Pre-Puerto Rico Trip

A group of Beacon students and staff are heading to Puerto Rico on a mission trip this weekend to help with the relief efforts from hurricane Maria. The following is a brief history of the efforts over the past eight months since the hurricane and bits of what this trip means to the team.

Hurricane Maria made its initial landfall on the island as a category 4 hurricane on September 20, 2017. By October 31, there had been 64 official deaths from direct contact of the hurricane with an additional 4000+ deaths due to lack of water, electricity, food, and other necessities  (https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/puerto-rico-issues-new-data-hurricane-maria-deaths-n882816).
Slowly but steadily, the relief effort started by the U.S. Government began and continues. In the days following the hurricane, $6.7 billion was approved for the immediate relief. An additional $20 billion is expected to be needed for the full recovery of the country (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-puertorico-congress/u-s-aid-to-puerto-rico-seen-topping-30-billion-congressional-aide-idUSKCN1C32MC).
The waiving of the Jones Act, which required all goods shipped between U.S. ports to be carried on U.S. owned-and-operated vessels, helped boost the relief effort (https://abcnews.go.com/US/federal-government-responded-puerto-rico-hurricane-maria/story?id=50152714).
Additionally, as of March 7, 2018, FEMA has approved $2.2 billion to be given to the island for household and business reconstruction. (https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2018/03/07/22-billion-federal-aid-approved-puerto-rico-households-and-businesses).
  As of April 2018, Puerto Rico received 600 million from the U.S. Department of Education (http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/breaking-news/os-federal-disaster-assistance-puerto-rico-20180428-story.html).

 

There have been many other organizations, groups, and individuals who have rushed to aid the island. Here are a few uplifting stories of people doing extraordinary work there:

  • Immediately after receiving news that the entire island was out of power, Cuban-American rapper, Pitbull, and Celebrity, Marc Cuban, donated their personal jets for cancer patients who needed treatment. Of the island’s 69 hospitals, only 11 had working electricity in the days following the hurricane.
  • Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony created an organization of super stars called “SOMOS UNA VOZ” to rush food, shelter, medicine, power and communications to those in need from the effects of recent natural disasters. On October 14th, they held a televised fundraising concert featuring many artists, and the event raised $6 million for the relief fund. (https://somosunavoz.com).
  • Jennifer Lopez, Biopharmaceutical company, Abbvie, and Ricky Martin donated a total of 3.2 million.
  • 5 Giants football players visited Juncos, Puerto Rico, to uplift spirits and bring supplies to schools.
  • As of April, Bay Area car tech company, Tesla, has installed batteries in 662 locations.
  • Puerto Rican Reggaeton/Latin Trap Superstar, Bad Bunny, and his co-sign with Frsh Company has invested their time and money into after school hangout locations for kids and teens to express their creativity. As people have fled the island, he has been attempting to shine a light on the youth by creating a space to prove that they do not have to leave the island to make something of themselves.
  • Lin Manual Miranda got together a dozen of his talented friends, including Gloria Estefan, Jennifer Lopez, and Marc Anthony to make a song which all proceeds went to the relief.

 

As you can see, Puerto Rico has received a lot of help, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. 13,000 people are still out of power and the next hurricane season has started. Many are still displaced from their homes or coping with the loss of loved ones.

One of the trip leaders, Lucy Henderson, said, “There has been an inexplicable amount of loss and hurt in Puerto Rico. Serving there to me means showing our brothers and sisters that they are not forgotten. Their pain echoes across the shore and hits us here at home. Choosing to acknowledge that hurt, sympathizing with it, and answering the call to action I believe is what God calls us all to do. We cannot replace their loss but we can attempt to soothe the hurt with love, fearless intentional love.”

Senior, Taylor Irons said, “This is an opportunity to go somewhere I’ve never been before. Our team gets to be the hands and feet of Jesus in giving the people of Puerto Rico just a tiny fraction of the help they deserve. We get to go and share the love and service that has been shown to us through our savior Jesus Christ.”

This trip means a lot to me, being one-quarter Puerto Rican. This trip will give me an opportunity to meet a cousin who I have never met before. It will allow me to have a direct impact on these American Citizens that have been sadly forgotten by the American Media. My hope is that we bring hope to those in the Puerto Rican community who may feel lost and forgotten. I am beyond excited for this experience and I hope you can continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we go on this journey.

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