After FEMA was mistakenly reported to being pulling aid from Puerto Rico, several organizations, including those in Utah, are reminding Americans that much of the island is still without power and clean water.
In the first two weeks after Hurricane Maria, a group called “Utah Support for Puerto Rico” raised over $200,000, which they used to bring food, water and generators to the island.
Since then, they’ve teamed up with Utah-based Tifie Humanitarian to form Light Up Puerto Rico, which has raised about $450,000, put mostly toward providing water purifiers, Goal Zero solar-powered lights, and other supplies. The initiative was endorsed by Governor Gary Herbert. A delegation of 40 volunteers from the Governor's Office and Light Up Puerto Rico visited the island in November.
Morgan Sharp is a Utah resident and one of the owners of the Draper-based company Mint Construction. They teamed up with other Utah sponsors and Light Up Puerto Rico for a humanitarian trip in January.
“We took around $15,000 worth of Goal Zero torches, and then also we took like 300 water purifiers,” he said. “One of the groups would basically just go from village to village and kind of just door to door and pass out these water filters.”
The group also worked to repair roofs, especially for those who didn’t qualify for federal aid.
“Most of the homes that we helped were people that were rejected for different reasons from FEMA, so they just really didn’t have any other option,” he said.
They fixed 13 roofs during their four days of work in Guaynabo and the outskirts of San Juan. These repairs were all funded through donations to Light Up Puerto Rico.
“One was a dialysis patient, the other one was just a single mom with a young daughter,” Sharp said. “So each one of those were a little bit unique, but the people were so grateful. They’d just stand there and watch us for, you know, six, seven hours as we repaired their roof.”
Light Up Puerto Rico plans to send another local construction group to the island in March.