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How You Can Help Storm-Ravaged Puerto Rico

Sept. 26, 2017
7 min read
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Click here to donate to our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico who desperately need our help.

Six days after destructive Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, most of the island's 3.4 million residents, who are US citizens, remain without power, and with no hope of getting electricity back anytime soon. The catastrophic damage caused by Maria has left the island in a state of devastation that's been called "apocalyptic" by both residents and government officials.

Basic resources are hard to come by, and survival is becoming a more pressing concern. Government officials, volunteers and rescue organizations have noted how much trouble they're having getting supplies and resources to the survivors who need it most — especially since Maria hit San Juan airport (SJU) hard.

TOPSHOT - Family members collect belongings after hurricane force winds destroyed their house in Toa Baja, west of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 24, 2017 following the passage of Hurricane Maria.Authorities in Puerto Rico rushed on September 23, 2017 to evacuate people living downriver from a dam said to be in danger of collapsing because of flooding from Hurricane Maria. / AFP PHOTO / Ricardo ARDUENGO (Photo credit should read RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Image by Ricardo Arduengo / Getty Images.

NPR reported much of the infrastructure on the island is crippled. As a result, long lines have formed at gas stations, amid a shortage of fuel. Those who are able to get fuel and have a generator are among the few with electricity, and for those looking to find out when fuel does become available, cell phone service is not available across almost the entirety of the island. Food and safe drinking water are also running short — more than half of the homes on the island don't have safe drinking water.

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO SEPTEMBER 22: Trees and flood water block a street after Hurricane Maria at Baldorioty Avenue in Carolina, Puerto Rico on September 22, 2017. (Photo by Pablo Pantoja/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Image by Anadolu Agency / Getty Images.

The people of Puerto Rico are in dire need of help, and thankfully, there are ways you can help. Note that this an not an extensive list of all the ways you can help the people of Puerto Rico — there are plenty of charities doing great work not mentioned below.

Donate Cash

Non-profit organizations helping Puerto Rico and its people rely largely on cash donations. Local organizations especially know where the money can best be put to use. They know the needs of the island and its people, which is why cash donations are such a valuable, versatile option.

Here are some organizations accepting cash donations that'll go directly toward relief efforts in Puerto Rico:

  • United for Puerto Rico — Started by the First Lady of Puerto Rico, Beatriz Rosselló, the organization provides aid and support for people affected by both Hurricanes Irma and Maria. You can donate cash via Paypal.
  • GlobalGiving — This fund will help bring emergency supplies like food, water and medicine to residents. It'll also go toward longer-term rebuilding and recovery efforts. You can donate cash via GlobalGiving.
  • UNICEF — The organization is mobilizing to get immediate, critical support to the children of Puerto Rico affected by Maria. You can donate cash via UNICEF.

Donate Points and Miles

Several frequent flyer programs give you the option to donate your points and miles — they can be used for more than just travel. In some cases, airlines may offer you the opportunity to earn bonus miles for your donation. Here are some of the airlines allowing you to donate your points or miles:

  • American — You can donate you miles in 1,000-mile increments to the airline's donation program, which supports humanitarian efforts around the country.
  • Delta — Donate your SkyMiles through the Delta SkyWish website in order to help a number of organizations, such as the Red Cross.
  • Southwest — You can donate at least 2,000 Rapid Rewards points and in increments of 500 points thereafter through the Rapid Rewards donation program.
  • United — Through United's MileagePlus charity program, you can make mile donations. You must donate at least 1,000 miles via the MileagePlus Service Center the or by calling 1-800-421-4655.
LOIZA, PUERTO RICO - SEPTEMBER 22: A resident wades through flood water days after Hurricane Maria made landfall, on September 22, 2017 in Loiza, Puerto Rico. Many on the island have lost power, running water, and cell phone service after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, passed through. (Photo by Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)
Image by Alex Wroblewski / Getty Images.

Donate Supplies

United for Puerto Rico, the initiative set up by First Lady Rosselló, is also accepting donated supplies in addition to cash donations. The organization is breaking down the supplies it needs into two categories: emergency and construction.

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Here are some more specifics on each of the categories needed:

  • Emergency supplies: bottled water, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, diapers, canned foods, dry foods, baby formula, garbage bags, towels, canned milk, canned and dry pet food, baby and adult pain relief medicine, stomach and diarrhea relief medicine, mosquito repellant, blankets, pillows, first-aid kits, laundry detergents, dish soap and cots.
  • Construction supplies: extension cords, ground fault protectors, pop-up canopies, shovels, wheelbarrows, crowbars, hammers, utility knives, work gloves, wood panels, electric generators, electric cables, tarp, ropes, chainsaws and safety glasses.

If you're interested in donating any of the supplies, you can do so through the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD). You can donate either as an individual or on behalf of your corporation by visiting this page and selecting Puerto Rico as the recipient.

Donate Your Time

At this time, first responders are still arriving on the island to provide immediate and crucial relief. So, right now, it's not advised for volunteers to head to Puerto Rico to donate their time. However, in the coming weeks, months and years, the island will be in great need for volunteers as residents try to recover from the storm and return to normal life.

Puerto Rico's VOAD is asking potential volunteers to remain out of the island for now, but it is offering to contact you when volunteers are needed. You can register on the organization's site now, and once disaster relief organizations have had the time to assess damage and identify where help is most needed, you could be called on to help with the recovery efforts.

Puerto Rico is in dire need of help following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. In order to get back on its feet, it's going to take time and effort. Any bit you can donate will help to make a difference in getting the island and its people on the road to recovery.

Featured image by AFP/Getty Images