I have been carefully watching the news out of Puerto Rico for the past week, amplifying news stories and encouraging support. But over the past 24 hours in particular, as I watched San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz’s emotional pleas for help with tears streaming down my face, I fear we have not been strong enough in our appeals.
Note: This post has been updated for 2020, should you be able to help Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the recent earthquakes
which has left thousands homeless, hundreds of thousands without water, and nearly one million people without electricity.
The island is still owed $18 billion in federal funding from Hurricane Maria, in addition to needing help again now.
If you have not yet watched the Mayor’s desperate plea for help for the people of Puerto Rico and straight talk about the inadequate emergency response, it is clear that is a fast-growing humanitarian crisis right here in America, and it’s nearly unimaginable in scale.
(Top photo: Global Giving)
3.5 million people live on the island of Puerto Rico. For comparison sake, fewer than half a million lived in New Orleans during Katrina. (Though clearly the impact of the hurricane was felt far beyond New Orleans).
So we’re asking you to help.
What Mayor CarmenYulín Cruz of San Juan is doing right now.
We have a big-hearted, caring, benevolent readership and for that I’ve always been grateful. Who among us hasn’t mourned — and more — for Texas. Florida. Mexico. Boston. Nice. London and Paris. Peru. Haiti. Japan. New York and New Jersey. Manchester. Syria. Ferguson. Charleston. Orlando. Charlottesville.
(God, that list is depressing. And it’s not even near complete.)
When people are hurting, when they are in need, when they are desperate, we all step up:
Parents helping parents. Families helping families. Humans helping humans.
While recently we shared a post about those in Puerto Rico and Mexico, I’m afraid our roundup of charitable organizations on the ground in Puerto Rico got lost in all the information there. So I’d like to repost and update that information again now:
How to help Puerto Rico: Donations and otherwise
This list has been updated for 2020
Charities and organizations supporting Puerto Rico
*I cannot recommend the work of José Andres’s World Central Kitchen enough (above). His high-impact work on the ground in areas hit by natural disasters earned him a Nobel Peace Price nomination. He landed in Puerto Rico in September, 2017, and now in 2020…he and his team of wonderful chefs are still there, feeding people where there are often no others on the ground.
*Lin-Manuel Miranda has been promoting Hispanic Federation, which chartered a plane to get first responders from New York to PR, among other things. If Lin-Manuel supports them, that’s good enough for me. Edit: As of December, 2019, it’s being run by Frankie Miranda and they have a dedicated Puerto Rican Earthquake Relief Fund through Unidos, which was established after Hurricane Maria.
*The One America Appeal is a brilliant and impactful collaboration from 5 of our 6 living presidents: President Carter, Presidents Bush 1 and 2, President Clinton and President Obama. “Every cent donated” will help Americans recovering from disaster.
* Direct Relief has extensive experience on the ground with worldwide natural disasters. In PR since the earthquakes, they’ve been working with multiple orgs and municipalities (the Puerto Rican Department of Health, the Puerto Rican Hospital Association, the Puerto Rican Medical Reserve Corps, the Mayors of Guaninca and Guaynilla, among others) in the area of healthcare. They’re also organizing teams of medical professionals and mental health counselors to provide help to those affected; and sending emergency health kits with essential medial items to hospitals across the island.
I also appreciate that Direct Relief is getting much-needed mental health medication to doctors, to support patients experiencing mental trauma from the disaster and their subsequent displacement.
*The International Medical Corps is a four-star Charity Navigator rated organization, providing essential help on the ground including temporary shelter (tents and blankets), water and hygiene kits, and mental health support for those in need. They continue supporting Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the 2020 earthquakes.
* Another reliable, A-rated organization is Portland-based Mercy Corps, which hasn’t left Puerto Rico since Maria, and has 30 people on the ground right now, so far. They’re delivering USB-charging solar lanterns, access to solar panel energy, emergency water, and and emergency cash donations directly to those in need — especially to families who may be harder to reach and not being serviced by the larger organizations.
*The Miami Herald introduced us to The Puerto Rican Leadership Council of South Florida which has been a fount of information on what’s happening, what the problems have been and how to help. They set up donations for Operation Oasis, entirely dedicated to bringing potable water to the island.
*PBS recommends the Maria Recovery Fund from the Center of Popular Democracy. (Note: It’s not clear whether there’s a fund earmarked for the earthquakes.)
*Global Giving (their photo at top) increased their fundraising goal from $2mm to $5mm after Maria. You can specifically search all Puerto Rico charitable initiatives on the site including rebuilding schools and a current earthquake emergency fund created by the US-based nonprofit Puerto Rico Rises.
