Final Report - Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief

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Puerto Rico - After the Storms When you visit Puerto Rico and stroll the colorful cobblestone streets of Viejo San Juan, it won't be long before you see the words, “Pa’lante and Puerto Rico Se Levanta!” (Puerto Rico Rises) pop up on walls everywhere as an inspiring reminder of the people's resilience. On September 20th, 2017 Puerto Rico changed forever. Hurricane Maria devastated the island - days after Hurricane Irma made landfall. The lush, green landscape turned brown and flooded with debris; colorful brick homes were left uninhabitable and musty with mold; thousands were left exposed to unimaginable circumstances.

All Hands and Hearts’ Arrival All Hands and Hearts arrived on the island in December 2017, even though accessing some areas was still difficult. We started in Yabucoa, where the Category 4 storm made landfall. Yabucoa is home to more than 37,000 residents; the majority of the population is elderly and lives below the poverty line. Thousands of roofs were covered with tarps, electrical wires ran randomly along crumbling walls and many homes still had no running water or electricity. The scale of the disaster became clear as our Disaster Assessment Response Team (DART) continued to Barranquitas, a mountainous town located in central Puerto Rico. The hills of Barranquitas were dotted with blue tarp roofs, the scars of landslides were still visible and scores of people were left without shelter and basic needs. Many residents were unable to qualify for government assistance at the time, and few had access to resources to make their homes habitable again. Along Río de la Plata, the La Plata dam swelled above flood stage of 11 feet, forcing the government to open five gates. The waters unleashed by the reservoir surged downhill towards the town of Toa Baja - leaving entire neighborhoods underwater. Given the unparalleled devastation across the island, we knew we had to take action. Our team quickly connected with key community leaders and together we began identifying the greatest needs in these communities.

Our Work and Impact We launched our first programs in Yabucoa and Barranquitas in mid-January 2018, with the goal of ensuring families had waterproof, hurricane-resistant roofs to weather any future storms. In addition, we installed external doors and windows and sanitized homes from mold. Shortly after, we launched a satellite program in Toa Baja. With the assistance of our senior technical advisor, we expanded our scope of work to include repairing and rebuilding corrugated galvanized iron roofs, specifically designed to withstand future disasters. Thanks to the help of 3,536 volunteers, we completed 1,705 jobs across all programs; reaching 12 municipalities and impacting 7,841 people.






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Disaster Resilient Roofing After the storms, the island transformed into a sea of tarps. As we drove across the island and asked the communities what they needed most, the prevalent answer was: “We need a roof over our heads.” In Barranquitas, over 1,200 homes were destroyed and the most common roof design was the shallow pitched metal roof. We quickly discovered that putting metal sheeting wasn’t going to be enough. With the help of our Senior Technical Advisor, we began rebuilding the roofs from scratch, using our high grade materials and disaster resilient design. Yabucoa and Toa Baja also experienced heavy roof damage, with both regions being mainly comprised of homes with flat concrete roofs. Together we cleaned, patched, filled the cracks, and applied a silicone sealant to help make these roofs resilient to future storms. We noticed that once the roof was in place, the family's needs decreased. In an island that rains almost everyday, mold and flooding was a common concern. Unfortunately, these issues could not be addressed until the roof was properly sealed/repaired. By prioritizing roof repairs, we were able to empower the community by giving them a starting place to build back stronger.

CGI Roofing

Concrete Roofing

Rebuilding Hope Together

“Each home I worked on felt like the home of a loved one. We were an international community dedicated to love and support.Quote from volunteer” - Midelys, Volunteer

“After Hurricane Maria, we learned how to live with nothing, but we are grateful to everyone who arrived to help. You all have left us with beautiful memories in our hearts.” - Angel, Barranquitas

“Our work in PR gave hope to many. The resilience of the people of the island and the dedication of our volunteers will forever stay with me.” - Louie, staff

Our Holistic Approach to Disaster Relief After almost two and a half years in Puerto Rico, we have officially wrapped up operations. Our dedicated teams of staff and volunteers worked tirelessly on home build activities and ensured families were provided with hurricane-resilient roofs. We also restored community centers, parks and baseball fields to bring back a sense of normalcy.

Earthquake Response

Baseball Fields

Beginning in early 2020, numerous earthquakes rattled the island, and thousands of aftershocks led to more damage and heartbreak. The string of powerful earthquakes forced thousands outside — many who continue to live in inhumane conditions. After DART conducted a thorough island-wide assessment, we opened a satellite site to partner with World Central Kitchen in providing meals to affected communities. Together, we served more than 294,500 meals. Additionally, we supported a grassroots volunteer group, Brigada de Todxs, in constructing sleeping cots for those living in evacuation shelters.

In the aftermath of natural disasters, people turn to something that can help them momentarily forget about the hardships. For many Puerto Ricans, that escape is baseball, a cultural staple that brings communities together. Unfortunately, many public parks, including ball fields were destroyed by Hurricane Maria. Thanks to generous support of donors, volunteers and our host municipality, we restored four baseball parks throughout southeast Puerto Rico. The new fields stand today as a proud, beautiful symbol of a community’s spirit and resilience.


Community Engagement

We live in the communities where we serve and become a part of them. All Hands and Hearts acknowledges the importance of an expanded community during times of crisis, and we encourage our volunteers to think of new creative ideas to best support our neighbors. In Puerto Rico, we hosted field days for students at the local schools, marched in solidarity as we sang songs about resilience and proudly chanted “Puerto Rico se levanta” and connected with community members as we enjoyed sancocho at community dinners.

Community Resilience

In December 2020, we hosted a Community Resource Fair, with the help of Saint Vincent De Paul, Salvation Army and SBP. Together we welcomed over 200 families! Our team trained and empowered community members on how to complete disaster-resilient repairs. Local groups set up booths offering workshops and information on a number of recovery topics. In addition, our residential base will serve as the disaster-resilient community center for Yabucoa. It’s now equipped with generators, solar power capabilities and water filtration so it can be utilized as an emergency shelter.

Thank You to Our Partners, Donors and Volunteers! We are grateful for the generous support of many individuals and organizations around the world. You made it possible to bring our compassionate labor force to into some of the most impacted communities in Puerto Rico - as neighbors and partners in their recovery. We look forward to continuing our work together, aiding communities in building more resilient futures.

Volunteers Compelled by compassion, volunteers from all corners of the world traveled to Puerto Rico to join our disaster relief efforts. From spending hours scraping a roof to installing hundreds of hurricane clips in a day, their willingness to step out of their comfort zone to help, brought hope to affected communities - even in the most challenging circumstances. After-hours, our volunteers continued to work alongside the impacted communities and used the power of their voices to advocate for them. By sharing their stories and experiences across their networks, they motivated thousands of others to advocate, donate support the recovery efforts. There’s no way to quantify the impact of our volunteers — they are the backbone of our organization. Without their commitment and hard work, none of this would have been possible.

3,536 Total number of volunteers across all Puerto Rico Programs (Barranquitas, Yabucoa, Toa Baja)

$785,000 Total raised (peer-to-peer, cash/check and gift in kind donations)

“It was an honor to serve alongside so many people who are so generous with their time, strength, love. I enjoyed meeting the community, learning their stories and being able to help provide something meaningful in their recovery process.” - Volunteer in Yabucoa (508) 758-8211

Puerto Rico is Rising The phrase “Puerto Rico Se Levanta” energized a new wave of civic activism across the island and inspired millions around the world. Although the road to recovery may take many more years, the strength and resourcefulness of the Puerto Rican people will always shine through. On the last day of our Yabucoa Program, Jamie, president of the local grassroots organization Angeles Guerreros, said at our nightly meeting, “Don’t be sad, you all have helped us stand on our two feet again. We will continue the work for our community.” The nature of our work can sometimes make it difficult to process the magnitude of our impact. Together we have worked 249,383 hours and impacted 7,831 people. Take a moment and read that again; then remind yourself: Together, we have accomplished something extraordinary!

“If today we have advanced in the process of our recovery, if today we have fewer homes with blue tarps, it's thanks to this group (All Hands and Hearts). They wake up every morning and bring hope to our community.” - Rafael Ruiz, Mayor of Yabucoa

“I miss all of you deeply. The neighbors always ask about all the volunteers, I can never thank you enough. I will never forget any of you, there’s always a seat waiting for you at Nando’s!” - Nando, Local business owner

The end of a program is something we all anticipated, yet it still catches us by surprise. Is it really over? The answer is no. Our work in Puerto Rico has transformed what we as an organization thought was possible for years to come. You can continue to support Puerto Rico, whether it’s reaching out and offering a message of support and compassion or supporting the efforts of grassroots organizations. Beyond everything, take time to reflect on your accomplishments. because today there are 605 homes that no longer need blue tarps, thanks to the work we accomplished together! Thank you. Pa’lante.

INSPIRING CLOSING STATEMENT - CALL TO ACTION and connect to opening message Reach out to their networks in Puerto Rico to offer a message of support and compassion. The island’s residents are still dealing with Maria’s fallout — and the impact of these earthquakes on communities still recovering from Maria has been emotionally devastating. With thousands of members who have been involved in our programs, the disaster is farway more a crisis of the to emotional and mental heart of these communities Alumni This Network is a great to stay connected your All Hands and Hearts rather the than the physical damage; to follow the situation to learn how you can help family around world. As a member, you’llContinue receive exclusive updates and invites to alumnilong-term events. You can also enrollcurrently in free, online humanitarian provide support; there’s an estimated 5,000+ people unable or unwilling training, find job opportunities or a mentor, access exclusive competitions to return to their homes and there’s understandably widespread fear of being indoors should and discounts and be the first to know about new programs we’re launching. another major earthquake happ Join your program friends on the Alumni Network!

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