We’re inundated with images of missing roofs, collapsed apartment blocks and flooded neighborhoods, yet the scale of the destruction that Hurricane Maria left behind in Puerto Rico is still hard to comprehend.
Power, shelter, food, water, medicine, gas, batteries and many of the other necessities of modern life are in short supply, or unavailable at any price. It’s a catastrophic humanitarian crisis, unprecedented in the island’s history.
Fortunately, there are quite a few things that can be done to help the people of Puerto Rico, and from right here in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh’s Puerto Rican community is quite small and scattered, but has mobilized quickly to help the island.
“Because of the hurricane and the increasing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico — which is fostered by its colonial status … a sense of unity is emerging,” says Kahlil Chaar-Pérez, originally from Puerto Rico, now living in Pittsburgh. “Social media has been a key factor in this regard, not only to organize fundraisers and donation drives but also to spread political awareness and help people in the diaspora to find their loved ones and communicate with them.
“There have been a series of ‘Puerto Rico Rises’ pages that have been created through Facebook. Recently, a Pittsburgh page was created. Through them, people share news, stories, info about fundraisers, et cetera.”
There’s a nationwide database of collection points for supplies on this Google doc. The Pittsburgh location is listed as Arlington K-8 (school), from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Monday – Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
On September 30, “Pittsburgh Stands with Puerto Rico” is collecting supplies of all kinds at Guardian Storage in Monroeville. Some of the supplies they’re seeking are baby formula, bottled water, canned foods, crowbars, hammers, baby and adult pain relief medicine, shovels, flashlights, batteries and mosquito repellent.
The Roberto Clemente Museum is hosting an open house to support relief for Puerto Rico on October 1, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. A $21 relief donation is requested. They will also be collecting supplies (bottled water, batteries, diapers, first aid supplies, feminine hygiene products) at the Restaurant Depot parking lot nearby.
“Dance For Relief: a Benefit for Hurricane Relief in Puerto Rico,” is taking place October 5 at Brillobox in Bloomfield. There will be music by DJs Arie Cole, Keebs, FEMI and ADMC. Suggested donation is $5 (or more), and will go to United For Puerto Rico.
Los Sabrosos Dance Co. in Garfield is hosting a “Hot Salsa Nights Fundraiser: Puerto Rico Relief” event on September 30 at 9:30 p.m. (with a mini-dance lesson at 9:45 p.m.). Tickets are $10. DJ Pirata and DJ Juan Diego will provide the music. Relief supplies (baby wipes, hand sanitizer, bottled water, canned goods) will be accepted.
Pittsburgh-based charity Brother’s Brother Foundation has vast experience in sending medical and other supplies to disaster areas overseas. Donations can be made here.
“What is most urgent now is to spread awareness about the need for more aid from the U.S. Congress and the White House,” says Chaar-Pérez. “The humanitarian crisis is growing; food and water are becoming scarce in many parts of the island, and hospitals are suffering because of the lack of water and electricity.”
To find out more about the situation on the ground in Puerto Rico, this in-depth “Democracy Now” radio segment is recommended.