*The American Red Cross is on the ground as always. They also have a page detailing the work they accomplished in 2017 (Maria was one of 242 large disasters they responded to that year) should you be ambivalent about them, as some are these days. You can also text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a quick $10 donation.
*Beyonce’s BEYGOOD page is suggesting charities for various relief efforts, including Somos Una Voz, an alliance created by Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony and a collective of well-known artists: they’re rushing necessary supplies and infrastructure support to those in immediate need. (Update: note that this page hasn’t been updated for a while but is still a helpful resource.)
For a roundup of highly-rated organizations that are helping communities in the aftermath of natural disasters like Hurricane Maria and the 2019-20 Puerto Rican earthquakes, take a look at Charity Navigator and Charity Watch
If you can’t donate money…here’s what you can do.
NOTE: Be sure to double check all these resources for the most recent data about helping in the aftermath of the 2020 earthquakes.
If you can’t donate money, there are so many other ways to help. Maybe you can donate supplies (PDF). To make it easier, create an Amazon wishlist to encourage friends, neighbors, coworkers to pitch in what they can.
If you’re in New York State, Governor Cuomo in partnership with TIDAL X BROOKLYN has set up multiple drop-off locations (Albany, Syracuse, Buffalo, the boroughs of NYC, Yonkers, Long Island and more) for specific supplies: batteries, flashlights, portable lanterns, diapers, baby wipes, cases of water and feminine hygiene products, all new and unopened.
You can donate blood through your local Red Cross, or look for local drives earmarked for Puerto Rico.
Donate Temporary Housing
You can donate a property to house evacuees through the Airbnb emergency shelter program. Also, HomeAway has listed a program specifically for Harvey evacuees, but surely you can donate to Maria victims as well. If you have a HomeAway property, contact them for more info.
Shop for a Cause
In the coming weeks, there will be a lot of products and services donating proceeds to Puerto Rico relief. Right now, you can download the Beyoncé single Mi Gente, and 100% of the profits will support relief efforts. More info at beyonce.com/reliefefforts/
Contact Your Representatives
You can call your elected representatives to urge them to act. The Resistbot app is a favorite, and makes it incredibly easy deliver a message via your texting app, especially if you’re uncomfortable talking to someone in person or leaving a message.
One of your messages in addition to emergency support: Please vote for bill H.R. 4901, finally granting Puerto Rico the statehood they deserve. It’s a bipartisan bill, with 56 cosponsors including 18 republican representatives across the US, from Florida to Nebraska, NY to Indiana to California.
Use Your Social Platforms
You can use your social platforms using hashtags like #PuertoRico #PuertoRicoNeedsHelpNow #PuertoRicoEarthquakes. Even if you’re just talking to a small network of friends and family on Facebook or Instagram, you never know who you might reach, and what amazing things they may be able to do.
Mayor of Guayanila is running a great operation from the beginning.We joined helping him and his team wotj all the feeding needs. Today feeding sites like that are being run by @WCKitchen and Puerto Rican volunteers!By end of today more than 60k meals served..#ChefsForPuertoRico pic.twitter.com/tK7AYkiVpH
— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) January 12, 2020
⚠️ Following the past 10 days of earthquakes in #PuertoRico, our teams report that water & power are the greatest needs. Community centers we’ve equipped as Resilience Hubs are helping people access solar energy, water & communication.
More about Hubs: https://t.co/SqtrRQn1cY pic.twitter.com/M36TURH1eW
— Mercy Corps (@mercycorps) January 8, 2020
The USNS Comfort is essentially a floating trauma center and hospital, and is finally en route
Official US Navy file photo
Every one of us can be an activist, pushing our government to do more and do what is right.
It’s important that we acknowledge that the US government response to Puerto Rico has been inadequate. There are still billions of dollars allocated by a bipartisan Congress for emergency disaster relief that haven’t yet been distributed. It’s okay to be vocal and it’s okay to be angry.
I know I am.
But let’s use those emotions for good.
Know that it was the collective chorus of outraged voices on social media which became a news story, which finally forced the administration to stop ignoring the problem during Hurricane Maria and finally — if 8 days late — waive absurd the shipping restrictions of the Jones Act that were preventing the delivery of life-saving supplies during the hurricane.
Every voice matters.
And please please remember, this is not a political issue. This is not Democrats vs Republicans. This is about our shared humanity and desire to lift one another up, the way we would hope to be lifted up should it ever be our own families in such dire need.
You can do this. We can do this.
We are mothers of dragons.