The daily reports detailing the failures of our response to the crisis in Puerto Rico are incredibly frustrating. If you are feeling frustrated with the response, and have any of the items mentioned below, we have a solution for both.
The limitations of the Posse Comitatus Act (which limits military action on US soil) on the military relief teams who performed so magnificently in Haiti, has rendered them ineffevtive; forcing them to only operate under the feeble direction of FEMA and other civilian relief agencies. And, the USNS Comfort hospital ship is anchored just offshore with up to 1200 personnel and 800 beds sitting nearly empty (at what daily operating cost we can only imagine), due to poor organization, while patients languish in hospitals ashore with no power. We know people are suffering and we are watching the fact that instead of committing to Puerto Rico’s recovery, our government is delivering — at best — mixed messages.
The people of Puerto Rico are fleeing the island if they can, but most can not:
Just Friday it was reported that the percentage of Puerto Rico with power went from 21% to 12% at the same time the President gave himself a “10 out of 10” rating for the government response. It’s intolerable.
One can hardly blame San Juan’s Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz for lashing out on a nearly daily basis while she watches her people dying and health officials are facing outbreaks of leptospirosis (from drinking water tainted by animal feces/urine) and numerous other diseases (dengue, chikungunya, and Zika.)
The conventional wisdom and word from most of the authorities are “don’t send goods, send money.” And they’re right—for most of what ails Puerto Rico, a financial donation is more useful than a glut of goods they can’t distribute. But at this moment, it’s unsatisfying to just send money, especially when one doesn’t know where it goes and for what.
I recently got a message from a friend — her friend’s cousin is a doctor in Dorado who seems to have basically thrown up her hands much as Cruz has. I was told that certain goods would be most welcome. And, yes, they can get there.
So I give you the unsung heroes of this tragedy: The US Postal Service. Yes. Their motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
As it turns out the postal service has been instrumental in the recovery efforts. Without power, they are largely the only communications between some towns. They also have been the safety check-in for residents on their routes, where the relief organizations have no idea where people live or perhaps need assistance.
Perhaps it’s a good moment to recall the Founding Fathers’ mission statement for the Postal Service in the Constitution: “The Postal Service shall have as its basic function the obligation to provide postal services to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people. It shall provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities.”
80% of the citizens of Puerto Rico are still without electricity. The US Postal Service is working, however. Ppl are getting electric bills.
— Claude Taylor (@TrueFactsStated) October 19, 2017
They are on the roads. And they’re delivering. So if you want to do a small thing to alleviate your frustration with the sheer inability to help in any significant way, there is a large flat rate box (12”x12”x6”) from the USPS that ships for $18.85. If it fits, it ships, no matter what it weighs. And they need these things now.
Pro tips: if you’re donating clothes (used is fine), think climate—it’s hot there (high 80’s today). Iron the heck out of them even when folded to layer in as much as you can—weight does not matter and frankly once they’re out in the world they will puff out like normal. With other items, so long a they have plastic seals, take them out of the outer packaging. So much more room for more items and you’ll be surprised what you can fit. Considering less than 80% of the island has power, probably best that canned goods neither need cooking nor an opener at this stage.
From a friend with extensive family in San Juan and it’s environs: “Below is an address for someone already distributing locally. There are people organizing donation planes for PR from professional baseball players but the issue is still finding local people with the resources and time to distribute. The company below has trucks for delivery of things.”
Attention Enid Pagan
Via Cubita 696 A
Guaynabo, Puerto Rico 00969
If you want to get into the nitty-gritty and donate to locals taking care of locals, these are just a few I got from reaching out to those with family and friends.
A local doctor, distributing as needed. What they mostly need is clothing; personal hygiene items; canned goods and any other non-perishable items.
Dr. Violeta Aponte
Urb. Quintas De Dorado
Calle Caoba J6
Dorado, PR 00646
Another friend: “I have heard … of another donation/distribution location at the Casa Isleña Inn and Restaurant…The restaurant is operated by my longtime friends, Mitch and Maria. They need things like water filtration kits, water purification tablets, D batteries and baby food. Anything anyone wants to send is helpful!”
Casa Isleña Inn
Carr 413 Km 4.8
Rincón, PR 00677
These next friends of friends are mostly asking for baby food, diapers, and other baby clothes and supplies, but distributing whatever comes in:
Rincón online María relief
C/O Antonio Tirado
HC-01 Box 4382
Carr 413 int. Km 4.5 Calle Vista Linda
Rincón, PR 00677
C16 Calle 1
Rincón, PR 00677
Rincón Beer Company
15 Calle Munoz Rivera W
Rincón, PR 00677
These are just a few I could verify. Of course there are more. Reach out — sending a box of sorely needed necessities scratches that itch of helplessness, at least for a moment. And there are people who will be tremendously grateful. While we know that the Puerto Rican community is willing, small things you take for granted can make them able to help each other.
And we and the USPS can bind the Nation together in ways the Fathers never anticipated.