Puerto Rico Still Needs Our Help. Here’s What You Can Do.

Puerto Rico Still Needs Our Help. Here’s What You Can Do.

Puerto Rico Still Needs Our Help. Here’s What You Can Do.

Demand debt forgiveness, show up for protests, and donate.


EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is part of The Nation’s Take Action program, which we use to point our readers toward actions they can take on the issues we cover. To get actions like this in your inbox every Tuesday, sign up for Take Action Now.

Nearly a month after Hurricane Maria made landfall, Puerto Rico continues to struggle with the deadly destruction left in its wake. The official death toll on the island has increased to 48 and over 100 remain unaccounted for. Thousands have fled to the mainland, thousands more remain displaced, and government relief efforts grow at an appallingly slow pace. Approximately 82 percent of residents of the island still do not have power, 35 percent do not have access to clean water, and only 45 of 70 hospitals are operating with electricity.

In their desperation for water, some Puerto Ricans are turning to potentially poisonous sources. There have been 10 reported cases, including four deaths, of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease transmitted through direct contact with the urine of infected animals or a urine-contaminated environment. Hunger also threatens the island, with FEMA officials recently acknowledging the severity of the food shortage. When their contract expired last week, one senior official estimated they were “1.8 million meals short.”

During all of this, the Trump administration and many members of Congress have responded with callousness and cruelty. President Trump took time to admonish the island and insist that the United States “cannot keep FEMA…in P.R. forever!” For its part, the House of Representatives passed an aid package that offered Puerto Rico a $4.9 billion loan, adding to the already overwhelming debt of an island where 43.5 percent of residents live below the poverty line and where an estimated 80 percent of the crop value was just wiped out.

As Ed Morales wrote for The Nation, the aftermath of Hurricane Maria “is the proverbial drop in the bucket for a weary populace ravaged not only by today’s bankruptcy and storms worsened by climate change, but by decades of colonial neglect.” He went on to warn that, “Puerto Rico is now the target not only for rapacious vulture funds trying to collect on debt, but also for exponents of Katrina-style ‘disaster capitalism.’”

Even with the callous response of the Trump administration and those who would profit off of Puerto Rico’s pain, the rest of us are not helpless. Here are just a few of the ways you can help on the ground right now while also pushing for a just recovery:

1. Call Congress to demand real aid, a permanent end to the Jones Act, and the cancellation of Puerto Rico’s debt. You can reach your representatives at 202-224-3121. For more on these asks, check out ColorOfChange’s petition, the demands from the Center for Popular Democracy, or the website Plan PR: A Just Ricanstruction.

2. Show up in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, October 18, to demand real aid, right now for those hit by Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey. You can also follow and spread the word about the action by following and tweeting about #RealAidRightNow on Twitter.

3. Follow Cenadores PR. This group of Puerto Rican diaspora professionals in the US are actively providing updates via Twitter and Facebook on the ongoing developments in Puerto Rico and ways that you can help.

4. Send solar lights and chargers. One option for this is Casa Pueblo. Established in 1980, it serves as a community hub for education and outreach. They are currently leading a solar lighting project in the town of Adjuntas. To learn more about their ongoing projects, and to find out where you can send solar lights and chargers, click here. Another is Light and Hope for Puerto Rico, launched by 15-year-old Salvador Gabriel. With the help of Solar Sister, The Laundry Alternative, and Cleancult, this campaign aims to provide solar powered lights, mobile phone chargers, and hand powered washers. To support this cause, click here.

5. Donate to the Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico/Puerto Rico Community Recovery Fund: Established in 1985, this community foundation will be working in partnership with community-based organizations already helping vulnerable populations. According to their CEO, “We want to help the people that are helping. We want to facilitate the access to medicines, medical equipment, food, water and other essential needs.” To learn more about their efforts, click here.

6. Help victims of gender violence and poverty by buying something from the Proyecto Matria Amazon Wishlist. Proyecto Matria is a local community organization focused on helping victims of gender violence and poverty. They have established an emergency fund to provide basic supplies and food for their participants and community. To learn more about their cause, click here.

7. Donate to the Maria Fund to Support Frontline Puerto Rican Communities in the Recovery from Hurricane Maria. The Hurricane Maria Community Relief & Recovery Fund is housed at the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD). According to their funding page, CPD pledges that “one hundred percent of monies raised will be used to support immediate relief or long-term equitable rebuilding in Puerto Rico for the communities hit hardest by the storm.” To donate, click here.

8. Donate to help Trans & Queer Boricuas. According to their donation page, “The purpose of this fund is to provide direct cash assistance to trans and queer Boricuas whose lives, homes and/or property have been impacted by Hurricane Maria.” To support this fund, click here.

9. Donate to the Taller Salud and Defend Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Fund. A radical feminist organization in Loíza is teaming up with Defend Puerto Rico and other local organizations for the Defend Puerto Hurricane Relief Fund. To donate, click here.

10. Help animals in Puerto Rico by donating to Wings of Rescue. This organization is dedicated to flying pets out of kill shelters into no-kill shelters. According to their Facebook page, “Wings of Rescue has flown over 400 cats and dogs to safety from Puerto Rico… [and] delivered over 7 tons of humanitarian aid.” Please click here if you’d like to support their efforts.

11. If you’re a lawyer, volunteer with Latino Justice. The organization provides legal aid and is organizing legal “brigades” to assist lawyers in Puerto Rico “filing FEMA claims, insurance claims, unemployment claims, and other claims related to public benefits.” To join their efforts, click here.

12. Don’t forget about the other islands recovering from the storm. The US Virgin Islands and the island of Dominica are also struggling to rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Maria. To help out Dominica, you can give to the Dominica-American Relief and Development Association, Inc. (DARDA). Established in 1981 after Hurricane David struck, DARDA is asking members of the diaspora to support recovery relief efforts in Dominica. To donate physical goods and supplies, click here. To learn more about their Pray for Dominica funding page, and to donate, click here.

For the US Virgin Islands, you can donate to My Brother’s Workshop. MBW is a non-profit started in 2007 that works with at-risk youth in job training and job placement.Aiming to assist in rebuilding and relief efforts in St. Thomas and St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands after Hurricane Maria, My Brother’s Workshop created the Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria Relief Efforts campaign, to raise funds to provide meals and other needed supplies. To donate, click here.

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