How to Help Earthquake Victims in Puerto Rico

There are endless ways we can help La Isla Del Encanto. Here’s how you can do your part.

EEarly Tuesday morning (January 7), a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the island of Puerto Rico. Just three hours later, a powerful 6.0 aftershock rocked homes, cut electricity to parts of the island, and caused several buildings to collapse. Days after the quake, many residents are still without power and water. Some are even sleeping outside in fear of more structural collapses and aftershocks.

Puerto Rico is still in a state of recovery and rebuilding after Hurricane Maria devastated the island as a deadly Category 5 storm in September 2017. While many organizations are still on the ground following Maria, more aid is now needed to support the immediate and long-term needs of earthquake victims. The U.S. government’s response remains dismal. The Trump Administration is currently withholding relief funds in response to Tuesday’s earthquakes, claiming concerns about “corruption” and “financial mismanagement” in Puerto Rico. For this reason, it’s even more crucial than ever that we stand up for our fellow U.S. citizens.

Thankfully, there are countless ways you can lend a hand and help earthquake victims, thanks to vast volunteer opportunities and fundraising drives. When homes, businesses, and entire communities are damaged in a matter of minutes by earthquakes, there are nonprofits and government relief workers that jump into action to help with recovery efforts, making it easy for you to do your part.

Here’s how you can help Puerto Rico right now:

ConPRmetidos

ConPRmetidos is reinventing Puerto Rico from within, right on the island. The organization is engaging local leaders, entrepreneurs, and global innovators to jointly tackle root causes and build a better, sustainable future for Puerto Rico. Powered by donations from over 17,500 people across the world, ConPRmetidos has directly delivered or funded aid that impacts the lives of thousands of people in need of food, water, communications, power, shelter, and a helping hand forward.

The team is currently on the ground in the municipality of Guánica and Guayanilla to assess emergency needs and identify the best ways to provide support. To answer the immediate need, they are distributing solar-powered lamps and flashlights since the majority of families are currently sleeping in tents outside to avoid staying inside possibly collapsible homes and structures.

To help ConPRmetidos continue supporting Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts and mission to create a self-sufficient island, visit committedtopr.org.

YONOMEQUITO

#yonomequito is bringing Puerto Ricans together with the #YoNoMeQuito movement, or ‘I will not give up’, an everyday expression symbolizing our will to overcome our most difficult times, convinced that together we can transform adversity into hope. The goal of the movement is to spread positive energy and motivate “borícuas,” as Puerto Ricans are known, to keep moving forward despite the island’s recent challenges.

The team is on the ground visiting the towns of Ponce, Guánica, Guayanilla, Yauco, and Peñuelas to identify needs and help people who were affected by the recent earthquakes. If you wish to donate visit their page here. You can also reach out to them on Facebook and Instagram.

Help feed the island

This week, people have roamed the streets searching for a place to eat or a safe location as they wait for relief. The World Central Kitchen is already preparing meals for those affected by the quakes. The organization is run by Chef José Andrés, who says he and other cooks and volunteers are already stationed at various southern municipalities, ready to start cooking with solar power and generators on hand.

You can help Andrés and his team by donating to WCK. If you’re looking to make the journey to help firsthand, you can also join its volunteer corps or its Puerto Rico relief team.

MYSOCIALNEEDS

With mysocialneeds.org, community organizations and health service providers, nonprofits and social agencies come together to bring services, find resources and match individuals with the assistance they seek. The result? A better quality of life and stronger, resilient communities.

Is your organization helping and providing resources to those affected by the earthquake? If so, contact them at info@misnecesidades.org! They’re connecting individuals and communities to available resources in their area. By having your information, they can contribute to making sure that help is going fast and straight to those who need it the most, wherever they are.

Team Rubicon

This nonprofit’s emergency response team partly consists of military veterans who want to continue making a difference post active duty. The veterans work with medical professionals and first responders globally to help communities after devastating disasters. Currently, Team Rubicon is on the ground assessing the damage in Puerto Rico and working with local authorities to rebuild.

