By Bella DiFilippo and Cathy Earl*
The 2017 hurricane season caused Puerto Rico unprecedented levels of destruction, devastating the lives of millions of people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless and displaced. The initial response has been slow for Puerto Rico as its food, fuel, and supplies are dependent on shipments from its air and sea ports, most of which have been severely damaged. The island’s ports and airports are slowly reopening though, allowing much-needed aid to make its way into Puerto Rico.
Overlooking damages to a town in Puerto Rico. PHOTO BY LUIS MARQUEZ
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is in communication with the leaders of the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico (MCPR), and has been invited by MCPR to soon travel to Puerto Rico to plan for relief and recovery programs. In the meantime, the disaster response team from MCPR continues to make assessments.
As part of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), UMCOR is pleased to learn of their collaborative success in sending medical supplies and other life-sustaining goods to Puerto Rico. Currently, over 50 percent of the grocery stores are open on the island, and UMCOR is expediting an emergency grant for the MCPR to locally purchase needed supplies and food. Once purchased, food and supplies will be distributed through the MCPR’s distribution points. More support from UMCOR will be forthcoming as soon as possible.
“UMCOR will continue to support Puerto Rico so that those who are served through MCPR not only survive, but thrive,” said Cathy Earl, UMCOR’s director of disaster response and U.S. partner relations. “We will be there for the long haul.”
When invited, UMCOR will find ways to support the MCPR to receive and direct volunteers. UMCOR has thousands of people who are praying, giving, and working to undergird those who are hurting. UMCOR also has connections with NVOAD, FEMA, and other partners to strengthen our efforts.
UMCOR has received many calls from several of the United Methodist conferences, including New York Annual Conference and Florida Annual Conference, who are seeking to respond to the influx of survivors from Puerto Rico. UMCOR anticipates supporting these conferences through funding and appropriate programs.
“The United Methodist Church stands in solidarity with Puerto Rico and the people of the Caribbean,” said Thomas Kemper, general secretary of Global Ministries. “We can actively respond and be hope in Puerto Rico because of our partners and the generous people of the United Methodist Church.”
In addition to our response following the catastrophic damage in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, UMCOR continues to support the response of those impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.
Be part of alleviating human suffering by giving to UMCOR’s U.S. Disaster Response - Advance #901670.
*Bella DiFilippo is program area liaison from Communications for Global Ministries. Cathy Earl is UMCOR's director of disaster response and U.S. partner relations.