By José Lucas Rodríguez, governor of Rotary District 7000 (Puerto Rico)
Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean, the smallest of the Greater Antilles, which is distinguished by its natural beauties, the talent of Puerto Ricans in music, arts, and sports, and above all for the warmth of its people.
But the so-called island of Enchantment was transformed by what already has been classified as the most catastrophic event in the history not only of Puerto Rico, but of the United States. More than a month after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, our people are still struggling to recover from the impact of this natural phenomenon, which left so much desolation in its wake.
Thousands of families have lost their houses totally or partially, either by winds of more than 185 miles per hour (295 km/h) or by the heavy rains that caused landslides that obstructed a lot of major roads, and overflowed all of our rivers and lakes. The force of the winds snatched the greenery out of our mountains, demolished much of our trees, and caused millions in damages to the infrastructure of the country.
But the response from Rotarians in District 7000 was quick and precise. A few days after the hurricane, several clubs around the island began to provide humanitarian aid to those affected. The help included non-perishable food, water, hygiene kits, water filters, solar lights, and power generators.
Rotarians in Puerto Rico are now focused on the recovery and reconstruction phases. Rotary clubs have developed plans to work with pumping systems for renewable energy projects in communities without potable water, the installation of water filtration systems, and the rollout of community economic development projects for the most affected areas. Disease prevention efforts in areas affected by the hurricane are also taking place, among other initiatives.
Rotary International has established a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) of the Rotary Foundation (number 614), to support projects for the recovery of Puerto Rico. Given the great work that remains ahead, contributions from Rotarians to this fund will be essential to help Puerto Rico get back on their feet.
Without a doubt, the “Isla del Encanto” will need several years to fully recover, and many hands to help its people achieve it. And within those hands will be those of Rotarians from Puerto Rico and around the world with their contributions, ideas and volunteering, which all will make the difference in the lifting of Puerto Rico.
How to help:
A Rotary Foundation Donor Advised Fund designated by donors has been established to accept contributions that will aid hurricane victims in Puerto Rico. Visit the District 7000 website to learn more.