The devastation caused by Hurricane María in Puerto Rico has galvanized the diaspora in Central Florida to help the island.
About 14 local and other groups have formed a coalition called CASA – Coordinadora de Apoya, Solidaridad y Ayuda – to collect basic supplies: water, batteries, disposable diapers, canned and dry foods – to send to the island of 3.4 million people ravaged by the storm. Residents are without power and cell phone services knocked out by the Category 4 hurricane, the worse to hit Puerto Rico and the entire United States in decades, according to the National Hurricane Center. It may take months to restore a sense of normality to Puerto Rico.
The group this week held a press conference at Acacia Network, formerly Asociación Borinqueña, announcing its plans. Several Orlando-area locations are designated drop-off points, including First Baptist Church Orlando, where a shipping container is set up.
This is the second container to be stationed at First Baptist that is destined for Puerto Rico, an effort initially spearheaded by Peter Vivaldi.
The first container, filled with 25,000 pounds of supplies, was prompted by Hurricane Irma and was due to arrive on the island Friday, September 22.
The response to the Puerto Rico catastrophe has been visceral, emotional – and impressive. Hurricane María tore through Puerto Rico and also tore through the hearts of its sons and daughters living in Florida and throughout the nation.
“Ver esto me emociona, YESS Ya la ayuda va para Puerto Rico 🇵🇷 yo sé que hay mucha gente preparándose para ayudar eso me llena de tranquilidad..GRACIAS DIOS,” wrote Realtor Karen Díaz de Suárez on Facebook.
Hurricane María: One of Many Disasters
Puerto Rico hasn’t caught a break for the past 10 years, and that’s putting it lightly. The island, dogged by a decade-old recession, came under the control of a congressionally-mandated fiscal board due to its inability to pay $70 billion in debt. The Fiscal Oversight and Management Board in the spring invoked a special bankruptcy for Puerto Rico, generating protests and tense negotiations with bondholders. Then came Hurricane Irma, a category 3 hurricane that knocked out 70 percent of the island’s power. While still in the throes of recovering from Irma, Hurricane Maria followed about two weeks later, capsizing the entire island. Puerto Rico lost all its electric power and cell phone communications (a small percentage has been restored).
But 5 million Puerto Ricans live in the states, 1 million in Florida alone – more than the 3.4 million who reside on the island. The diaspora is in an excellent position to lend a hand and generate relief funds.
Here are items that are needed on the island, per the office of the governor of Puerto Rico:
Disposable plates, cups and utensils
Soap, deodorant, toothpaste, tootbrushes
Over-the-counter medications: ibuprofen, aspirin, antibiotic cream
Pajamas for men, women and children
Baby items: disposable diapers, baby wipes, baby formula
Sleeping bags, cots
Pots and pans
Canned and dry food
Where to Drop-off
- Directly to the shipping container at First Baptist Church of Orlando, 3000 S. John Young Pkwy., 32805
- Acacia Network (Centro Borinqueño), 1865 N. Econlockhatchee, 32817
- Orlando Eye, 360 International Drive, 32819
- Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, 15 South Orlando Ave., Kissimmee 34741
Be careful to whom you donate money. The island’s First Lady Beatriz Rosselló has set up the website unidosporpuertorico.com and is accepting donations.
Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has asked stateside Puerto Ricans not to travel to the family in a desperate attempt to find family members. But it is OK to travel to the island as part of an organization of volunteers, such as the Red Cross and others.
“I know it’s frustrating but it’s also true that the streets are dangerous and we are still operating under emergency protocols. I do not recommend it because it is a personal risk,” the governor said.
˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor