Grass Roots Volunteering Puerto Rico Part 2
After volunteering at various projects in Puerto Rico, I finally found my final project in a Lares, Puerto Rico volunteering helping rebuild a restaurant known as the El Taino that was also being used as a distribution hub to help get supplies to the local families in the area and a shelter as well for volunteers who needed a place to stay . Thankfully, the project there was exactly what I had wanted for a while; a chance to volunteer with respect to disaster management. This gave me so much joy as I was able to undergo real grass root volunteering. I learnt more about disaster management and I’m sure the experience and skills I have gathered are bound to go with me everywhere I go.
After leaving Carol’s place, I arrived at the same restaurant I had initially been to with a reporter friend to have a view of what other volunteers in Puerto Rico were experiencing. I never thought I was going to end up there again, but as fate would have it I found myself there; this time volunteering full time. The restaurant El Taino was one of the buildings that were damaged by the hurricane, destroying kitchen equipment, the roof and countless things. I was able to meet with Tiffany; a volunteer who took it upon herself to come to help out in Puerto Rico. She got there immediately after the hurricane and while finding a place to stay (half lost), walking in the streets with her security team looking for shelter, she met Johnny. Sensing she might be a lost stranger, Johnny offered to accommodate her for the night, and from there the relationship began.
Tiffany; the founder of cajun commissary and a woman of many talents noted that the restaurant had been impacted by the hurricane and it needed help. She explained to Johnny that she would love to help repairing the restaurant in order to make it a hub where she can perform volunteering functions effectively. He liked the idea, thus, they began with restoring of the restaurant and It became a refuge centre for volunteers to stay and help out with the community.
With all focus directed at disaster management, I was so elated as it was a great chance for me to experience it and learn from other volunteers who had way more experience. We kicked started the first couple of days with helping out local community members. We did some roofing jobs and orchestrated some repairs . The restaurant served as a unit to distribute food supplies after Tiffany had worked it out with a local community leader Jimmy Aponte . One Saturday afternoon we were able to distribute food supplies to over 300 people in the area along with providing some basic medical care from the volunteer medical staff the joined the event.
Another thing that gave me joy was the opportunity to meet a whole lot of volunteer groups, as well as hard-core volunteers like Black Flag Search and Rescue . I have met some amazing humanterains during my travels around the world but I must say Jana Stone ,Eddie Aviles and Alex Cohen are on top of that list. This set of people were full of passion and can go to any extent to resolve issues for the needy because they believe “every minute spent helping the needy is worth it” as Eddie will always say! They would literally spend every day hours in their vehicle delivery aid of all sorts from food ,solar power banks, to water, and everything else under the sun, they helped people all over the island. I also had the pleasure of meeting Anita Moncrief and Andrew Aponick and because of their connections we had access to thousands of bags of dehydrated vegetable soup as well as toys they we were able to help distribute thanks again with the help of the Black Flag Search and Rescue Team.
The entire one and half month experience were outstanding and educating! I learnt the art of patience and ability to get to the ground and take on grass-root management like nothing I have never experienced before. Each day kept coming with different tasks ranging from supply distribution, gardening at the backyard, and much more. Residents of the community were taught how to treat rainwater [via water filtration system], charge cell phones via solar, and how to light up the solar lamp. I was also able to add to my knowledge and now as I go on to Mexico, these are things I will be holding on to. Will I be back in Puerto Rico? I can’t really say for now. My focus is on Mexico, how to improve my volunteering community on Facebook and inspire others to do same. However, no one knows what the future holds and I think I will leave it that way!