Several entrepreneurial, self-starting projects that promote economic independence and job creation in communities throughout the northern part of the island will be receiving a boost from a collaboration between metropistas (Autopistas Metropolitanas de Puerto Rico, LLC) — the company in charge of managing Highways PR-22 and PR-5 — and the Sila M. Calderon Foundation.
The Center for Puerto Rico, the Foundation’s operational arm, will use a donation of more than $65,000 from metropistas to take to the next level the efforts led by Asociación Agro Mujeres de Puerto Rico, with operations based in Barrio Aibonito, Hatillo and Hospedería Ecológica Rio Coop located in Barrio Los Jobos in Arecibo.
“The Foundation has been instrumental in identifying community-based organizations located in municipalities through which Highway PR-22 runs. This collaboration will now become part of our social responsibility program which focuses on promoting road safety, environmental sustainability and a better quality of life for the communities where we work,” said metropistas CEO Gonzalo Alcalde.
According to the Foundation, the geographical area through which highways PR-22 and PR-5 run has a population of approximately 1.2 million people, and of those, about 500,000 live below poverty level.
“Metropistas’ contribution will impact a large segment of the population, both directly and indirectly, creating jobs, bringing family stability and helping to reduce the school drop-out rate, said former Gov. Sila M. Calderón who chairs the Foundation’s board.
“The creation of self-starting, entrepreneurial ventures at a community level generates economic development, helps create new jobs and promotes ownership. Communities learn to take ownership of their resources and protect them, while developing them to their full potential,” she said.
Hospedería Ecológica Rio Coop is the first ecotourism project in Puerto Rico that has come to fruition through a self-starting, community entrepreneurial venture. Half of this community has not completed high school, and single women are responsible for 35 percent of the families in the area.
The first phase of the project has seen the rehabilitation of the main recreational area and the development of organic gardens. Once it’s fully developed, the project could generate jobs for 30 to 40 people from the community and create another 20 indirect jobs.
Founded in 2010, Asociación Agro Mujeres de Puerto Rico is a nonprofit group comprised by 113 women farmers from several towns, including Camuy, Hatillo, Arecibo, Manatí, Vega Baja, Lares, Utuado, Las Marías, Yauco, Isabela and Aguadilla. Every member has her own farm where they harvest medicinal and ornamental plants. They market their crops and other derived products to “green” agricultural markets to contribute to their family’s finances.
“These projects, as well as the many others supported by the Foundation, exemplify how a community, with the necessary technical and financial support, can get together and maximize the use of the natural and human resources in their community to achieve a common goal that represents an engine of economic and social development,” Calderón said.
“The donation from metropistas will help bring these communities closer to their goals and we hope to encourage other companies to follow suit,” said Calderón.
Meanwhile, Alcalde said, “for metropistas it is essential to bring together our mission of providing world-class infrastructure and services with our commitment to support civic and community organizations that positively impact the economic, social and environmental development of the communities where we serve.”
“To develop a healthy economy it is important for companies to support efforts that promote education, applaud self-starting ventures, and encourage community-based initiatives. We believe that this donation is a step in that direction,” he said.