SBP Puerto Rico and its continuing mission four years after Hurricane María
The organization has repaired nearly 200 homes through an initiative that plans to extend
By Marga Parés Arroyo | This article originally appeared in Puerto Rico’s El Nuevo Dia in November.
Although little more than four years have passed, María Medina has many memories of Hurricane María, especially the buzzing of the wind and the roar of rain on doors and windows. That powerful downpour, she recalled, exacerbated leaks in her home of more than 25 years in the Reparto Sevilla community in Carolina. The leaks couldn’t be controlled with buckets or cans.
“There was water everywhere and it started to rise,” recalled Medina, 69. “That was horrible. That animal (the hurricane) whistled and sang. It was gray.” she continued.
In a recent ceremony at her restored home after the efforts of SBP, a non-profit organization that fixed her home and others affected by the hurricane, Maria celebrated, “I asked God for help and the help was you.”
Founded 15 years ago, SBP came together to help the residents of the state of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. The members of SBP Puerto Rico are part of AmeriCorps, a program that promotes a better quality of life for individuals and communities and focuses its services in areas of national emergency. The nonprofit Habitat for Humanity also contributed funding.
“One year after Maria, the home (repair) operation began. We already have 198 homes completed and soon we will reach 200 ″, said Edgardo Maldonado, executive director of SBP Puerto Rico.
Medina’s house, he said, was leaking and the ceiling plaster was falling off. In addition to sealing the roof, he said, they repaired the internal walls of the house.
“We have funds pending for two more years, but we depend on donations to match them. The long-term goal is to keep building (repairing) for two to three more years. There are 140 clients on the waiting list in eleven municipalities in the metro and southeast areas, ”said Maldonado, who urged more people to become volunteers for this project by searching for information on sbpusa.org or SBP Puerto Rico’s accounts on Facebook and Instagram.
Roofing problems, he said, are the most common fix identified in repaired homes. The improvements per home, he detailed, amount to about $ 25,000.
Viviana Ramírez, AmeriCorps Human Resources Manager, explained that this program recruits members to work full time for 10 months in community service. In addition to a monthly payment of $ 1,600, they are awarded an education award of $ 6,345 to repay loans or use them for studies over the next seven years.
“You don’t need experience, (but) they do need to be bilingual. They can do it up to four times (10 months per cycle) and there are different positions, such as volunteer coordinator, customer service coordinator, and project leads,” she said.
Frances Velázquez, 25, joined this project as a Client Service Coordinator, after moving to the United States post-Maria and returning two years later to help affected communities. “This experience of service has changed my life, it has made me grow as a person. I believe everyone should volunteer,” she stated.
Jhomary González Sierra, SBP Puerto Rico Customer Service Manager, is also part of the effort. Among her functions, she said, are to establish alliances with the communities and find funding.
Meanwhile, Medina is happy and grateful for the rebuilding of her home. “The process lasted two months. They arrived early and were working all day. From time to time, I would cook (for the volunteers). It has been tough, but this has done me a lot of good. I am very grateful,” said the grandmother of six grandchildren.