United Church of Christ

Disaster Recovery - Puerto Rico


For more info/to volunteer contact: uccdisaster.puertorico@gmail.com


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.


UCC Disaster Ministries, working hand in hand with the Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Puerto Rico:

- immediately responded to partners’ requests for generators, water filters, hygiene kits, food, first aid kits, tarps, construction materials, tools, vehicles and medical equipment.

- deployed Partners in Service Disaster Volunteers Doug and Judy Moore, who set up volunteer housing and scheduled volunteer work teams from across the U.S. The value of their labor: $95,000.

- gave preparedness workshops, funds for tuition assistance and pastoral support.

- fielded 14 work teams from May-December 2018 comprising 96 persons from 20 churches. The value of their labor: $95,000.

- restored 57 houses from May-December 2018, with 43 of those completed by volunteers. Almost all needed new roofs and painting. IEUPR repaired additional houses before May 2018.

- as of August 2019, restored dozens more houses, bringing the total above 105.

- in mid-May 2019, made a grant of $3,475 to support the procurement and shipment of more equipment to be sent to Ryder Memorial Hospital. International Aid handles the shipping and requests from Ryder.

- in July 2019, UCC Disaster Ministries made a two-year, start-up grant of $50,000 to Ryder Memorial Hospital in Humacao, Puerto Rico, still struggling to complete repairs following Hurricane Maria, to create a formal development office. It 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.

- in July 2019, granted $10,000 to support post-Maria restoration of space for a Puerto Rican church’s Mission Center as a continuation of its commitment to support community-led recovery efforts that address systemic socioeconomic issues and as a key to rebuilding the lives of the people of Santurce, San Juan, P.R., who are still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria in 2017.

- in August 2019, UCC Disaster Ministries ok'd another $50,000 funding for the work and continued to seek volunteer teams.

2018 funding: $504,849

2019 funding: $213,475 (January-August 2019)

What's Next? 

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. UCC Disaster Ministries and the IEUPR repaired more than 105 roofs between May 2018 and August 2020 and aim to complete 45 more houses by June 2020 with the help of volunteer work teams. 

The project is fully funded through June 2020. Currently volunteers are being recruited through June 2020. "We need more volunteers to help us stretch our resources and reach," said Zach Wolgemuth, UCC Disaster Ministries Executive. "Many more houses are on the waiting list."

If sufficient funding can be raised, the project will be extended and volunteers recruited for July-December 2020 with the goal of completing 105 more wait-listed houses during that period.

UCC Disaster Ministries and the IEUPR also have stocked churches with emergency supplies (pictured, above), and supported a retreat for IEUPR pastors. They are completing renovation of volunteer accommodations and camp and conference facilities, and are helping fund preparedness workshops.

Work may include repairing cement roofs, light carpentry, metal and wood roofing repair, and painting interior ceilings and walls. Most of the work will be done in the Humacao city area, the hardest hit area in Puerto Rico.

Volunteers should be prepared to work hard. The work will involve being exposed to a hot and humid climate, some heavy lifting, and climbing ladders. There is also some work that does not entail climbing up onto roofs.


Oct. 8, 2019 - In Puerto Rico, UCC and IEUPR complete 105 roofs!

How to Help Families in Puerto Rico

UCC 9/19/2018 News Story on the First Anniversary of Maria

Lavinia's Hurricane Maria Story

Related story: Still fleeing Maria's aftermath - Puerto Ricans in Pennsylvania

Educational/Advocacy Components:

• 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.

"We are supporting our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and call on all our churches to continue to pray and give financially for what will be a long road ahead," said Zach Wolgemuth, UCC Disaster Ministries Executive.

Index to All Current Volunteer Opportunities


Read more about UCC Disaster Ministries