It feels like everywhere we look, there is pain and disaster.
With the rapidly changing news cycles, the plethora of videos and photos filling our timelines, and indignation that sometimes has nowhere to go, we can start crumbling from the inside. I am not pretentious with my writing. (At least, I like to think that). My hope for this brief piece is to remind us that solidarity requires us to stay and act even when the media is no longer talking about it. May we stay and act in ways that truly contribute to the flourishing of Puerto Rico and its people, and may we do it in ways that center their dignity.
Here are five grassroots organizations committed to that work.
Hunger Corp. – Porque orar no es suficiente/ Because praying isn’t enough
Hunger Corp. is a local nonprofit focused on the holistic development of communities in Puerto Rico.
After hurricane María, they adopted the neighborhood of Sector La Hormiga in the town of Dorado. Residents of this community were particularly vulnerable because FEMA resources were generally reserved for people with land titles. In their case, that paperwork was not in place in all instances, making access to governmental aid more difficult. In partnership with local churches like Casa De Bendición and other organizations like Extra Bases, Hunger has devoted itself to helping rebuild dozens of homes in this community and has helped small businesses take off and grow. Additionally, they have secured property titles for 16 of the 31 families in La Hormiga.
The impact of their work can only be truly described by those most empowered by it, like Don Rafa.
Today, Don Rafa has a new home.
In the aftermath of hurricane Fiona, Hunger is continuing their work. They are also helping in the cleaning of flooded homes throughout the island, and have partnered with other organizations to help farmers save as much of their crops as possible. Putting this organization at the top of my list is intentional. Their work and approach, which centers on sustainability and community empowerment, are vital.
How to support?
- Volunteer. There are multiple opportunities to serve on the ground. Check out their IG and website.
- Donate. You can do so securely through PayPal here.
- Sponsor. If you represent a corporation interested in sponsoring their work, please, fill out the “Sponsors” form available here.
El Foster Club
El Foster Club is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding foster care for abandoned, abused, surrendered, and stray dogs and cats in Puerto Rico. They also place them in forever homes in Puerto Rico or abroad.
Given the priority of protecting and preserving human life during a natural event like a hurricane, sometimes, we forget about the other lives that are also at risk. From the bottom of my heart, I thank volunteers and organizers that serve those other lives. The moving video below introduced me to the work of El Foster Club.
A couple of days ago, they were alerted about an abandoned house with over 30 dogs locked in it without food and water, and in incredibly unhealthy conditions. They found 4 cadavers of dogs and 4 had to be taken right away to a vet because they were about to die. With the help of volunteers and donations, they ensured the safety of the dogs, and are in the process of facilitating foster homes for them. This is in addition to the work pre-hurricane Fiona.
How to support?
- Foster or adopt. Don’t let location discourage you, as the organization has experience with placement both in Puerto Rico and abroad. Fill out this form if you are interested in giving a dog or cat a temporary or forever home.
- Donate! The cost to care for each dog is about $100. This is without considering emergency vet care. Just with $25, you help the organization start the vaccination protocol and feces analysis. They also have to cover food costs.
- Donate via PayPal here.
- Donate via Venmo to ElFosterClubPR – Camille Ortega, treasurer. The four digits are 7476.
- Connect with them for other ways of support via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook, or IG.
This one is not an organization but Joselynn Cortés is an organizer. Her work as a photojournalist has amplified the voices of those most affected by both natural and political catastrophes. A couple of days ago, Joselynn shared the story of Don Julio, who lost his entire house during hurricane María, and now again with hurricane Fiona. FEMA denied aid to Don Julio back when María and this time around no aid had reached him 6 days after Fiona hit.
In light of this, Joselynn made a call to organize and help Don Julio clean his house, and provide a new mattress, food and water, and a sofa. In Puerto Rico, el pueblo salva al pueblo, and el pueblo showed up and showed out. In one day, thanks to donations and volunteers, Don Julio was provided food, a mattress, a power generator, and furniture.
As shared by Joselynn via her IG, they want to work on a restoration plan. In addition, she is currently organizing aid to go to Moca and Añasco, and they are requesting product donations as well as monetary support.
How to support?
- Donate via PayPal at email@example.com or Venmo at JoselynnCortes. Indicate reason in memo. You can also donate products. Please scroll down this page to see a list of needs and address to send donations.
- Volunteer! Register here to volunteer.
Iniciativa Comunitaria was founded in 1990 by Dr. José Vargas Vidot to serve those most vulnerabilized and stigmatized by society. I will spectacularly fail at summarizing all they have done. For three decades, they have developed and implemented services to prevent HIV/AIDS in high-risk populations; provided services for the holistic rehabilitation of substance users that lead to community integration; and served homeless people by providing food, medical services, and prevention kits for those who use substances. Their work centers on solidarity and the human dignity of those they serve.
It comes as no surprise that in the aftermath of a hurricane, these already marginalized communities are further invisibilized. Last Saturday, El Nuevo Día, the principal newspaper on the island, published an article on this very issue and highlighted the continuous work of this organization.
Since the Monday after hurricane Fiona hit, Iniciativa Comunitaria mobilized to serve communities in San Juan and Bayamón. It is noted in the article that San Juan is the municipality with the highest unhoused population in Puerto Rico. This organization has been partnering with other organizations like La Fondita de Jesús to provide meals, clothing, and essentials to those most impacted. They are also organizing efforts to serve the west.
How to support?
- Volunteer. You can apply to be a volunteer here. Given the urgency, you can also contact them via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Donate. Here they have all the information on monetary and non-monetary donations.
Shelters for those at risk or currently suffering violence
It is well documented that after a disaster or a crisis, incidents of violence, especially gender-based violence, significantly increase. We saw this in Puerto Rico after hurricane María and was reported by multiple organizations and media outlets, including WAPA, Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, El País, and El Nuevo Día.
In Puerto Rico, we are in a state of emergency when it comes to gender-based violence, and there is a legitimate concern that the current crisis will exacerbate the violence against women and children even more. For that reason, it is key that we support organizations and shelters providing protection, essential needs, and a way out to those at risk or currently suffering violence.
How to support?
- Donate to Casa Protegida Julia De Burgos here. Please, scroll down. You can donate money or basic needs articles.
- Donate to Hogar Ruth here. You can donate money or basic needs articles. Please, see the list of articles.
- Volunteer with Hogar Ruth. Scroll down this page for contact information to coordinate volunteering.
There are other service centers and shelters that also deserve our support. You can learn about some of them here.
I can only finish this blog post with the words of Puerto Rican writer Mayra Santos Febres in Huracanada:
Los hermanos lejanos
vuelven vaciando sus casas para ofrecérsela
al projimo abatido.
Esta es la hora de nuestra grandeza;
la hora del amor.
I offer you my imperfect and humble translation:
The brethren from afar
return emptying their houses to offer
to the downcast neighbor.
This is the hour of our greatness;
the hour of love.
 Mayra Santos Febres, Huracanada (San Juan, Puerto Rico: Trabalis Editores, 2018), 65.