Gandara Center Aids Puerto Rico Earthquake Relief Effort | Connecting Point | March 5, 2020


>>>THE EARTHQUAKES THAT ROCKED
PUERTO RICO IN LATE DECEMBER AND EARLY JANUARY DISPLACED PEOPLE,
MANY OF WHOM WERE STILL REBUILDING FROM HURRICANE MARIA. RECENTLY A TEAM ORGANIZED BY THE
GANDARA CENTER WENT TO THE ISLAND WITH DONATED SUPPLIES AND
WORKED WITH TEAMS ON THE GROUND HELPING PEOPLE WHO ARE ONCE
AGAIN REBUILDING. CAROLEE MCGRATH SAT DOWN WITH
THE DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND DEVELOPMENT FOR GANDARA AND
COREEN DUMONT, COMMUNICATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATE, TO
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE NEED.>>MANY PEOPLE WHEN THEY WOKE UP
AND HEARD ABOUT THE LARGE EARTHQUAKE THEY HAD IN PUERTO
RICO, WE WANTED TO DO SOMETHING. WE HAVE A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT
STILL HAVE FAMILY OVER THERE, LIKE MY SELL, WE ALL HAVE FAMILY
OR FRIENDS AND WE KNEW WE HAD TO ACT. SO WE STARTED COLLECTING,
REACHING OUT TO PEOPLE AND BY THE END OF THE MONTH ON THE 27TH
WE FLEW OUT. AND WE GOT DOWN THERE, WAS A LOT
OF COORDINATING, MOVING A LOT OF BOXES. JET BLUE WAS AWESOME TO GIVE US
30 BOXES TO BRING FOR FREE, SO WE WERE TRAVELING REALLY HEAVY,
WE PACKED EVERYTHING IN THE VAN AND IT WAS AMAZING.>>SO YOU GOT TO WORK?>>ABSOLUTELY.>>WHEN YOU GOT THERE. SO WHAT KINDS OF THINGS DID YOU
BRING ON THE PLANE WITH YOU?>>WELL, WE HEARD THAT THE NEED
IN THE BEGINNING WAS WATER AND THAT TYPE OF STUFF, BUT IT
CHANGED OVER TO TOILETRIES, FOOD, SNACKS FOR KIDS AND WE
STARTED TO CREATE SURVIVAL BACKPACKS. WE HAD A MEETING WITH CARLOS
GONZALEZ, SENATOR MARKEY AND TALKED WITH THE SENATOR IN
PUERTO RICO WHO TOLD US WHAT WAS GOING ON ON THE GROUND. WE PACKED THESE BACKPACKS UP, IT
WAS A LOT OF WORK, BUT IT WAS FUN. WE BROUGHT FOOD, TOILETRIES, A
LITTLE OF EVERYTHING IN THESE BACKPACKS.>>SO ONCE YOU GOT THERE AND
YOU’RE ON THE GROUND, WHAT WAS YOUR ITINERARY LIKE AS FAR AS
HELPING PEOPLE?>>WELL, FIRST OFF WE HAD TO GET
ALL THE SUPPLIES, SO WE HAD THEM SENT TO THE HOTEL IN SAN JUAN
AND ALSO TO A GIRL THAT WORKS WITH US, HAD THE BOXES SHIPPED. SO I THINK WE SHIPPED ABOUT —
>>AN ADDITIONAL 20.>>AN ADDITIONAL 20 BOXES, AND
30 BOXES WE BROUGHT ON THE PLANE WITH US. SO WE STARTED IN SAN JUAN,
PICKED UP THOSE SUPPLIES, WE HAD ABOUT TWO VANS PACKED UP, READY
TO GO DOWN. OUR FIRST STOP WAS PONCE, FILLED
UP THOSE BOXES, AND THEN I THINK OUR FIRST STOP REALLY WAS
GUANICA. AND THERE WE SAW AN ENCAMPMENT. SO WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO SEE ON
THE NEWS AND THINGS LIKE THAT. YOU KNOW, A LOT OF PEOPLE, THE
NATIONAL GUARD HELPING. SO WE WENT UP AND I THINK JADE
SPOKE WITH SOMEBODY THAT WAS PUTTING TOGETHER THE EFFORTS
THERE, AND THEY REALLY DIDN’T NEED MUCH, I DON’T BELIEVE, IN
THAT FIRST –>>THEY NEEDED TENTS AND
BLANKETS. BUT BECAUSE IT WAS RUN BY THE
NATIONAL GUARD THEY WERE PRETTY WELL STOCKED.>>THEN YOU WENT FURTHER OUT ON
THE ISLAND AS WELL, INTO SORT OF A MOUNTAIN AREA?>>CORRECT. IF YOU’RE FAMILIAR WITH THE
ISLAND OR HAVE FAMILY ON THE ISLAND, WHEN YOU GET INTO SOME
OF THE MOUNTAINOUS AREAS IN THE CENTER, YOU HAVE FAMILIES THAT
HAVE BEEN THERE FOR CENTURIES, THEY HAVE THEIR HOUSES AND THE
GRANDMA LIVES HERE, AUNT, UNCLES, SO YOU HAVE EXTENDED
FAMILIES OF 30 TO 40 PEOPLE SOMETIMES. AND IN GUANICA, THAT’S WHERE THE
STREP WAS SO THEY HAD A LOT OF DAMAGE TO THEIR HOMES. AND NOW INSTEAD OF STAYING IN
THEIR HOMES THEY’RE STAYING IN ENCAMPMENTS ON THEIR LAND SO
THEY’RE SAFE. WE THEN TRAVELED IN THE
MOUNTAINS, WE’RE DRIVING ALMOST AT AN INCLINE LIKE THIS, AND WE
GET UP THERE AND FIND ABOUT 10 PEOPLE AT ONE SITE, AND WE WENT
TO ANOTHER ONE, THERE WAS, EVERY TIME WE WOULD TALK MORE PEOPLE
WOULD COME DOWN.>>THERE WAS A SERIES OF
EARTHQUAKES, AND THERE WERE A FEW OF THE BIGGER ONES. WHAT WAS IT LIKE FOR PEOPLE WHO
HAD JUST RECOVERED FROM HURRICANE MARIA NOW HAVING THIS
HAPPEN TO THEIR HOMES?>>WE SPOKE TO A GENTLEMAN, AND
I FELT SO AWFUL, I’M GETTING GOOSE BUMPS RIGHT NOW, BECAUSE
HE WAS JUST EXPLAINING HOW HE SPENT $35,000 TO REBUILD HIS
HOME THIS YEAR, WELL, AT THAT POINT 2019, $35,000, AND WITH
ONE OF THOSE EARTHQUAKES HIS HOUSE COLLAPSED AND WENT DOWN
THE MOUNTAIN. SO THAT WAS HEARTBREAKING TO SEE
HIM EXPRESS TO US THAT HE JUST LOST HIS ENTIRE HOUSE, HIS
ENTIRE LIFE. AND TEARS WERE STREAMING DOWN
HIS FACE, AND I JUST, IT WAS HEARTBREAKING.>>IT WAS.
