I wish I could say that I’m overjoyed to be back in the states after spending a month in Puerto Rico pursuing my basketball career, but it’s almost more painful to read what’s still going on back there, and not be able to do much to help. To say it was miserable for my teammate and I for those few weeks stuck there wouldn’t be giving justice to those people who actually lost their entire homes, loved ones, or all their belongings. It would be selfish to say we were suffering when we were the ones well-enough off to be able to get out, even if it was weeks later. I can’t imagine having to stay there longer and survive under those conditions for months at a time. Let alone, live in an area where I lost everything I own, all while trying my best to acquire food, water, or medicine for my family. Waiting in lines miles long to get fuel for their generators and cars. Searching for places to purchase or collect clean water and waiting in lines for grocery stores to feed themselves and their families. Grocery stores, where many shelves sit empty. Stoplights where police officers stand around all day directing traffic in the scorching heat. People just trying to help each other get by.
The sad truth is that majority of the people still left in Puerto Rico are those who aren’t fortunate or well-off enough to be able to leave, even if they wanted to. They didn’t choose to stay and struggle to make it through the week, trying to provide for their families and neighbors. They didn’t choose to spend these next few months without power, water, cell service, or a good supply of food. And unfortunately, it’s the low income families stranded up in the mountainous areas that got hit the worst and are struggling the most out of everyone.
Leaders in the media speak about the low death toll, as the numbers steadily continue to rise. It’s not just the storm that can take precious lives away. Disease, illness, malnutrition, dehydration, and hazardous areas can take them just as easily. Trump talks of “real disasters” like Puerto Rico isn’t in one.
I know. I was there. I saw the aftermath. I saw the destruction, and I saw the speed at which help came trickling in.
On an island, where people make most of their income off of tourism and the beauty of a rainforest completely stripped away. Living in towns that are almost unreachable and still in complete disarray. Where over 100 bridges have been destroyed and about 18 of them closed indefinitely. Families and neighbors coming together to get through the week while draining their bank accounts and resources one day at a time. Entire livelihoods stripped away by winds and mudslides.
Everyone I speak with back on the island says there hasn’t been much change from when I left. The help is still coming just as slowly as it began and just because the hurricane has passed doesn’t mean it’s time to stop talking about it or helping those who still need our help more now than ever. It’s not a time to have tunnel vision about our lives, thankful it’s not us, ignoring the hands of our fellow Americans reaching out for help. Power and clean running water won’t be available to the majority of Puerto Rico for months and it will take years for the island to recover fully. The people there will be in need of volunteers, food, medicine, water, first aid kits, lanterns, and plenty of other supplies continuously throughout these next few months. Right now, Puerto Rico is the equivalent of a developing country and the hardship is something difficult to fully imagine unless you’re in it.
In order to help as much as we can from afar, Hallie Christofferson and I have paired up to help raise support for those affected. We’ve designed two T-shirts to sell and donate all proceeds to the organization, Unidos Por Puerto Rico (United for Puerto Rico). I’ve listed the links for the shirt sites and link for the organization being donated to below in case you wish to have more information on how your donations will be put to use.
With that said, please PURCHASE a shirt for yourself or others and SHARE our link with as many people as possible! You are also able to donate extra on top of your shirt purchase at checkout, if you wish.
There’s is a heavy burden that no one should have to take on their own and at the end of the day everyone needs a little help. In your biggest struggle, how much would it mean for you to see and feel love of perfect strangers, from a country that doesn’t always see you as their own? From the hardest of times rises the most powerful of love.
Thank you for your help in making a difference!
Organization being donated to: http://www.unidosporpuertorico.com