me han tratado a mí personalmente.

Cuando comencé el GoFundMe de ViequesLove, estaba pensando en la familia, los amigos y vecinos que estaban todavía en la isla y que necesitaban ayuda de cualquier manera posible. Después de haber vivido en Vieques durante 14 años, me sentí profundamente preocupada por la posible destrucción que un huracán de categoría 5 tendría en la frágil infraestructura de nuestra isla. Con esto en mente, fijé un objetivo de $50.000, un objetivo que en ese momento pensé era muy ambicioso. Pero claramente no tenia ni idea de cuánta fe y confianza el mundo estaba a punto de poner en mis manos.

Solo a 12 horas del paso del huracán, un grupo de amigos se pusieron en contacto conmigo para ofrecer su apoyo y rápidamente ideamos un plan para proveer con teléfonos satélites a la isla. Establecer comunicación con la isla no sólo permitiría a la gente de Vieques informarnos sobre su seguridad y la de los miembros de sus familia y seres queridos, sino que también permitiría que el equipo en el terreno en Vieques comenzara a comunicarse regularmente con nosotros sobre las necesidades médicas y de suministros. En nuestra opinión, estos teléfonos fueron críticos (y todavía son) para asegurar que la gente en la isla sabía que alguien afuera estaba escuchando sus gritos de ayuda.

El equipo trabajó incansablemente para encontrar un avión que estuviera dispuesto a aterrizar en San Juan, rogándoles a los pilotos que volaran a la isla sin saber si tenían una pista sobre la cual aterrizar. Contactamos a senadores, consideramos la opción de helicópteros, nos comunicamos con ejecutivos de nivel C de las líneas aéreas comerciales, contactamos con amigos en el ejército, le rogamos a la prensa que nos prestaran ayuda y finalmente encontramos un avión y un piloto lo suficientemente loco como para llevar a Vieques nuestros 12 teléfonos satélite y 1.000 libras de suministros médicos y de alimentos.

Y así fue que finalmente, el 25 de septiembre, ViequesLove aterrizó un avión en Vieques. Que nosotros sepamos, fuimos el segundo avión en aterrizar en la isla después del huracán y el primero en llegar con suministros. Ser los primeros del mundo exterior en llegar a la isla con ayuda llevó a nuestro equipo a un nivel de responsabilidad que ninguno de nosotros había anticipado – pero todos en el equipo, sin excepción, le dimos la bienvenida a esta responsabilidad. Pedimos permiso en nuestros lugares de trabajo o dejamos de lado otras resposabilidades profesionales y personales para trabajar sin parar durante los 20 días transcurridos desde María, con el único propósito de trabajar para un mejor futuro en Vieques.
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Dear Friends,
To say that I have been overwhelmed by the love and support that you have shown Vieques since Hurricane Maria made landfall on our little island would be an understatement. I so appreciate the generosity that all of you have shown to the people of Vieques and the warmth that you have shown to me personally.

When I started the ViequesLove GoFundMe page, I was thinking of family, friends and neighbors still on the island needing help in any possible way. Having lived on Vieques for 14 years, I was paralyzed with the fear of knowing the level of destruction a category five hurricane would likely have on the fragile infrastructure of the island. I set a goal of $50,000, a target I thought was ambitious at the time.most. I was completely unaware of just how much faith and trust the world was about to place in my hands.

Within 12 hours after the storm a small group of friends had rallied around me offering their support and we quickly formed a plan to get satellite phones onto the island. Establishing communication with the island would not only allow people to report their safety to family members and loved ones, but would also allow the ground team to begin communicating medical and supply needs. In our view, these phones were (and still are) critical to making sure the people on the island knew someone was out there hearing their cry for help.

The team, worked around the clock to find a flight into San Juan and to beg pilots to fly into the island without knowing if they had a runway on which to land. We prodded senators, sourced helicopter options, cold-called our way to C-level executives at commercial airlines, got in touch with friends in the military, begged reporters for help and eventually found a plane, a pilot and a man just crazy enough to carry our 12 satellite phones and 1,000 pounds of medical and food supplies into the island.