AND IT’S WEIRD BECAUSE AT FIRST THEY DON’T NECESSARILY ASK YOU,
ARE YOU OKAY, HOW IS EVERYTHING GOING, THEY’RE LIKE WE’RE FINE,
WE DON’T NEED ANYTHING. BUT THEN YOU SIT DOWN AND START
TO TALK TO THEM. AT ONE POINT —
YOU START TO HEAR WHAT THEIR DAY-TO-DAY LIFE IS LIKE. BECAUSE THEY’RE STILL HAVING
EARTHQUAKES. A WEEK FROM THE DAY WE LEFT IN
THE SAME LOCATION WE HAD LUNCH IN THAT SHOPPING CENTER THERE
WAS A 5.0. SO THEY’RE STILL LIVING THROUGH
THIS AND IT’S ALMOST LIKE AN ANXIOUS FEELING THAT THEY HAVE. SO AT FIRST THEY’RE JUST LIKE
OH, WE’RE OKAY, WE DON’T NEED ANYTHING, THEY DIDN’T WANT TO
TAKE ANYTHING. THEN YOU START TALKING TO THEM
AND SAY WHERE DID YOU SLEEP LAST NIGHT, WELL, IT RAINED AND THAT
PART OF THE ISLAND, LIKE FLORIDA, HAS LIMESTONE, SO ALL
THEIR BLANKETS WERE WET. NAY NEEDED BLANKETS, SOME NEEDED
TENTS. WE HAD A WOMAN THAT HER DAUGHTER
IS GOING THROUGH CHEMO, SO WE GAVE HER ENSURE SO SHE HAD
SOMETHING TO EAT. UNTIL YOU REALLY STARTED TO TALK
TO THEM AND HAVE THE CONVERSATIONS LIKE HUMAN BEINGS
ONE TO ONE, YOU WOULDN’T KNOW WHAT THEY’RE GOING THROUGH, AND
THEY’RE STILL DEALING WITH IT NOW, SO IT IS HEARTBREAKING.>>ON THE FLIP SIDE A FEW YEARS
BEFORE, GANDARA HELPED SO MANY PEOPLE WHO WERE COMING FROM
PUERTO RICO AFTER HURRICANE MARIA AS WELL. SO HERE YOU ARE IN THAT SAME
SORT OF ROLE. SO THIS HAS TO BE, YOU KNOW, I
GUESS OBVIOUSLY IT’S TRAUMATIC FOR THOSE FAMILIES. BUT LIKE HERE WE GO AGAIN, I’M
SURE THEY’RE FEELING.>>CORRECT. AND THE NECESSARY THAT CAME
OVER, A LOT OF THEM ARE STILL STAYING THERE BECAUSE THEY HAVE
THEIR LAND, THEIR HOME, AND EVEN THE FAMILIES THAT DID COME OVER
THERE ARE SOME, BUT WE’RE NOT SEEING AS MANY AS WE DID AFTER
MARIA. THEY’RE TRYING TO KEEP THEIR WAY
OF LIFE, AND IT IS HEARTBREAKING, BUT WHEN YOU GET
DOWN THERE AND YOU SEE HOW STRONG THEY ARE, AND THE
GENTLEMAN WHO DID LOSE HIS HOUSE HE HAD CREATED A MAKESHIFT HOME,
MAKESHIFT SHOWERS THAT CAME FROM RAIN WATER, HE TOOK SOMETHING
THEY USE AT A FESTIVAL TO ROAST A PIG AND HE PUT A QUEEN SIZE
MATTRESS AT THE BOTTOM. EVEN THOUGH HE WAS HURTING AND
STRUGGLING, HE DID WHAT HAD TO DO TO SURVIVE, LITERALLY 20
TO 30 PEOPLE IN HIS FAMILY.>>I DON’T KNOW IF IT’S MORE SO
SUPPLIES RIGHT NOW, BECAUSE AS WE PROGRESS AND AS MORE
EARTHQUAKES ARE HAPPENING AND THE TREMORS ARE HAPPENING, THE
NEED CHANGES. SO WHAT THEY NEEDED IN THE PAST
IS NOT WHAT THEY NEED NOW. SO I THINK THE BEST WAY IS THE
MONETARY DONATIONS, WHICH WE ARE STILL ACCEPTING ON OUR SITE.

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