On September 20, the island of Puerto Rico was changed forever. This was the day that Hurricane Maria made landfall just south of Yabucoa Harbor. This was the first time a major cyclone had directly impacted the island since 1932 — and to say the resulting devastation was the worst the United States territory had ever seen would be a vast understatement.
No amount of preventative action could have prepared Puerto Rico for the 30 or more hours of lashing winds and pouring rains, nor the widespread destruction those who remained on the island would witness when the sun finally broke through the clouds. However, the people of Puerto Rico began their journey to rebuilding their home — even with a severe lack of resources, food, and clean water.
Now, nearly two months after the storm wreaked its havoc and caused a death toll that is still not concretely known, it seems as though the end is still nowhere in sight. Countless people are sick, malnourished, and dehydrated; power is still out on a majority of the island; and approximately 250,000 homeowners and their families are still seeking semi-permanent to permanent shelter.
These statistics, combined with the untrustworthiness of many “reputable” charities, often make those who live on the mainland feel helpless and unable to provide the aid that is so desperately needed. However, it is imperative to point out that nothing could be further from the truth. There are still many ways we, as a nation, can band together and provide relief to the hurting people of Puerto Rico.
Here are some of the best ways you can help:
Donate to legitimate local charities
Yes, the Red Cross is a household name, but recent stories have proven it is not the most trustworthy location to send your donations. With that in mind, it would be wise of you to research and donate to local charities that are capable of providing immediate relief. The New York Times recently provided a list of the best Puerto Rico-based charities, which could aid your efforts tremendously.
Invest in a sustainable future
Although it may be tempting to donate one’s discretionary funds as soon as possible, it is imperative that funds are disbursed in a more timely manner. This is because many charities see an outpouring of support in the days following a natural disaster, then funding wanes until it is nothing more than a slight trickle — if even that.
In order to determine the best time to send out each donation, keep your eyes on the news and check the Puerto Rico Recovery Index frequently. This will keep you updated on the status of recovery in Puerto Rico, as well as help you determine where your money would be best utilized.
Do not send goods in the near future
In many areas of the island, distribution routes are still largely inaccessible. To prevent overwhelming various charities and nonprofits with items they must not only sift through, but may not be able to deliver to those in need, be sure to refrain from donating clothing, furniture, personal hygiene items, and even non-perishable food items until they are explicitly asked for.
Evidently, there are many ways one can go about providing relief to Puerto Rico. Please do not hesitate to extend a helping hand to those in need — you do not even know how much of an impact even the smallest gesture will make.
Do you have any questions, observations, or suggestions regarding the relief efforts in Puerto Rico? If so, leave them in the comments below, or start a conversation with Saagar Gupta on Twitter!