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FEMA Ends Puerto Rico Hurricane Recovery Efforts

Posted on January 30, 2018 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Catholic Charities Digs In

As FEMA shuts down its Hurricane Maria recovery mission in Puerto Rico on January 31, Catholic Charities in collaboration with Estoy con Puerto Rico, a consortium of Puerto Rican leaders and organizations launched by the Puerto Rican advocacy group, Comité Noviembre, digs in, collecting donations and distributing them directly to the hardest hit.

Already Catholic Charities NY, the fiscal conduit for hurricane-recovery donations Estoy con Puerto Rico/Comité Noviembre, joined them and fellow leaders last month on an eight-day humanitarian mission to distribute 4,000 grocery bags of food, water, toys – and even joy – to 20 Puerto Rican hurricane-devastated towns.

Now, as FEMA steps back, Comité Noviembre maps out strategies to address evolving needs.  Nearly a third of residents still lack electricity and, in some places, running water.  Throughout the island people struggle to survive without salaries they once earned at now-closed businesses, heated homes and nearby stores to buy food and bottled water.

“The next stage is to bring generators, water purification systems, solar panels and work to make those systems better,” says Comité Noviembre founder Teresa Santiago in this just-released video - linked in the photo above - of the organization’s recent humanitarian visit, “so if another hurricane comes there’s a better way of handling it.”

This powerful yet surprising video follows Ms. Santiago along with fellow volunteers from Estoy con Puerto Rico/Comité Noviembre, Catholic Charities NY and fellow collaborators during their visit.  Click the arrow on the photo to witness the juxtaposition between the island’s devastation and the happiness many islanders show as they accept much-needed food and dance to maracas and songs played by musicians accompanying the mission.   

But sadness reintroduces itself when they return to homes without roofs, roads blocked by debris and towns where schools still have not reopened.

“We want to work with mental health professionals to help with a lot of issues coming up- depression, suicide- help set up suicide prevention hotline,” Ms. Santiago says.  “It’s clear when we went around the island that that is going to be a very big issue.”

Estoy con Puerto Rico/Comité Noviembre is planning a return visit to Puerto Rico next month to kick off long-term efforts in partnership with local nonprofit organizations.

“These efforts,” says Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, “will continue for many years.”

There is still so much work to be done.

Donate by Mail: Make checks payable to “Catholic Charities/Estoy Con Puerto Rico” and address to:

Catholic Charities/Estoy Con Puerto Rico, 1011 First Avenue, 11th floor, New York, NY 10022

Donate Online:  Visit Catholiccharitiesny.org/helppuertorico

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