Editor’s note: Urbana University student Julio N. Maldonado-Rodríguez wrote the following column about Hurricane Maria’s devastation to his native Puerto Rico and about his appreciation for relief efforts of UU and the Urbana community.
To say that 2017 was a tough year is an understatement. We were exposed to just a glimpse of Mother Nature’s power. We saw earthquakes in Mexico, wildfires in California and destructive hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas. All of these catastrophes baffled and saddened me, but hurricane Maria’s landfall in Puerto Rico was the one that pulled at my heartstrings because I wasn’t at home at the time. The Caribbean was heavily hit by storms. At the time of the storm I was in the island of Antigua and Barbuda where I study medicine and I must say that the experience of not being able to communicate with my family back home is something that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. As it has been shown in the press, Puerto Rico was completely devastated by Maria, the communication and electrical grids were blown to pieces leaving the island in the dark. Surprising as it is there are people who still don’t have power or running water even though 5 months have already passed since the storm’s assault.
In the wake of such destruction I also saw how the people back in Puerto Rico and in the continental US came together to help those in need and this is what drove me to contact my peers at Urbana University where I am completing my MBA. The response was immediate, I was contacted by the Alicia Titus Memorial Peace Fund and was ecstatic to see that a whole community back in Ohio made it their mission to give some aid back to those affected by the hurricane. During the whole process of shipping and sending emails back and forth I got a very happy call from my family. They assured me that everyone was ok but the more rural areas back in the city of Yauco were still struggling because water, power and all sort of aid wasn’t getting delivered to them on time. As soon as I landed in Puerto Rico I got the email that sated that the aid sent from Urbana was waiting to be picked up at the “Pan Pepín” Warehouse. Bev Titus made all the necessary arrangements for the aid to reach Puerto Rico. Mr. Felix Santiago made sure that the pallets were safely stored, and Mr. Angel Santiago donated his truck so that delivery to Yauco was made possible. After all the logistics were taken care of I sat down with some friends in order to discuss where the aid would do more good. Half of the clothing, toiletries and food were donated to the “Hermanas de la Caridad” who make daily trips to the rural areas of Yauco and Guayanilla in order to give clothing and a warm meal to those who are still struggling. The other half of the aid was donated to the “Yauco Stadium Foundation,” which was established after the storm in order to personally help communities who were forgotten thanks to government bureaucracy.
Urbana’s response is greatly appreciated, and I can personally say that the hurricane relief effort was a complete success because a total close to 50 families were impacted. There is still a long way to go in terms of getting back to normal, but it is efforts like these that make us see light at the end of the tunnel and that will help us come back even stronger.
I sincerely and humbly thank everyone who made this effort possible, may God keep blessing you and your families every day.
Julio N. Maldonado-Rodríguez is an Urbana University student and a resident of Puerto Rico.