On September 25 ViequesLove landed a plane on the Vieques runway. To our knowledge, we were the second plane to land since the hurricane and the first to arrive with supplies. Being amongst the first people from the outside world to successfully get help into the island thrust our team into a level of responsibility that none of us anticipated – but all of us embraced. We took leaves of absences from work, put aside family and other obligations and have worked intently on the needs of the island for the next 20 straight days. Our sole purpose is to work for a better tomorrow for Vieques.

Simultaneously, we were responding to needs communicated by the ground crew. We were scrambling to iron out incredibly complex logistic.. As many of you already know, it is nearly impossible to get goods in and out of Vieques on a good day. But doing so when both the main island and the island of Vieques have been ravaged by a category five hurricane makes a complex situation nearly impossible.

Yet, out of what felt like a chaotic situation emerged a few guiding principles for how our team intended to proceed. We would:

· Mount a full PR campaign to attract media attention to Vieques. The group knew that we would need the help of the national media to pressure the Trump administration to appropriately include Vieques in their support of Puerto Rico’s recovery. Volunteers sent press releases, gave interviews, helped facilitate transport of reporters onto the island and were relentless in their pursuit of the story.

· Prioritize direct flights into Vieques. Shortly after the storm, the governor of Puerto Rico signed an executive order allowing the government to re-direct aid coming into the island at their discretion. To ensure that ViequesLove cargo made it directly into our island, we prioritized direct flights over those that land cargo on the main island.

· Prevent empty planes from landing on Vieques. Several families chartered planes to transport loved ones from Vieques and allowed us to fill the planes with cargo. While the cargo loads were modest compared to the need on the island, the opportunity to supply those planes guaranteed that badly needed medical and other supplies would begin reaching the island.

· Leverage gifts in-kind before spending donor money. While we haven’t had the manpower or distribution capabilities to collect and ship donations of clothes, canned goods and other supplies, we have accepted generous in-kind gifts from foundations, relief organizations, medical supply companies, pilots and concerned citizens. We will continue to prioritize leveraging these opportunities in conjunction with the monetary investments we are making on the island.

· Partner with Vieques-based community groups and invest resources locally to support the economy of the island. Absent our own army of volunteers, we quickly realized the importance of working with and supporting local community groups who have established volunteer networks. Going forward, it is important to us that, as much as is possible, we work to source our contributions locally so that we are infusing money into the economy of the island.

· Avoid making decisions based on rumor or video footage shot on the main island. We learned that fears and rumors circulating on social media could not inform our decisions on how to spend money or identify needs on the ground. We have and will continue to rely heavily on the trusted direction of our team on the ground.

None of us on the ViequesLove team woke up on September 20, 2017 knowing that less than 24-hours later we would become the volunteer guardians of the enormous level of trust and expectation that you have bestowed upon us. That said, we are proud to have stepped into this role and we take this responsibility very seriously. It is critically important to us that we make sound decisions with our resources – and that we act quickly, yet responsibly to make impact on the island. Not everyone will agree with the priorities we set, but please trust that we are making informed decisions.

For all of our good intentions, we have not provided updates to you with the frequency in which we had hoped and plan to do a better job of sharing our successes and next steps on a more regular basis. On a personal note (because at the end of the day, all of this is personal to all of us), I want to thank everyone who has inquired about my daughter, Sky. She has shown incredible bravery as she settles into a new school and life in Pennsylvania for the time being. She misses her dad, her home and her island family so much – as do I and we hope to be back soon. I also appreciate the outpouring of support for my dad who, in the midst of all of this, underwent emergency surgery last week.

My trust in the ViequesLove team is absolute. Their love and devotion to the people of Vieques is unquestionable and self-evident. My heart goes out to the entire team, who tirelessly move these efforts forward in a meaningful way – most especially to those leading our efforts on the island under such difficult circumstances, Mark Martin and Robert Becker. Your selfless commitment to doing the right thing inspires and humbles me. I trust in you both very much.

Most importantly, to the donors and volunteers supporting our and other efforts on the ground, please know that we will continue forward with the best interests of the island in our hearts and priorities.

In Vieques Love,
Kelly
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$960,814 of $1.0M goal

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