An Update on Puerto Rico by Edna Benitez (Updated January 12, 2018)
Edna Benitez is a taskforce member for our Puerto Rico team and a Middle Church deacon.
Though Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the Virgin Island three months ago, the recovery is still ongoing. The process has been significantly slower and less effective in remote and rural areas. More than 200,000 residents have fled for mainland United States, and those that remain are widely without the resources they need. Only 65.4 percent of the electrical grid is operating. Clean water continues to be the most serious issue, due to the destruction of the island’s infrastructure.
During the first week of December, five congregants from Middle and Fort Washington Collegiate distributed emergency supplies and items to two remote towns (Miroflores in Orocovis and La Laguna in Humacao) in Puerto Rico. Items included water filters, solar lights, solar chargers, tarps, towels, adult pads, mosquito nets and a healthful food supply, all due to your generous and incredible donations.
Our team also made invaluable allies during the relief effort. The trusting connections will allow us to continue a long-term support, especially to the impoverished town of Miraflores.
At Christmas, we continued our commitment. Through our collective effort, we made sure that some children would have toys and books to celebrate. Fifty packets were delivered to a children’s cancer ward. Rev. Damaris Whittaker of Fort Washington traveled a second time to visit family and while there also brought toys to an orphanage for Día de Los Reyes (Epiphany). Our children’s gifts also reached the island of Grenada, brought by one of the team while visiting her family.
Many of you have asked, “What’s next?”
Our Task Force will meet in late January with a mission to plan the next phase. One of our focuses is assisting Miraflores in sustainability. Several feasible ideas have already been discussed. For example, we might assist our partner, Proyeto Maria, in creating a micro-franchise enabling women to prepare food for sale. We might supply permanent solar panels to a mobile farm providing fresh food to the community.
To reduce the displacement, poor living conditions and overcrowding, we hope to link with organizations that assist in repairs and the building of safe, sturdy homes.
To gain further perspective, I will visit a small town in Haiti in February that has flourished using sustainable sources since the devastating earthquake of 2010.
We will keep you informed and look forward to continuing God’s work. Your contributions can make a major difference.
The Collegiate Church of New York made an initial donation of $10,000 to help the people of Puerto Rico with water filtration, and pledged to match each dollar Middle Church raised up to an additional $15,000. Thanks to your generosity, we met and surpassed our goal for a total of $22,423, bringing the overall total in matched and raised funds with The Collegiate Church to $47,423.54. Successful campaigs were also held at the other Collegiate Churches: Fort Washington ($5,000), Intersections International ($4,000) Marble Church ($6,339), and West End Church ($2,600).
The Outreach Committte of the Collegiate Church released the additional $15,000 in matching funds this December: $5,000 will be donated to The Maria Fund and $10,000 for Matria, an organization doing extensive work for the people of Miraflores.
Apart from the matching funds, the initial $10,000 donation of the Collegiate Church of New York purchased two water filtration kits for municipalities in Puerto Rico through Oasis Operation. Each kit costs $4,000. The Collegiate Church of New York also donated $2,000 to Waves for Water for water filtration in the Virgin Islands.
Middle Collegiate Church and Ft. Washington Collegiate Church congregants traveled to Puerto Rico in early December to deliver supplies and gather more information. Edna Benitez and Michael Wiener, Middle congregants, delivered supplies to school children and groceries to families there. The group also gathered stories from the people there to hear their short term and long term needs, as well as did some medical triage. Michael returned the following week with solar energy kits from Resilient Power Puerto Rico and personally installed them, one at the church in Miraflores and Saltos. We are so blessed to be able to support these efforts. Michael and Edna graciously paid for their own way so that your donations would support recovery efforts. We are committed to short and long term recovery efforts.
An update from Puerto Rico (12/1/17):
Support the ongoing relief efforts and advocacy for the people of Puerto Rico by signing this petition today, calling on our leaders to:
1) Repeal the Jones Act
2) Cancel Puerto Rico's immoral debt
3) Commit to approving federal funds for rebuilding Puerto Rico
Marching in Unity for Puerto Rico in Washington DC (11/19/17)
On November 19, members from our congregation traveled to Washington DC to march in the Unity for Puerto Rico rally. See photos from their trip below.
Benefit Concert (11/5/17)
On November 5 at 2:30 PM, we held Mosaic: A Concert for Puerto Rico, featuring New York actors and artists to raise money for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Proceeds from the concert were put toward money for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Middle Collegiate Church collected basic supplies on Sundays and Wednesdays until December 3. AA batteries, disinfectant wipes, pain relivers (Advil, Tylenol), feminine products and other supplies were collected. The supplies were hand-delivered by Middle and Fort Collegiate congregants in early December.
We will advocate and support the changes needed in infrastructure and access to electricity. We will speak out against institutional racism and work for systemic political changes.