Hurricane Maria, Six Months Later: FFP Remains Persistent in the Recovery Effort in Puerto Rico

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (March 20, 2018) Families in Puerto Rico still are struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria, six months after the Category 4 storm devastated the island.

Jose and his wife, Marisa, lost everything they owned during the storm and then they lost their jobs. They live in their car.

But thanks to the goods provided by donors through Food For The Poor and the Catholic charity Caritas Puerto Rico, life is improving for the couple. Jose went to Caritas' headquarters and was able to find clothes to wear to his new part-time job as a chef.

"If we weren't able to come here, I don't know what we would have done," Jose said, smiling as he found a nice black shirt perfect for his new job.

Groups continue to step up to send critical aid to help those struggling without food, water and basic necessities such as clothing or power.

Food For The Poor has shipped 85 containers of supplies to Puerto Rico. The charity also has provided 600 generators to Puerto Rico, thanks to a generous donation from United Way of Miami-Dade.

The generators are bringing relief to families suffering from prolonged power outages that have left swaths of the island living without hot meals, cooling fans or nighttime lights, months after the hurricane.

"It is heartbreaking to see the conditions in which people in Puerto Rico still are living months after Hurricane Maria," said Food For The Poor President/CEO Robin Mahfood. "We are so thankful for all of our donors and are extremely grateful to United Way of Miami-Dade."

United Way's donation also covered the purchase of gas cans, electrical cords and fans in conjunction with the generators, plus food and the shipment of medical supplies to an Episcopal hospital in Puerto Rico. A separate donation in December helped purchase zinc and lumber to build new homes.

"United Way remains committed to helping our neighbors in Puerto Rico and across the Caribbean who continue to struggle after Hurricanes Maria and Irma devastated the area," said Maria C. Alonso, president and CEO, United Way of Miami-Dade. "We are pleased to work with a partner such as Food For The Poor, with a proven track record in recovery efforts in the Caribbean, an ability to assess the situation on the ground and put systems in place to get help to those who need it most."

Food For The Poor is working with Caritas and the Episcopal Church to see that donated goods are organized and distributed throughout the island.

Caritas has distributed 2 million pounds of aid with six dioceses working together, reaching 500 parishes in all 78 counties of Puerto Rico and a total of 1 million people. The Episcopal Church has reached 46,000 people representing 15,000 families through 52 churches and 33 municipalities.

People come to the charity in crisis but leave content, said Father Enrique Camacho, director of Caritas Puerto Rico.

"We work with our heart," said Father Camacho. "The help of Food For The Poor has been extraordinary. Without this collaboration it would not have been possible to assist so many people."

Yisneris and her family received help through the donated goods Food For The Poor shipped to Puerto Rico.

The family huddled in a shelter from the wrath of Hurricane Maria, emerging after three days to find the roof of their home blown off and the children's bedrooms destroyed. The home of their elderly next door neighbor was reduced to a pile of plywood and tangled tree limbs.

"I cried," Yisneris said. "I wanted to do more, but I couldn't."

Her two sons, Sandy, 9, and Leudy, 8, burst into tears out of concern for their neighbor. "I was scared for her," Sandy said.

Their elderly neighbor had sought shelter at a church during the hurricane and now is living with her daughter across the street from where her home once stood.

"I told my children that we needed to go step by step," Yisneris said, explaining how she consoled her sons. "We didn't stop going to church — we put everything in the hands of God."

While Food For The Poor's mission primarily is to serve internationally, the charity has responded in the past to catastrophic disasters in the United States and now to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

In addition to generators, zinc and lumber, the charity's donors have sent tarps, flashlights, batteries, canned goods, water, diapers, medical supplies, hygiene kits, roof straps, ridge caps, plywood, folding beds and mattresses, student desks and chairs, desks for teachers, canned food, MannaPack rice meals, evaporated milk and rice.

"Families in Puerto Rico need help and they're going to need it for a long time," Mahfood said. "We will do our very best to help as many as we can there. We are there for the long haul."

Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor primarily in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.

Since 1924, United Way of Miami-Dade has been an innovative force in the community, successfully responding to emerging needs and transforming people's lives. Today our work is focused on education, financial stability and health – the building blocks for a good life. We invest in quality programs, advocate for better policies, engage people in the community and generate resources. To learn more, give, advocate or volunteer, visit www.unitedwaymiami.org, www.facebook.com/UnitedWayMiami, www.twitter.com/UnitedWayMiami, or www.instagram/UnitedWayMiami.

Michael Turnbell

Public Relations
954-427-2222 x 6054
michaelt@foodforthepoor.com