Disaster Recovery – Puerto Rico
For more info/to volunteer (pending an end to the COVID-19 lockdown), contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Disaster Event:
Hurricane Maria (September 2017) was the worst natural disaster on record to hit Puerto Rico. Nearly 3,000 people died – more than 60 in the hurricane and the rest from the crippling of health, power, water and other systems for months after the storm. Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, estimates it will need $139 billion to fully recover.
In Hurricane Maria’s aftermath, UCC Disaster Ministries has been working hand-in-hand with the Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Puerto Rico (IEUPR), providing both funding and volunteer work teams.
Starting in May 2018, the main focus of the project has been to ensure a safe roof for those families that were affected by Hurricane Maria. The goal was to fix roofs in the Humacao area, which was the most damaged area in the island after the storm.
“Now, two years later, we can say that we were able to fix roofs not only in Humacao but in many other towns in Puerto Rico” before the COVID-19 “lockdown” interrupted the work, said the Rev. Edward Rivera-Santiago, the IEUPR’s Pastor General.
“In total, the volunteers in our project were able to fix 121 roofs plus three churches along 17 municipalities. Our volunteers also installed doors, windows, and performed other minor reconstruction. Also, almost all of the reconstruction that was needed in Yuquiyú Camp and Conference Center was done by the volunteers as well.”
The IEUPR hosted a total of 542 volunteers in the span of two years. These men, women, and even families, came from United Church of Christ congregations in United States to give their support, time, donations, and hard work. They represented 48 UCC congregations in 19 different states.
In January 2020, Puerto Rico suffered yet another disaster when a 6.4 earthquake hit the southern part of the island. Once again, IEUPR took to the streets to help our people in the south in part thanks to funding from the UCC.
The IEUPR’s Pastor General said, “Sadly, our project has been on hold since March due to the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19. We hope that with funding from the UCC we will be able to fix at least 10 to 15 more roofs from the 100 plus houses that we have left on our waiting list. This will happen as soon as our government establishes the end of lockdown.”
UCC Disaster Ministries this week (October 7) is releasing $50,000 for that purpose.
Immediately following Hurricane Maria, UCC Disaster Ministries responded to partners’ requests for generators, water filters, hygiene kits, food, first aid kits, tarps, construction materials, tools, vehicles and medical equipment. It deployed Partners in Service Disaster Volunteers Doug and Judy Moore, who set up volunteer housing and scheduled volunteer work teams from across the United States.
UCC Disaster Ministries also sponsored trauma recovery and disaster preparedness workshops, and released funds for tuition assistance and pastoral support.
UCC Disaster Ministries in 2019 also:
- Assisted Ryder Memorial Hospital in Humacao with procuring and shipping equipment of equipment, and with a two-year start-up grant to create a formal development office.
The grant of $50,000 will help the hospital with ongoing recovery by creating fundraising strategies and collaborations with other organizations in such areas as disaster preparedness training; acquire specialized equipment; strengthen outreach and preventive care for vulnerable communities; develop internships and voluntarism, and develop other programs to support its mission, such as palliative and spiritual care.
- Contributed funds for restoration of space for a church’s Mission Center in the Santurce neighborhood of San Juan in line with its commitment to support community-led recovery efforts that address socioeconomic challenges to vulnerable survivors’ recovery.
- stocked churches with emergency tool kits.
Total UCC investment to date exceeds $800,000.
There is still much work to be done in Puerto Rico to recover from Hurricane Maria. Close to 30,000 homes still have blue tarp roofs, and thousands of homes still need interior repairs.
• Preparation for the trip: “Mission Trips That Matter” by Don C. Richter, Upper Room Books
• On-Site Reflection: “Meeting God in the Ruins: Devotions for Disaster Volunteers.” Free copies may be ordered from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America by calling 800.638.3522 ext. 2580 (ISBN 6-0001-6788-1); pay shipping only.
• Follow-Up Action: Help your local community prepare for possible disaster and response. Be sure your congregation has a plan in case of local disaster (see http://www.ucc.org/disaster_resources). Get to know your UCC Conference Disaster Coordinator and stay involved.
Air conditioned dormitory style bunk bed volunteer accommodations at the IEUPR church camp. Volunteers will be using the camp kitchen to prepare meals.
Cost: Lodging and use of the kitchen are free however, donations to the camp are always welcome and appreciated. Volunteers are responsible for their own airfare, food and rental car.
Minimum Age: 16 years with a parental consent form.
Group Size: 15 maximum.
Adult to Youth Ratio: Each group must include a minimum ratio of at least 1 adult to every 4 youth of each gender.
Tools: Tools are provided. Volunteers are welcome to bring personal tools if they so choose.
Other Information: It is helpful, but not necessary, that work groups have two people knowledgeable in home repair and rebuilding. The worksites may be up to an hour’s drive away from the camp.