Though it was more than six months ago that Hurricane Maria bashed Puerto Rico as a strong Category 4 storm, many parts of the island look like they were just struck yesterday. More than 100,000 residents remain without electricity.
One of the hardest-hit areas was the southeastern portion of the island, across the mid-island mountains from bustling San Juan. It is here that The Fuller Center for Housing will begin sending its first Global Builders volunteer teams to work in long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts.
Specifically, volunteers will be staying in the small community of Calzada, which is composed of 184 families just on the outskirts of the city of Maunabo, which has about 15,000 residents. Volunteers will be working in Calzada and its surrounding area. It is a secluded region, nestled between the inland mountains and the blue-green sea whose waves roll upon strikingly beautiful beaches. Because of its secluded location, however, it also is expected to be among the last places on the island to have its electricity restored.
“The area where we’re working seems like a lovely small town community — except that it was one of the hardest-hit areas from the storms and still doesn’t have power,” said Fuller Center Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafigliola, who visited the area in February. “They know what needs to be done, but they need help.”
The Fuller Center does not parachute into areas of need and decide how to help. Instead, the nonprofit housing ministry works through local partners — whether that happens to be in a U.S. mainland city, a third-world country or a disaster zone. The Fuller Center’s success in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake can be greatly attributed to working through local partners on the ground. In Calzada, leaders say the need is for repairs and rebuilding in an area that was poverty-stricken even before Hurricane Maria. Blue tarps now serve as roofs for many of the homes.
“The way that we work is truly different from anyone else out there,” Iafigliola said. “We don’t send in our ‘man with a plan,’ we identify local leaders who want to do this type of work and help them to be successful at it. It’s very grassroots.”
When The Fuller Center announced last year that it would be looking for partners who would be able to host volunteers and put them to work, many people responded that they wanted to be among the first to volunteer on the island. Many of those people already are organizing teams and planning trips, which will be listed soon on The Fuller Center’s Global Builders Upcoming Trips page.
If you would like to know more about The Fuller Center’s plans for working in Puerto Rico, please visit our new Puerto Rico webpage here. You will find descriptions of the area, as well as information about what Global Builders trips there will be like and how you can express interest in joining or leading a work trip to Calzada. If you would like to donate to our work in Puerto Rico, please click here to give.
VIDEO: A look at the town of Maunabo, filmed two months after Hurricane Maria: