Final Update (#7) From Puerto Rico

Here is the latest via @artistikem on the ongoing post-hurricane misery in Puerto Rico and the end of her personal relief efforts:

400+ human and 300+ animal lives helped in the matter of 6 months.

Some were close friends, most were complete strangers, but they all had something in common: they needed help.

On September 20, 2018 María touched down in Puerto Rico as a category 5 hurricane (some models lowered it to 4 but we had sustained cat 5 winds and gusts), continuing a path of destruction that had started with our sister smaller antilles. To say we were prepared would be a lie. As Puerto Ricans we are used to hurricanes, they are nothing new to us, however, María’s force was something we hadn’t witnessed in our modern history. The destruction she brought is something we still, to this day, can’t fathom. The amount of people who lost everything, the fact that 7 months later there are still homes without power… all this was unknown to us.

How strong we are, and how much we’re loved, was unknown to us either.

Power was out, communications collapsed, food, water, and fuel were scarce and/or rationed. Lines were super long everywhere we went. Among the chaos of those first days, between the shock of what had happened and the realization that this was no ordinary hurricane and, furthermore, it would be no ordinary recovery, we quickly learned we had to stick together and help each other out.

It is often that, at times like these, we start asking ourselves what can we do to help. We are used to helping others, not to being in need of help. Yet Puerto Ricans outside the island were quick to respond to the emergency and many relief efforts started popping around but sadly, many weren’t reaching areas in dire need of food and supplies. Friends from the US and even as far as the Germany, UK and France were asking me how they could help without falling for some relief scam.

I must confess it all made me feel so small, so insignificant, barely keeping my head over the water brought in by the storm after the storm. My parents and I started learning about people close to us that were in need and all we could do was empty part of our pantry to try and help, but everywhere you looked there was someone else in need. That’s where my editor, Stacia Rogan, came through with an idea: make an Amazon wish-list.

To this day I still can’t wrap my mind around what came after that. I made the list without any real expectations. I mean, I’m just… me. I have a nice Twitter following built through the promotion of my books. My Facebook is filled mainly with friends, family, fellow authors, and the occasional fan. My Instagram is mostly for pets and food photos. You get the picture. I sincerely believed no one would care. It came in as a surprise how wrong I was.

Donations flowed in through different channels and I put my parents to the task of helping me pick packages at the post office (workers there still think I have a serious cyber shopping problem), make inventory, divide all food and supplies, and deliver them. We’ve met wonderful people on the way and even reconnected with friends and family we hadn’t had that much contact with in the past.

This has been an experience I will never forget and that has taught me that no matter how small you think you are in this world, you can always do good, you will always be able to find a way to help others. No act of kindness is too small when it comes from the heart.

I’m pulling the plug of my own relief effort but I ask you all not to forget about us. So here are some charities I recommend if you’re wanting to make a donation that will benefit the island:

Casa Pueblo (wikipedia / website / Facebook) From Adjuntas, they’ve been developing solar powered systems to help with sustainability. They’ve been at it for years and have been fighting an uphill battle with the government to bring solar power to communities in their area..

Para la Naturaleza (website / Facebook) Ecological restoration and conservation programs. Lots of our natural resources were affected by the hurricane and they’ve been working hard to help restore them.

Proyecto Matria (Facebook / website) Focused on empowering women and helping them become self-sufficient. During the emergency they visited communities and even brought legal help to people who were denied FEMA benefits.

Barks of Hope (Facebook / website) One of the many organizations who’ve worked tirelessly to help stray animals in the island, a problem that has grown exponentially since the hurricane.

As always, I can be reached through any of my social media accounts if anyone requires more information but for now, I’m saying goodbye to the most fulfilling adventure I have ever taken on. My heart is bursting with gratitude and I know each and every one of the lives we reached was forever changed.

Thank you!

Astrid ‘Artistikem’ Cruz

Facebook / Twitter

Previously here:

Update #6 From Puerto Rico
Hurricane Relief For Puerto Rico Is Still Needed
Weekly Update #4 From Puerto Rico
Weekly Update #3 From Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico And America’s House Of Cards
Weekly Update #1 From Puerto Rico
The Post-Maria Horror In Puerto Rico Continues
Third Update From Puerto Rico
Don’t Forget Puerto Rico Or Its Abandoned Pets
Puerto Rico Is Still In Trouble
Second Update From Puerto Rico
An Update From Puerto Rico
Amazon Wish List For Hurricane Maria Relief In Puerto Rico

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