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Puerto Rico Relief Efforts, Rebuilding, and How You Can Help

Toa Baja, Photo: Ricardo Arduengo AFP/Getty

It's been nearly a week since Hurricane Maria tore its way through my homeland of Puerto Rico and wreaked havoc leaving the entire island without electricity and clean water.  Without power and with all forms of communication down, families went days without knowing if their loved ones were alive and safe. I have friends who have yet to hear from their family members and it's been 5 days since Hurricane Maria made landfall. The fear and trauma of unaccounted loved ones is exhausting and heartbreaking. It wasn't until Saturday that my own family heard from our relatives living on the island. While they are alive and safe, like many others on the island, they have lost everything. 

Storm ravaged road in Toa Alta. Photo by: Ricardo Arduengo / AFP / Getty

Despite our President authorizing the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts, resources have been slow getting to Puerto Rico leaving those on the island without the basic necessities of food, water, and shelter. Images of the devastation have been circulating all over social media and I am reminded of Kanye West’s infamous words after Hurricane Katrina to then President Bush “George Bush doesn’t give a fuck about Black people.” Many feel the same about Donald Trump who has yet to step foot on our island.

While other politicians like Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer have been critical of the lack of support and aid yet to be provided to Puerto Rico by our government, other politicians like NY Governor Cuomo, made it a priority to pay a visit to the island. Cuomo and Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez flew on a donated JetBlue aircraft and arrived on the island with a plane full of supplies. Though the supplies weren’t  nearly enough for the 3.5 million people residing on the island Cuomo is the only politician who has made Puerto Rico’s plight a priority. And though there are massive relief efforts underway on the U.S. mainland being coordinated by grassroots organizations, celebrities, and everyday people desperate to help in any way they can, the infrastructure in Puerto Rico is so severely destroyed that there currently isn't any coordinated way to get the supplies to where they're needed most. 

Friend and community leader/activist George Urban Jibaro Torres of Sofrito Media Group attended Governor Cuomo's recent press conference where the governor talked about the severity of the damage caused by Maria, the ongoing relief efforts, and the challenges we face in getting the necessary supplies to areas that need it most. George has been our eyes, ears, and voice on the ground. He's been at the forefront of relief effort talks in NYC, meeting and talking with local leaders on the best way to not only disseminate accurate information, but also coordinate with reputable organizations both in the diaspora and on the island. 

According to George, who I spoke with earlier today, currently all relief efforts are being coordinated through the government and the American Red Cross until contact can be made with reputable organizations on the island. I know  we all desperately want to donate and help rebuild our island to the beauty it once was, but it is going to take time, lots of money, and support from everyone.

My suggestion would be to help your own families rebuild in whatever way you can. Donate your time, money, and resources. Set up gofundme accounts so that the money raised can go directly to your family members on the island. We cannot afford to sit and wait for the U.S. government to save us and do what's right when we have a President more concerned with Puerto Rico's debt than he is with addressing the devastation and destruction caused by Hurricane Maria. There is a humanitarian crisis on our island and our people need help now.

The truth is, until Puerto Rico's roads are clear and until they can identify safe distribution centers in every town on the island, it could be weeks before aid reaches the island. And for those of you who don't have family on the island then adopt a family you can help. We all have a friend, colleague, or someone we know who is Puerto Rican and has family in Puerto Rico. Now more than ever we are counting on our friends to open their hearts, hands, and wallets and help us rebuild. 

I’ve done my best to compile a list of reputable grass roots organizations and drop off locations throughout the five boroughs, who are hosting relief effort fundraisers. I’ve also provided links to gofundme campaigns of people who I personally know and can vouch for. Please help us in any way you can, even if all you can do is share this post on social networks. The Puerto Rican people are resilient if nothing else and we will rise up, we will rebuild, and we will be greater.


Via Richie Blondet, "The following list was provided by Edwin Melendez, director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies and compiled by scholars, activists and folks within the political landscape. RESEARCH them first and make a decision then as to where you want your monies to go to. One is based in nearby Connecticut. The others are all on the island of P.R." 

Fondos Unidos de Puerto Rico P.O. Box 191914 San Juan, PR 00919 tel: (787) 728-8500 fax: (787) 728-7099 Caritas Puerto Rico 201 Calle San Jorge Esquina Baldorioty de Castro San Juan, Puerto Rico 00902 P.O. Box 8812, San Juan, Puerto Rico 00910-0812 787 300-4953 Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico 1719 Ave. Ponce de León San Juan, PR 00909-1905 787-721-1037 Hurricane Maria Children's Relief Fund Save the Children 501 Kings Highway East, Suite 400, Fairfield, CT 06825 Maria & Irma: Puerto Rico Real-time Recovery Fund ConPRmetidos 1511 Ave. Ponce de León Suite K, La Ciudadela San Juan P.R. 00909 Phone:787-773-1100

Unidos: A Relief Fund for Hurricane Maria Victims in Puerto Rico 

The Hispanic Federation, along with New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and U.S. Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), set up this fund. One hundred percent of proceeds will go to hurricane relief and recovery efforts. You can donate to them here.

Global Giving

This massive international crowdfunding community that connects nonprofits and donors is providing emergency supplies like food, water, and medicine to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico. All donations to this fund exclusively support hurricane relief and recovery efforts in the Caribbean. You can donate here

Support Frontline Puerto Rican Communities in the Recovery from Hurricane Maria donate here

GoFundMe Campaigns:

Puerto Rico Strong:  This campaign was started by Wanda Mora of Cherry Hill, NJ. 

"I didn't even know where to begin with this campaign, but I know that I can't just watch my beautiful island of Puerto Rico suffer such devastation and not do anything. I'm giving it a shot. I am gathering a team together so that we can personally go there and help. I own a salon and will make my business a drop off location. Anything will make a difference if we all come together. Donate what you can. I will use these funds to help rebuild homes. I will travel with a team to PR and manage the funds myself so that they are allocated appropriately. 100% of these funds will be used for the victims of Hurricane Maria. My goal will be to get to the smaller towns that don't have the resources to seek help. Thank you all in advance!" 

Restoration After the Storm: This is my friend Cynthia Branch's campaign for her grandparents.

"Many of you already know that my family was hugely impacted by the most recent hurricane in Puerto Rico. They survived a very traumatic flood after the storm, waters rising as high as their chest. My grandparents are 74 and 80 and have endured the toughest few days they’ve ever experienced. Once rescued, they were in wet clothes for days and barely slept. From the shelter, they were both taken to the hospital. We are happy they are alive, that is the most important thing and we are grateful. When it was safe enough to go home to assess the damages, which were expected, they found that sadly, while their home is structurally in tact, all of their belongings within the home will have to be replaced. This may include their car. They both have multiple medical issues, and have not slept in 4 nights. Our family has decided they must leave Puerto Rico as soon as we can get a flight out. They are a family of four, my grandparents and brothers. They lost most of their belongings. We want to fly them into Florida to stay with family until we can restore what they lost in the storm. Many families lost more, some lost less. All need help. We do not want to take from others that are in need but if you are looking for a family to help, and you are led to donate to my family, it will be a blessing we will greatly appreciate."


Jacob K. Javits Center 655 W. 34th Street New York Shirley A. Chisholm State Office Building 55 Hanson Place Brooklyn

Jamaica Street Armory 93-05 168th Street Queens

Roberto Clemente State Park 301 West Tremont Ave Bronx 

Department of Motor Vehicles (to begin accepting donations on 9/26) 696 E Fordham Road Bronx


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