Re-discovering Puerto Rico As We Recover
January 8, 2019
Monday, November 19, 2018
This week started off with an unexpected holiday. I got up to catch a quick breakfast at Panadería España in Villamar and ended up at a Puerto Rico Coordinators meeting in Summit Hills. I was not aware that it was a national holiday. No schools were open and all governmental agencies were closed. Friendly street cats welcomed me that morning as I waited on the sidewalk for the church doors to open. When I finally met up with Rolando Flores in front of the church, I became aware of this holiday. November 19, 1493 was the discovery of Puerto Rico, when it was taken by foreign powers. 525 years later there were no street celebrations and no signs, just the pleasant surprise of no traffic. No wonder there was so little traffic at 8:15 am heading to Summit Hills. No wonder the Summit Hills school was closed and the Summit Hills neighborhood was still sleeping. All was quiet.
Today as I return back to Lancaster after being away for three weeks and orienting two new Project Directors in the island, I am making the connections. In 1493 Puerto Rico played a passive role in its discovery, and today Puerto Rico is leading its recovery.
Friday, December 14, 2018
MDS has been assisting Puerto Rico in its recovery from Hurricane Maria, which occurred on September 20, 2017. One year and three months after our arrival, all MDS long term volunteers (Project Directors) and MDS Puerto Rico Coordinators met today to complete the end of year report. Among power points, data and written reports we discovered that MDS had a meaningful year in responding to the victims of Hurricane Maria. Vivi Arriba,Utuado alone had 30 MDS volunteers groups, who served close to 4930 hrs. Volunteers in Aibonito repaired over 40 roofs. MDS responded to request for grants from local Mennonite churches, benefiting a total of 12 families with minor repair needs. MDS assisted Betania Mennonite School with a new large metal roof for its largest school building–Ann Kay Mansanari. Four Mennonite churches that needed repairs also received funds. Projects that required cement construction demanded more from the volunteers, who completing Nilda’s house in Ponce, and Pastor Deborah’s home in Utuado. Two other cement houses were contracted by local builders for Pastor Wilson and Pascual Santiago.
We learned that the strength of MDS lies in both the weekly volunteers and the involvement of the local Puerto Rican leaders. MDS was innovative in Puerto Rico by allowing unemployed local workers to serve side by side with our volunteers. MDS in Puerto Rico recognized it still needs to work on improving its logistics. In 2019, MDS in Puerto Rico will enter into a more stable and steady stage of repairing damaged roofs, training others in partnership with FEMA and completing our list of houses currently waiting to be started.