IN THE WAKE of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is in the midst of a full-blown humanitarian crisis. The island is still very much in the process of getting back on its feet — electricity is still out for much of the island, and because many of the phone lines and cell towers are down, many on the island are having a difficult time communicating with the outside world. A huge portion of the island’s agricultural infrastructure was destroyed. Clean water is hard to come by. Hospitals are struggling.
In the midst of such a disaster, it’s only natural to want to help. We’ve put together a resource page for what you can do. Here’s where to go.
If you’re trying to contact someone
If you have friends or relatives on the island, there are a few tools at your disposal: Facebook identifies your friends in the area, and allows you to reach out to them to ask if they’re safe. Check out their Safety Page to see if anyone you know is in the area, and if they’ve been marked as safe. Likewise, Google has a Person Finder which allows you to either request information on a person or provide information on a person.
How to help on the ground
When it comes to disasters, it’s best to send money rather than supplies or toys. Well-meaning though gifts and material donations might be, they just aren’t as useful as cash, which allows people on the ground to make decisions about how to spend the money most effectively. Here are a few resources:
- The First Lady of Puerto Rico set up a page that allows you to donate over Paypal or direct transfer.
- All living former Presidents are participating in the One America Appeal, which is geared at providing relief to those affected by the recent storms.
- All Hands Volunteers is helping everyone affected by the recent storms.
- Americares provides medical supplies to those in disaster areas.
- The American Red Cross is helping people on the ground.
- The Center for Disaster Philanthropy focuses on medium and long-term recovery in disaster areas.
- GoFundMe has a database of Maria-related fundraising efforts.
- Global Giving has a Maria fund.
- The Hispanic Federation is running a relief fund for the storms.
- The Center for Popular Democracy has a fund for helping the hardest hit low-income communities.
How to help long-term
While it’s great for us all to pitch in and help now, we know from past experience that the damage done by these storms does not fade as quickly as public attention does. New Orleans has still not fully recovered from Katrina 12 years ago. The Jersey Shore is still not totally bounced back from Sandy. And the effects of Maria will linger in Puerto Rico for many years to come.
First, call up your federal representative and ask what they are doing to help the victims of Maria. This is especially important in Puerto Rico’s case, because while the island is an American territory, and while Puerto Ricans are American citizens, they do not have the same electoral clout, and often their problems simply don’t get the attention they deserve. Prior to this storm, the island was facing a massive debt crisis, and relief was slow to arrive. This situation has not been helped by the storm. So, contact your representatives. You can find them here.
At this point, you may have noticed that these storms are getting more and more frequent. It is not accurate to say that climate change caused these hurricanes, but climate change does create conditions where more high-intensity storms like these can happen. We are, unfortunately, going to increasingly have to adapt to living with storms like these. But we can also do things now to mitigate how bad it gets in the future. An ounce of prevention, after all, is worth a pound of cure. And while the current administration pulled the country out of the historic Paris Climate Agreement, a lot of cities and states are sticking to our promises anyway. Get involved in your state or local government and find out what they’re doing to fight climate change.
More Than Scientists, a group of activist climate scientists, has created this resource page for other organizations that are fighting climate change. Find one that fits your interests, and start going to meetings in your area. The solution to this problem will, ultimately, have to be local.