Puerto Rico Recovery Continues as New Hurricane Season Begins
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (May 17, 2018) As a new hurricane season looms in two weeks, many people in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands still are suffering from last season's deadly storms.
Fr. Enrique Camacho traveled from Puerto Rico to Food For The Poor's Coconut Creek headquarters this week to provide an update on the situation there.
From the air, the Puerto Rican landscape is dotted with blue tarps. Many residents, he said, fear they will not be ready if another big storm strikes. Many are still living in the dark.
"People are anxious about what's going to happen this season. The electrical grid is still very weak," said Fr. Camacho, Executive Director of the Catholic charity Caritas Puerto Rico. "They are waiting for a new roof to buy their new furniture, to buy their new stove, to buy their new refrigerator, because a tarp is not enough."
Thousands on the island still do not have electricity or are dealing with rolling blackouts. Many are living in homes without roofs or in need of serious repairs, nearly eight months after Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane. The storm destroyed an estimated 230,000 homes and damaged 400,000 others.
But thanks to generous donors and partners, thousands of families in Puerto Rico are getting much needed aid. Food For The Poor has shipped 91 containers of critical relief supplies to Puerto Rico, including 67 directly to Caritas.
In addition to zinc and lumber to repair homes and generators to power lights and cooling fans, the charity has 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.
"It's hard to put into words what it must have been like for the people in Puerto Rico who lost their homes," said Robin Mahfood, President/CEO of Food For The Poor. "It's going to take some time for Puerto Rico to recover, but Food For The Poor is committed to being there every step of the way with the loving support of our dedicated donors and our partners."
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.
The charity is working with Caritas to see that the donated goods are organized and distributed throughout the island. To date, Caritas has distributed aid with six dioceses working together, reaching 500 parishes in all 78 counties of Puerto Rico and a total of 2 million people.
In the mountainous municipality of Morovis in central Puerto Rico, Fr. Camacho recalled the joy of people - still living without power - who had just received something as simple as bottled water.
"They started crying. There are still a lot of families without food or basic necessities," Fr. Camacho said. "When we were providing water, the faces of joy and happiness were something I will really never ever forget. I felt so joyful to God and to Food For The Poor for the opportunity to give some happiness to these families. It's really difficult for them to find water."
The reach of the charity's compassionate donors extends beyond Puerto Rico and includes Dominica and other Caribbean islands of Barbuda, St. Maarten and the U.S. Virgin Islands that were impacted by last season's hurricanes.
Two days before Maria hit Puerto Rico, the storm made landfall in Dominica as a powerful Category 5 hurricane. The massive storm caused catastrophic damage island-wide.
Food For The Poor has shipped 96 containers of aid to Dominica since the storm. That's more than three times what the charity normally sends to the island nation in an entire year. The supplies provided by Food For The Poor's donors and partners have reached 28 communities.
With experts predicting a busier than normal hurricane season, Food For The Poor has been securing critical relief supplies such as blankets, stoves and generators that are ready to be distributed should disaster strike the countries served by the charity in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Last year's Atlantic storm season was among the strongest seasons on record. Colorado State University's forecast calls for 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
"As we prepare for the upcoming hurricane season, we are reminded that the road to recovery is often long and winding," said Food For The Poor Executive Director Angel Aloma. "We cannot thank our donors enough for their generosity."
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.
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