Seven months after Hurricane María hit the island, United for Puerto Rico has awarded $25.8 million in grants for relief and recovery efforts to 133 NGOs, donated 2,068 generators to small businesses, and completed the distribution of 5 million pounds of supplies, the nonprofit’s Chairman Aurelio Alemán, said.
“We are extremely satisfied and proud of the efforts achieved by leveraging the capabilities and resources of NGO’s [non-governmental organizations] with potential to impact approximately 1 million individuals with the most pressing needs,” said Alemán.
“These milestones have been made possible thanks to the generosity of foundations, other organizations, corporations and more than 120,000 individuals who donated $39.2 million to United for Puerto Rico,” Alemán added.
United for Puerto Rico first focused on providing relief and these efforts have transitioned to recovery. Efforts have supported five critical areas in disaster relief and recovery; 16.15 percent for food and water; 17.66 percent for shelter, 26.86 percent for health, 23.84 percent for social wellbeing and 15.49 percent for economic development.
These initiatives have concentrated in support of the most vulnerable populations, like the elderly, single mother households and children among others, organization executives added.
“The amount collected by United for Puerto Rico and distributed in seven months is the largest philanthropic effort in Puerto Rico’s history,” United for Puerto Rico Executive Director Mariely Rivera said.
“By leveraging the capabilities of highly qualified NGOs, with established track records, we have been able to maximize the impact of our organization, which was founded between Hurricane Irma and María. This work has taken place under challenging conditions with lack of power and reliable telecommunication services during the initial phase,” she said.
The grant effort has also been complemented by the distribution of 5 million pounds of donated supplies through collaborative agreements with various entities: Government of Puerto Rico Collection Center, Compassion Service International, Vieques Love, Fundación Misión de Amor/Ayuda a mi Isla; Mayagüez Municipality, San Germán Municipality, Centro de Amor Antonio Resto Mijol, Corporación de Salud y Desarrollo Económico del Otoao, Universidad de Puerto Rico- Mayagüez and Humacao campuses, Banco de Alimentos, Programa del Adolescente de Naranjito, Iglesia de Dios Mission Board, Utuado, Clínica and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Puerto Rico- Arecibo campus.
United for Puerto Rico also as part of its efforts took on the task to facilitate the process by which these were transported from the mainland U.S. and other countries to Puerto Rico.
To support small businesses, one of the key groups identified as part of the recovery, the organization also supplied power generators, when it became apparent that power restoration would take months in certain areas and close to a year in the central and southeastern part of Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra.
More than, 2,000 small businesses benefitted from this program in 24 municipalities facing the biggest challenges in power restoration. This initiative not only provided a survival mechanism for these small businesses, but also offered a support system to these communities by giving a certain level of normality during the crisis.
Preparing for the future
In addition to these initiatives, United for Puerto Rico has also, as part of its work plan, participated in forums with other organizations to explore lessons learned from Maria that can help the community be better prepared in the future.
As part of these efforts Rivera traveled to New Orleans with Puerto Rico leaders from across various sectors with NGO Friends of New Orleans, sponsored by the Skip Battle Foundation, organized by ConPRmetidos, a local NGO.
In the coming days, United for Puerto Rico will host a health forum to discuss best practices to serve the health needs of the most remote communities during disasters.
“To support the plans set forth by the organization, providing information and transparency to our donors and stakeholders has been a key area of focus,” Rivera said, adding activities are shared via a monthly newsletter, as well as social media platforms.
“Many of the NGOs have been reporting to us and their moving stories are a powerful testament of the impact of this social investment in disaster relief and recovery,” said Rivera. “United for Puerto Rico actively monitors the work done by the NGOs and results obtained from the donations.”