When Volunteers of America staff began arriving in Puerto Rico last fall, they couldn’t believe the devastation. After two hurricanes, the island was decimated. Volunteers of America established Project Esperanza (Spanish for “hope”.)
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When Volunteers of America staff began arriving in Puerto Rico last fall, they couldn’t believe the devastation. After two hurricanes, the island was decimated. Volunteers of America established Project Esperanza (Spanish for “hope”.) With more than 60 Volunteers of America staff members from around the U.S., the organization was able to assist vulnerable seniors who live in low-income housing by delivering emergency supplies, performing basic medical/wellness assessments and providing emotional support in coordination with the Secretary of Housing of Puerto Rico. Each of the teams included nurses and other trained professionals, which allowed the teams to adapt to the needs of the population at each site. Volunteers of America delivered more than 50,000 pounds of much-needed supplies to the island which it then worked to distribute.
As 2018 gets underway, Volunteers of America’s work is far from over as the organization moves from a relief effort to long-term recovery. Having raised approximately $265,000 to date – including $180,000 in grants from major corporate and foundation donors – Volunteers of America is working with Puerto Rico officials, other human service organizations, residents and many other current and potential partners to further determine the organization’s role in assisting Puerto Rico with rebuilding.
“None of the descriptions we’d received, prior to going there, even began to effectively describe the devastation in Puerto Rico,” stated Barbara Banaszynski, senior vice president of program operations for Volunteers of America who leads the organization’s relief and recovery effort. “We still have a lot of work ahead in 2018 and are hoping that others will join us in helping to rebuild the homes and lives of those in Puerto Rico.”
The organization is working on a rebuilding campaign that will help those in greatest need. Plans include repair of up to 100 homes on the island for homeowners who don’t otherwise have access to financial assistance for rebuilding.
As one of the largest providers of housing in the U.S. for those in need, Volunteers of America also owns housing in Puerto Rico. The Victor Hernandez Apartments, located in the heavily-damaged coastal city of Aguadilla, house low-income seniors. Volunteers of America staff were able to get the building back into a livable condition so that the seniors could return.
One particular community in Rio Piedras near San Juan, filled with seniors, disabled citizens and families with young children, was in such a dire condition that Volunteers of America workers notified their contact with the First Lady of Puerto Rico and the Governor’s office to provide additional aid. They also delivered supplies and much needed items.
For more information or to volunteer or donate, visit www.esperanzameanshope.org/volunteer.
About Volunteers of America
Volunteers of America is a national, nonprofit, faith-based organization dedicated to helping those in need live healthy, safe and productive lives. Since 1896, our ministry of service has supported and empowered America's most vulnerable groups, including veterans, seniors, people with disabilities, at-risk youth, men and women returning from prison, homeless individuals and families, those recovering from addictions and many others. Through hundreds of human service programs, including housing and health care, Volunteers of America helps more than 1.4 million people in over 400 communities. We offer a variety of services for older Americans, in particular, that allow them to maintain their independence and quality of life – everything from an occasional helping hand to full-time care. Our work touches the mind, body, heart and ultimately the spirit of those we serve, integrating our deep compassion with highly effective programs and services. For more information about Volunteers of America, visit www.VolunteersofAmerica.org.