“It’s been inspirational to hear how everybody on the entire island has gone down to the south to help out. It’s an amazing thing for us to witness,” says Veronica Figueroa. “The beauty of Puerto Rico is not the beaches or the natural resources; the beauty of our island is the people and how they support each other.”
A 6.4 magnitude quake hit Figueroa’s home island of Puerto Rico really hard last week toppling homes and schools. On Saturday, a magnitude 5.9 quake shook Puerto Rico again causing millions of dollars of damage along the island’s southern coast and leaving roughly 59,000 customers without power, according to the island’s power authority.
“The first one was actually the one that started the massive destruction,” Figueroa tells Madison365. “After that, it was just aftershocks and those were between the 5’s and the 6’s [magnitude] and continued to create more destruction.
“So we have people right now on the south side of the island on the street or outside in the plaza or in the shelter,” she adds. “And some people don’t even want to go into the shelter because they don’t know how safe it is to stay there.”
Here in Madison, Figueroa and her friend Joe Maldonado, who also has close relatives in Puerto Rico, are raising money and supplies for the people of the island along with friends Karmarie Moya, Yannette Cole, Heidi Figueroa Velez and Diana Guzman.
Support our neighbors in Puerto Rico 🇵🇷
Posted by Luna's Groceries on Saturday, January 11, 2020
Two years ago, they were leaders of the Puerto Rico Relief Fund of South Central Wisconsin which raised an incredible $98,000 for hurricane relief when Hurricane Maria hit, which was regarded as the worst natural disaster on record in Dominica and Puerto Rico.
‘My older sister [Heidi Figueroa Velez] and her husband were just in Puerto Rico for vacation,” Figueroa says. “My older sister had been very active in the Puerto Rico Relief Fund connecting people with the resources that they need.
“This all came about with us just all communicating and seeing the need to support, once again, our community down in Puerto Rico because of the lack of response from the government here,” she adds.
The Trump administration, so far, has refused to release billions of dollars in congressionally approved disaster aid to Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez has estimated damage at $110 million.
“One of the main power plants in the south has been wrecked. My brother happens to work at that plant. It’s been completely destroyed,” Figueroa says.
“My family and friends are OK. I’ve just been listening to people on the phone sounding very nervous and trying to keep us calm that everything is fine. But it’s not,” she continues. “It’s very difficult having a mother who needs electricity because she is a cancer patient and she needs to be connected to a breathing machine and also needs to be connected to air conditioning. It’s hard to imagine what she’s going through, as well.”
Nearly 5,000 people are still in government shelters and thousands are sleeping outside after the earthquakes.
“Right now, temperatures at night go down to the 50s at night. For people who are not used to cold, it’s freezing,” Figueroa says.
Figueroa is encouraging people to drop off items in need at three local locations: Luna’s Grocery, Latino Chamber of Commerce, and Centro Hispano.
Luna’s Grocery is located at 2010 Red Arrow Trail in Fitchburg while the Latino Chamber of Commerce is located at 2881 Commerce Park Dr., Suite E in Fitchburg. Centro Hispano of Dane County is located at 810 W. Badger Rd. in Madison.
Items they are looking for include diapers, medicine, wipes, first aid, feminine hygiene products, toothpaste and toothbrushes, mouthwash, soap, towels, solar lights, blankets, sunblock and mosquito repellent.
“I’m planning on adding a few other things to the list,” Figueroa says. “We have some people who will be contributing financially to ship things out. So if people want to be a sponsor of a care package to Puerto Rico, they can certainly contact me or my sister.”
The hope is to gather everything they can within two weeks’ time.
“If we see that people are continuing to bring stuff in after that we will keep it open until Feb. 1,” Figueroa says. “We just really want to start collecting items and sending things as they come. We can’t afford to waste any time in waiting because people are in need right now!”
For more information about Support Puerto Rico, click here.
Feel free to contact Veronica at (608)334-0224 or Heidi at (608)556-5109 with any questions.