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Uniting Under the Massachusetts Fund for Puerto Rico

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In the aftermath of Hurricane María, many of our community members have been struggling to contact loved ones as the entire island of Puerto Rico remains without power. Much of Boston has responded with an outpour of concern, reaching out with offers and ideas to organize relief efforts. We decided to host an open forum, giving individuals, both in physical and virtual attendance, the chance to discuss how we can best support the island that is so close to many of our hearts.

With La Galería filled to capacity, IBA CEO Vanessa Calderón-Rosado opened the meeting by emphasizing our main goals. We are channeling efforts to support Puerto Rico by fundraising, identifying community-based organizations, strategizing the proper distribution of funds and goods, and engaging in political action.

“We need food, we need water, we need diapers, but more than anything, we need money,” Calderón-Rosado said.

Representative Jeffrey Sánchez also urged people to donate money instead of goods. He explained that there are only 10 flights going in and out of Puerto Rico per day, and receiving resources in bulk creates issues such as finding, storing, and keeping goods dry. “The push is to raise money and get it back into the economy,” he said. “They need money to get the government back and running in full swing.”

As a result, we joined efforts with The Boston Foundation and the Latino Legacy Fund to raise at least 1 million dollars. Our CEO, Calderón-Rosado, will serve as a chair on the advisory committee. Up to one-third of the of the funds raised will be donated to relief efforts immediately. The remainder of the funds will aid reconstruction and economic recovery projects on the island through the organization we’ve chosen and relocation efforts throughout Boston.  Over 6,000 dollars were raised in the meeting room alone that night amidst cries of “¡Sí se puede!” And as of October 1st, nearly $700,000 have been raised. Help us reach our goal by donating here.

The first five organizations selected for donations were decided based on their reputed engagement within the Puerto Rican community, their ability to offer direct services to residents, consistent contact with our managing teams, and their ability to distribute aid throughout the entire island. Many people online expressed concern that these organizations would not be able to support such a large area in need of aid. We are confident in their ability to manage distress throughout the country as a whole and we will be adding more organizations to our list of recommendations as soon as possible. The current organizations are as follows:

  1. PROYECTO ENLACEThis organization supports 27,000 residents across eight communities within the Caño Martin Peña Region to overcome poverty and advocates for social justice
  2. PROYECTO PECESSupporting 5,500 residents in Punta Santiago, this organization facilitates social, educational and economic development across southern towns.
  3. CASA PUEBLOLocated in Adjuntas, this organization serves 19,500 residents and works to protect natural, cultural, and human resources on the island.
  4. TALLER SALUDThis organization supports over 8,000 women and children ensuring access to essential healthcare and resources in the Medianía Alta area.
  5. PROYECTO MATRIALocated in Cayey, this organization seeks to end violence and discrimination against Puerto Rican women, offering integral education and health services to over 45,500 residents.

In the meantime, we need to take political action. The humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico started years before Hurricane Maria and we have to hold politicians and elected officials accountable to demand the help our friends and families need without further delay. You should contact officials on the federal level to request support for immediate disaster relief funding, the permanent repeal of the Jones Act, and parity on Medicaid Funds disbursed to the island. On a local level, you can inquire about the local response and urge officials to facilitate migration response plans in the state. The Alliance for Puerto Rico will be holding a rally this Wednesday, October 4th at noon at the John F. Kennedy Federal Building (15 Sudbury Street, Boston, MA).  

“I was hopeful and excited to see so many people eager to help. I was also pleased that people didn’t come here with an agenda–everyone was open to really talk about the issues and how we could make things better for the community,” Calderón-Rosado remarked at the close of the discussion.

We are looking for people to assist in any way they can. Please sign up for a committee to help us reach our collective goal #PorPuertoRico. If you have suggestions or inquiries regarding the distribution of goods, please contact Beba Rivera at puertorriquenos.boston@gmail.com.

We’d like to thank everyone for their presence and their generosity through this trauma. We are truly stronger when we stand together. Be sure to follow our Facebook and Twitter pages for important updates and please remember to donate. No amount is too small. 

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