But we’ve all seen that news already.
We’ve heard the statistics about people who have lost their homes, and who don’t —and won’t—have food, water, or power for months to come. We know that superstorms like these are a symptom of climate change, and that there will be more such storms to come.
What we haven’t heard or seen yet are the stories of the people who live in Puerto Rico. We haven’t seen the faces of the most vulnerable humans who rely on community to survive. We haven’t met the family and friends who are still lacking access to resources needed simply to stay alive. We haven’t heard the names of real Puerto Ricans—real Americans—whose lives have been altered forever, after the storm.
Meet them now. Hear their stories, in their own words. Listen to their struggles, and then take action to help them.
A few days after Hurricane Maria hit, our teammate Jess’s friend from Puerto Rico, now living in New York, told her how stressed he was because he still hadn’t heard from his mom or two brothers—he didn’t know if they were alive after the storm hit the island. Since the news was filled with stories of complete devastation compounded by a lack of appropriate response from the U.S. government, John decided to take matters into his own hands and fly to San Juan to search for his family. No one knew how long it would be before power, cell phone reception, and any sort of order would be restored.
He was set to depart in three days when she first talked to him. Besides searching for his mom, he wanted to quickly raise money to purchase as many solar battery chargers, water filters, and small cookstoves as he could carry to give out to those in need.
Jess watched the horrible news unfold on social media, and kept busy at work. But when another colleague started an email brainstorm asking how we could help as an agency, we came up with an idea. What if we used our skills as storytellers to document and share stories about real people on the ground in Puerto Rico who are affected by Hurricane Maria? What if we captured stories so that we could inspire more Americans to help fellow Americans in this time of need? What if we joined John on his journey home?
And so, After Maria: A Puerto Rico Story was born.
We hope these stories will inspire you, not only to take action and support the relief efforts for Puerto Rico however you’re able (we have a few suggestions below), but also to believe that coming together as a community at a grassroots level is the best way to make our world a little better. You’ll see the devastation and you’ll hear about some of the challenges Puerto Rico is facing now—and how it will take months to recover.
At the same time, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The volunteers we met on the ground, working to help the most vulnerable communities, were just regular people like you and me who stopped their lives in order to do good. It’s this story that inspires us most about the people of Puerto Rico.
Spread the word. Share these stories with friends. Get active. Donate money to Gabriel to help fund his efforts to bring solar to vulnerable communities. Call your senators regularly and demand that the U.S. government take action to regulate the fossil fuel industry, protect the environment, and mitigate climate change.