Connecticut Puerto Rican Organizations Prepare For Hurricane Maria Relief | Connecticut Public Radio

Connecticut Puerto Rican Organizations Prepare For Hurricane Maria Relief

Sep 20, 2017

As Hurricane Maria bore down on Puerto Rico Wednesday, several nonprofits met in Hartford to plan relief efforts.

Luis Davila, a representative from the Puerto Rican government based in Washington D.C., called into the meeting with sobering news.

“This is not the same update that I gave you for Irma. I wish it was. We had a direct hit,” Davila said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Puerto Rican officials said the hurricane knocked out all power on the island.

Davila told representatives from several Connecticut Puerto Rican and Latino nonprofits the island was now looking for resources to rebuild its infrastructure and housing damaged by high winds and rain.

“The main thing we need is to rebuild and bring everything back to normal as soon as possible,” Davila said.

He said they were looking to make connections with major corporations for construction materials -- and that officials would have a better idea of the supplies needed once first responders were able to start to work after the storm passes.

There are nearly 300,000 Puerto Ricans living in Connecticut. Jason Ortiz of the Connecticut Puerto Rican Agenda said hundreds of volunteers signed up in the state to help after Hurricane Irma hit the island earlier in the month.

“We’re watching what is happening, we’re in contact with our families,” Ortiz said. “I have family in Puerto Rico. My sister lives in Añasco with my grandmother. And so I check with them frequently to make sure things are going on. Really the big thing here is communication with the island. Getting it to folks here in Connecticut.”

Jason Ortiz of the Connecticut Puerto Rican Agenda
Credit Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio
Calixto Torres, former Hartford city council president at a relief planning meeting.
Credit Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Fernando Betancourt of Hartford’s San Juan Center said he wants to make sure that the funds they raise in Connecticut go to the people most in need -- and that the donation system is transparent. 

“By that I mean that we can demonstrate that anyone that has donated funds, they know where they went to -- what organizations received the funds, and who was the beneficiary,” he said.

Organizers said they are planning a hurricane relief fundraising event in Hartford on October 1 at the Center for Latino Progress.

Frankie Graziano contributed to this report.

This story is part of “The Island Next Door,” WNPR’s reporting project about Puerto Rico and Connecticut after Hurricane Maria.