Americares

Americares’ motto is “Ready, respond, recover.” Since 1979, the organization has been providing aid to people affected by poverty and disasters. Americares responds to about 30 emergencies each year, whether hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, or health crises. In Puerto Rico, it has deployed a team of mental health experts to assist displaced families.

The Hispanic Federation

The organization launched its Unidos program for times exactly like these. After Hurricane Maria, the Hispanic Federation created the program specifically for disaster relief in Puerto Rico. Its resources reach 78 municipalities by distributing first responders across the island and providing food and water to disaster victims.

The federation already has a team on the ground and a network of nonprofit organizations ready to provide long-term relief and support to those affected by the tremors, according to a Hispanic Federation news release. The organization says thousands of solar lamps are being made available for distribution as well as emergency funds for local health and human service providers placed in the affected communities. In collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico, the Unidos program is also providing mental health services across the island with a focus on trauma therapy after natural disasters.

Emergency shelters and safety information

After a natural disaster, you can use the FEMA app to locate emergency shelters and disaster recovery centers. The app also sends real-time updates from the National Weather Service and offers emergency safety tips. To download, visit FEMA’s website.

Disaster relief loans

Victims of natural disasters can receive financial assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) if they are homeowners or renters located in a declared disaster area. The SBA offers low-interest, long-term loans up to $200,000 to help individuals and families with expenses not covered by insurance. If donating cash is not an option, consider sharing this information friends or colleagues with family in Puerto Rico who can benefit.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA)

If an earthquake or other natural disaster prevents residents from going to work, the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program can help. The program offers up to 26 weeks of benefits for those who no longer have a job or place to work because of the disaster, cannot reach their place of employment, or cannot work because of an injury caused by the disaster. Victims of Puerto Rico’s earthquake disaster may be entitled to up to 52 weeks of federally funded Disaster Unemployment Assistance. The National Employment Law Project estimates that as many as 10,000 Puerto Ricans may be eligible for $30 million in DUA benefits. If you know someone in Puerto Rico who can benefit, send them to the United States Department of Labor website.

Give blood

Donating blood only takes about 45 minutes, but this small time commitment can save someone’s life. To find out more about how to schedule an appointment to give blood, visit the American Red Cross online.

Animal rescue

Displaced pets also need our help after natural disasters. If you’re an animal lover, another volunteer idea is to get in touch with local animal shelters to find out how you can help. The Humane Society of Puerto Rico is just one organization with a dedicated animal rescue team that trains volunteers and helps displaced animals become fostered and adopted.

Send money, not clothing and supplies

It might seem like donating used clothing and household supplies after a natural disaster is an excellent way to help. But the reality is that physical donations for earthquake victims aren’t needed and can overwhelm distribution centers, creating more work for aid groups. According to a recent article by The Guardian, relief organizations say that donating cold hard cash first is actually the best way to help after a natural disaster.

Fundraising for earthquake victims

Starting a crowdfunding fundraiser in the wake of an earthquake is an immediate way to help victims of natural disasters, even if you’re short on money. Through GoFundMe, you can start crowdfunding for natural disasters and quickly raise money for what earthquake victims need most. To help you get started, here are the most common fundraising ideas for disaster relief:

  • Help a specific family in need, whether that means home repairs, funds for a temporary shelter, or simply money for food.
  • Raise money for an entire community. Reach out to city officials and find out where help is most needed, then focus your fundraising efforts there.
  • Partner with a favorite local business that needs help rebuilding.
  • Start a certified charity fundraiser for a disaster relief organization that can have a more widespread impact. Discover charity fundraisers on GoFundMe for inspiration.

Call your representative

Getting supplies to Puerto Rico is a hurdle, especially as hundreds are heading to the airports working to escape the disaster or fly in to help. The island is a U.S. territory, meaning people born on the island are also U.S. citizens. But the island doesn’t have the same government representation as to the people on the mainland. If you want to make your voice heard and help the people of Puerto Rico, you can contact your representative and ask them to assist in relief efforts.

You can find your representative by using your zip code and mail or e-mail your note. Make sure to encourage others to do the same if you want to make a more significant impact.

Let’s take some action.

#PRSTRONG 🇵🇷💪🏼

Early-stage VC, General Partner at MOBD // Techstars • Disney alum

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