As I sit here in Bali, Indonesia, I write to you with a heavy heart and tears rolling down my face. I'm currently 10,000 miles away from the island of Puerto Rico, an island that has been my home for the past four years, and an island that was recently devastated by one of the largest and most powerful hurricanes to ever make landfall there. Even worse, this is the SECOND MAJOR HURRICANE TO HIT THE CARIBBEAN ISLANDS - the Leeward Islands, the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, the French Caribbean, Puerto Rico - IN LESS THAN TWO WEEKS. Something that, to my knowledge, has never happened before.
The eastern Caribbean Islands were devastated by Cat 5 Hurricane Irma on September 6th demolishing homes, businesses, even shelters. The island of Barbuda was flattened with 90% of the population shelterless. After the storm passed food and water were scarce and quickly running out. People, families, kids had no where to go. Looting was taken to the extreme with people comparing the situation to that of a "civil war." Puerto Rico was somewhat spared by Irma. The east coast of the island received the brunt of the storm while the west side of the island received fairly little damage. Many were left without power, but everyone was grateful because it could have been much worse. I watched my friends and community come together to support their neighboring islands that didn't get so lucky sending water, supplies, and food to their brothers and sisters to the east. But how quickly things changed. And that's when the unimaginable happened.
Hurricane Maria popped up less than two weeks later. Its path looked like it was going to be another direct hit to the already devastated Caribbean, but it was only going to be a Cat 1 - not as bad as it could be, right? In less than 24 hours Hurricane Maria went from being a little more than a tropical storm to a full-blown Major Hurricane. It's path staying true - a direct hit to Dominca and the other islands that weren't even close to recovering after Irma's rath that occurred just 11 days prior. And Puerto Rico didn't get so lucky this time. Yesterday, Wednesday, September 20th - exactly two weeks after Irma stormed through, Puerto Rico suffered a direct hit, with the eye moving straight over the island, from Humacao on the southeast to Arecibo on the northwest, sustained winds of 155mph+.
While not much news has come out of Puerto Rico (especially the west coast) and the rest of the Caribbean yet, the videos I saw of the moments right before the storm hit did not look good. The wind was already angry, the rain coming down sideways, with flooding and roofs already getting ripped from homes. As I sit here safe in my bungalow in Bali, I am preparing myself mentally and emotionally for what's to come. Towers are down so it could be a while before we get some kind of communication from friends, and I can't even begin to imagine what the people currently there are going through.
On a positive note - because it's essential we try to find the good in every awful situation - there are people that are there and people on their way that are ready to help. Not just in Puerto Rico but ALL OF THE ISLANDS devastated. And for those of us (myself included) that are fortunate enough to not be there, I think it's our duty as human beings, as brothers and sisters, to help! TWO MAJOR HURRICANES IN LESS THAN TWO WEEKS!
If that doesn't make your heart ache, then you may as well be dead.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?!?
The best way is to donate money to honest organizations and people.
No donation is too small, every little bit helps!
If you don't have anything to donate PLEASE SHARE!!!
From their website: "We work on the front lines to provide access to clean water through the distribution of portable water filters, the digging and renovating of wells, and the construction of rainwater harvesting and storing systems in places where groundwater is not accessible.
In addition to our primary focus around clean water, we coordinate and execute natural disaster relief efforts around the world. Over the past four years, we’ve responded to almost every major global disaster, earthquake or tsunami: in Nepal, Bosnia, Philippines, Indonesia, Haiti, Japan, and Chile; in Pakistan, India and Mexico; and on the east coast of the United States with a comprehensive initiative in response to 'Superstorm-Sandy.'"
As an organization, W4W has been tied to the Caribbean region since their initial response to the Haiti earthquake in 2009. This time they are focusing on communities in both the British and US Virgin Islands, the French Caribbean, and other neighboring chains. Founder, Jon Rose says of the tragedy that, “We are launching a full scale relief initiative for the Caribbean Islands that were ravaged by Irma (and now Maria)."
*THE CARIBBEAN WAVES 4 WATER CREW IS CURRENTLY IN ST. CROIX, WHERE THEY WERE PREPARING TO BEGIN THEIR IRMA RELIEF WORK. THEY CREW RODE OUT HURRICANE MARIA IN ST. CROIX. LATEST UPDATE VIA THEIR FACEBOOK: "Time to assess… Soon Maria will finally clear from Puerto Rico, allowing our team stationed in San Juan since Monday, to take a look at the damage she left behind. Restricted by a curfew of 6am - 6pm and limited communications we are working hard to support our PR crew during this unprecedented event."
2. CONPRMETIDOS PUERTO RICO REAL-TIME RECOVERY FUND
ConPRMetidos.org is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization connecting people in order to foster commitment with the personal, social and economic development of Puerto Rican communities wherever they are. All donations to this fund will exclusively support the victims of the catastrophic Hurricane María and Irma in Puerto Rico and provide relief and aid the communities affected by this disaster. Funds will be used first for immediate needs of food, shelter and water and then transition to long term recovery efforts. After Hurricane Irma, ConPRMetidos used donations to help residence of the island of Culebra, located off the eastern shore of Puerto Rico, buy materials to begin to rebuild homes.
3. DOMINICA HURRICANE MARIA RELIEF
This fundraising page is backed by DARDA, the Dominican-American Relief and Development Association, a 501(c)(3) registered non-profit and certified charity that has helped Dominica recover from Hurricanes in the past, like Hurricane David in 1979. All proceeds will benefit the recovery, relief and rebuilding efforts in Dominica.
4. GRASSROOTS RELIEF EFFORTS
The generosity of my local community in Rincon, Puerto Rico never ceases to amaze me. After Hurricane Irma destroyed our neighboring Caribbean islands many of my friends selflessly began buying, gathering and sending supplies to send to the affected communities. My dear friend Megan is one of these selfless people that worked non-stop to provide Relief to the islands destroyed by Irma. She is continuing to take donations, this time focused more on Relief to the large population of Puerto Rico that is in need. Donations will be used to buy: water, non-perishable food, medical supplies, baby supplies, food for animals, etc. Make a donation VIA PAYPAL to firstname.lastname@example.org
5. DONATE GOODS + SUPPLIES DIRECTLY
I have seen many people on Facebook that are working hard to get supplies to the destroyed islands. I heard rumor that the San Juan airport should be open as early as Friday. Not sure about the other islands though. Also through Facebook, a BBQ company out of Connecticut is planning on shipping via airline 20,000 meals and water to Puerto Rico as soon as the airport is open. People we commenting and talking to airlines that fly in and out of SJU like American Airlines and Southwest in hopes that they would waive any cargo fees for emergency supplies. IF YOU HAVE A BUSINESS OR YOU PERSONALLY ARE ABLE TO DONATE FOOD, WATER, AND OTHER EMERGENCY SUPPLIES PLEASE CONTACT THE AIRLINES LISTED ABOVE OR CONTACT ME AND I WILL HELP GET YOU IN TOUCH WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE.