Loss and Coming Together

Puerto Rico.

There’s a lot of loss down here. A lot of people just making do and trying to get through another day. I’m going to share a few experiences.

Here in Barranquitas–I didn’t know this until yesterday when I was talking with one of the drivers–the eye of the storm passed through here. That’s right, Maria’s 155 mph winds drove across one of the highest municipalities in Puerto Rico. There are impacts we don’t think about, such as the destruction of their plantain (banana) crops. And I know rain is freshwater, but I heard from one person that the rain was partly salty water. That would be just awful for the land. Either way, Puerto Rico lost 80% of the economic value of its crops.

I’d like to share the totality of destruction that has occurred for some people. If you drive around a little bit in Barranquitas, you can’t get too far without seeing something like this:

The picture speaks for itself. Many months later there are many roads and bridges that remain washed out, traffic detoured through all sorts of secondary routes and thin, windy, highland passways. It makes for a lot of traffic and dangerous driving throughout the island. I can go into more detail on the state of driving in a later post.

Something that isn’t immediately obvious from this set of pictures: this isn’t just a washed out road. Yeah. Someone’s house was washed out and gone. Like, gone gone. Wherever it was–either under the landslide or down the washout–it wasn’t here. So, that’s a family with no home and nowhere to rebuild.

Here’s another site.

You can see here in the first photo there’s been a bit of a land slide. Yellow house still standing. Closer inspection (second picture) reveals the victim: a second house that wasn’t so lucky.

The locals explain to me that a big part of the problem is that they’ve never seen so much rainfall. Even by hurricane standards, Maria dropped much more rainfall than Puerto Rico typically gets. And now, six months later, I guess they’re supposed to be in some kind of dry season and each day is partly cloudy with periods of rain. They don’t know where all the water is coming from.

I’ve got one more story that was shared in the after-work meeting this evening. It’s a story about a woman with a home that was hit bad by the storm. She applied for assistance from All Hands and Hearts and was declined because we can’t rebuild the structural part of roofs. We just put on metal roofing on an already existing structure. She is currently living with family and she has terminal cancer and on top of that she’s had two family members commit suicide since the disaster. Just a terrible story; I was thinking, “are you kidding me?” Nope. And no one knows where government aid is. (I know the USA sent aid, but it’s got a lot of gaps and if people got angry about that with their politicians, maybe something would change. But as we all know, Congress…yeah, is busy being Congress.) I’m sorry, no one should be left on the side of the road like that.

So, total turn-around story: this woman’s neighbors got together and build her the structural frame of a roof and now we’re able to accept her into the program and put a new roof on her house. Probably, she’ll need a cleanout and mold decontamination, but it’s great that were’ able to (finally) help this woman–someone obviously so deserving.

I think it says so much about how much these folks are struggling, how much they are fighting, and it’s great to see them come together to help a neighbor in need. There is already so much loss. Together is better.

For those of you who have already donated at my fundraising page, thank you so much. I appreciate it, and I can tell you with each smiling homeowner how greatful the recipients of your charity are. One uplifted life at a time!



Why Puerto Rico

There has been a lot about Puerto Rico that has been shared in various news outlets. The impact of getting slammed by two category five hurricanes has been well documented. Unfortunately, it is really easy to continue on with life and there is no shortage of new headlines in the news to help us move on.

But the folks of Puerto Rico have not moved on.

My first views of Puerto Rico flying into San Juan drove home this reality.

As you can see in the upper-right picture, San Juan city-central is looking pretty nice. If you take a look at the outskirts of the city, you can see how wide-spread the problems still are. See all those houses with blue tarps? “FEMA-not for resale”

Those are houses with a partial roof or no roof at all. They were given a blue tarp and presumably put on a waiting list except that this is 5 months later. All Hands and Hearts goes to these people with the offer of installing a new metal (CGI) roof. We also provide an option for total house rehabilitation when necessary. This means clearing out all the ruined goods in the home, clearing out the mud and flood debris (some homes were flooded under 10+ feet of water), gutting the home down to the studs, and treating for mold contamination before completely rebuilding the home.

This is why we need donations and volunteer manpower.

Tough fact: 5 months after Maria, 86% of the island has power “restored”. And by restored, I mean that electricity is running most of the time. There are frequent brownouts, even in San Juan.

I’m working in a mountainous, rather rural section in the middle of Puerto Rico called Barranquitas. I can’t get you a google map of the place because my snip tool isn’t working and I’m not computer savvy enough to figure it out. Yeah.


Here’s a look at what I’ve been doing in my first day. The main picture there is the roof we finished on Monday. Super pro, right? The key word here is “dry”. This woman and her boyfriend have been able to move back into their home finally!

In the smaller pictures, I got a wider look at the neighborhood (a fairly nice neighborhood, compared to much of the island in the rural parts. You can see in that lower-right picture a portion of someone’s rather disheveled roof is laying on the ground, not being very useful. This is a rather common sight here in the middle of the island.

Okay, it’s late already. I’ll post more tomorrow. My hope is that each day you will get a more complete picture of what is going on here in Puerto Rico and why we need to keep some of our efforts and resources going towards helping to get the folks of Puerto Rico on their feet again.

At the end of every post I will repeat my hope that each of you takes the time to give of yourself to someone or some creature less fortunate than you. Please take the time to find an outlet that resonates with you that you can devote a portion of your time and resources to that someone might be lifted up just a bit more.

Please pass the good word!

Someone is grateful for your consideration!

Donate to the Puerto Rico reconstruction through All Hands and Hearts.


There is a lot of inequity in this world. From the severe income inequality that exists in any particular country to a young child being left behind in school because s/he is already behind, we routinely leave behind those who can not keep up. We treat this world as a race and we can’t be too distracted for fear of falling behind. And there’s a lot to keep up with. We all want the best of everything life has to offer.

I know, no one said this world was going to be fair.

If I look ahead, I can see all the people I’m chasing. And this makes me anxious. But if I look behind me…

If I take the time to look behind me, there are a lot of wonderful, hard-working people being left behind. And I don’t know what it is, but I care about these total strangers and I want to reach out a hand.

I’ve been in conflict with my own existence for a while. Whether I feel like I’m working my butt off just to keep my head above water for another month or double timing it to save a little extra, it just seems like my problems weren’t as big of a deal as what other people seemed to be going through.

The world is smaller than it often seems and whether we accept it or not, we have an opportunity to be a helping hand to others (animals and humans) we share this existence with.

It doesn’t matter if it involves additional risk, personal or financial sacrifice. I’m only one person. I can’t help everyone. But I can help someone. And I hope each of us will find it in ourselves to do the same.

Please be that helping hand for someone.