Hurricane Maria is regarded as the worst natural disaster on record in Dominica and Puerto Rico. The hurricane caused severe damage to Puerto Rico’s infrastructure and vegetation and, as a result, the people of Puerto Rico are still facing a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic proportions.
“It has been almost five months since Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, damaging the power grid, water systems, and agriculture,” Joe Maldonado said at a press conference hosted by the Puerto Rico Relief Fund of South Central Wisconsin Feb. 15 at the Latino Chamber of Commerce in Fitchburg. “Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, and countless lives have been lost. Communities of Puerto Ricans throughout the mainland United States have responded quickly – collecting items, raising funds, and visiting the island.”
One of those communities that really stepped up was right here in Madison where the Puerto Rico Relief Fund of South Central Wisconsin was formed and over 40 Madison-area residents rallied the local community to raise funds and contribute relief items to Puerto Rico. It’s estimated that there are about 5,000 Puerto Ricans living in south-central Wisconsin.
“Thanks to the work of the dedicated committee, and hundreds of individual donors and fundraising events hosted throughout Madison, $70,000 in cash, including in-kind donations, almost $90,000 has been raised,” Maldonado said.
The Puerto Rico Relief Fund of South Central Wisconsin (PRRF-SCW) gave a special thank you to CUNA Mutual who donated a generous gift of $15,000. Part of that gift allowed PRRF-SCW to purchase 126 LifeStraw Family filtration systems, which were shipped to Puerto Rico with the help of Johnson & Johnson logistics team.
“The filters are currently being distributed throughout the island by A.M.A.R, a local nonprofit physicians organization focused on health and ecological sustainability,” Maldonado said. “Community organizers identified families in three inland communities hardest hit by the hurricane, and are educating them on how to use the filters effectively.”
Thanks to a generous in-kind donation here in Madison, PRRF-SCW was also able to send hundreds of bags of seeds to local farmers and agricultural faculty at the University of Puerto Rico-Utuado.
“These collective efforts were thoughtful and taken with the intention of making the largest impact with the smallest financial cost,” Maldonado said.
The press conference was also a chance to announce the next step of the process. “Over the next two months, we will accept and review proposals for relief projects for local communities in Puerto Rico,” Maldonado said. “The Puerto Rico Relief Fund of South Central Wisconsin will accept proposals through Tuesday, April 17th. We will review in the months of April and May, prioritizing projects that have quick and direct impact to communities with little overhead cost, and projects that have matching funds from individual and organizational donors.”
Recipients of funds will submit a report at the beginning, middle, and end of the project. Funds will be depleted no later than July 30th, after which the Puerto Rico Relief Fund of South Central Wisconsin will be dissolved.
“The structural, environmental, and health-related effects of this hurricane will remain for years,” Maldonado said. “We urge our fellow citizens to continue to put pressure on elected officials to support long-term relief on the island. Thank you again to the hundreds of people who provided gifts that ranged from a few dollars to several thousand, and to those who gave, most importantly, their time and their effort and their heart to move this work forward.”