Prior to the summer of 2017, Children Incorporated had yet not worked in Puerto Rico.
Over the years our President and CEO Ron Carter has been asked by supporters of our organization if we were considering expanding our programs to include sponsorship in Puerto Rico. But because we didn’t have a partnering organization on the island to connect with, we weren’t able to.
Then Hurricane Maria hit.
In September of 2017, Hurricane Maria ravaged much of Puerto Rico. In the wake of the storm, the U.S. territory’s governor estimated the damage from the storm at more than $8 billion.
Incredible damage done
In September of 2017, Hurricane Maria ravaged much of Puerto Rico. In the wake of the storm, the U.S. territory’s governor estimated the damage from the storm at more than $8 billion. Approximately 80 percent of the island’s agriculture was lost due to the hurricane. Eighteen million coffee trees were destroyed.
The hurricane decimated the island’s power grid, leaving all 3.4 million residents without electricity. Local authorities predicted that it would take four to six months to restore power to all of Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, as of February 2019, a year and a half later, there are still remote areas of the island where families don’t have electricity.
Today, thousands of homes in Puerto Rico have not yet been repaired, including those that had a complete loss of their roofs in the aftermath of the storm. Those families rely on blue tarps provided by FEMA to protect them from the weather.
Relief arrives in Puerto Rico
In the months following the hurricane, many relief agencies and organizations began to work in Puerto Rico, helping to rebuild and restore the lives of those affected by the damage done.
One such group was a team of volunteers from Grace Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia. In February 2018, nine volunteers from the church’s congregation traveled to Carolina, Puerto Rico, a township just outside of San Juan. When they arrived, they worked under the guidance of Pastor Jesus Garcia, the head of the Iglesia Bautista de Metropol, to help repair houses.
One month after they returned from their trip, Mr. Carter attended a forum at Grace Baptist Church where he heard from the congregation’s volunteers about their rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico. Their stories deeply moved Mr. Carter. He immediately contacted Pastor Garcia to learn ways in which Children Incorporated could get involved.
Our Hope In Action Fund
In June of 2018, Children Incorporated sent an initial contribution of $10,000 to Puerto Rico, thanks to our Hope In Action Fund, to help with rebuilding efforts in and around San Juan in conjunction with Pastor Garcia.
Much to Mr. Carter’s delight, the funds were used in diverse ways beyond just repairing homes — personal belongings were also replaced, and food was provided to many children and families. It was apparent to Mr. Carter that Pastor Garcia was a great leader and very well connected to the needs of his community.
Providing a helping hand
In February 2019, Mr. Carter got personally involved with Pastor Garcia’s work in Puerto Rico. Along with another group of volunteers from Grace Baptist Church, he participated in a home rebuilding and re-roofing project near the Iglesia Bautista de Metropol.
Mr. Carter also spent time with Pastor Garcia discussing possible ways that Children Incorporated could provide additional aid, especially for children whose families were still recovering from the hurricane.
As we help those who are recovering from a natural disaster, we not only hope to support them in mending their lives, but we also hope to help families and communities come back stronger and more connected than ever.
When they met in person, Pastor Garcia presented the perfect opportunity to Mr. Carter. He explained that the grounds around his church are spacious and fenced in. The property is also under regular adult supervision to keep children attending the church safe.
For this reason, the churchyard has become a gathering place for kids in the community to play even when the church is not open. Pastor Garcia expressed to Mr. Carter that he would love to raise funds for the constitution of a proper playground on the bare church grounds.
More projects in the works
As they continued their conversation, Mr. Carter and Pastor Garcia also discussed the possibility of starting a child sponsorship program in Puerto Rico.
Additionally, Pastor Garcia presented an opportunity for Children Incorporated to work with a home for physically and emotionally handicapped adults in San Juan. Mr. Carter visited the center with Pastor Garcia before his trip ended and saw an obvious need for support.
When Mr. Carter returned to our office in Virginia, he immediately approved funding for Pastor Garcia’s playground.
Over the next months, we look forward to updating our supporters and donors on our continued work in Puerto Rico. As we help those who are recovering from a natural disaster, we not only hope to support them in mending their lives, but we also hope to help families and communities come back stronger and more connected than ever.
How do I get involved in helping children in Puerto Rico?
You can get involved with our work in Puerto Rico by contacting our office. Call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.