Our Puerto Rico fundraiser is coming to a close…

As of this morning, we’ve raised over $113,000 for Mercy Corps‘ efforts in Puerto Rico. That’s astounding, and many thanks to everyone who contributed. We ate up Pat’s $50,000 in matching money within 12 hours, which might be a record for us. In a country still lacking basic infrastructure–access to clean water, electricity, and many roads–this money will go far to help people repair their homes, buy groceries, and rebuild their lives.

The fundraiser will come to a close on Monday, October 16, at noon CST. Everything ends, and we have to wrap it up so we can get the funds processed and sent to Mercy Corps. If you haven’t contributed yet, please do, and if you wanted to kick in a few more dollars before we end the fundraiser, please do. And again, thank you everyone for stepping up to donate, spreading the word, for liking and retweeting our updates, and for generally being wonderful people.

Here’s some more news from Pax Mandable, the Community Giving Officer over at Mercy Corps who’s been helping us coordinate the fundraiser:

We have a team on the ground in Puerto Rico working with local organizations to deliver humanitarian assistance and start rebuilding the communities ravaged by the hurricane. Mercy Corps is now distributing cash (in the form of pre-paid Mastercard debit cards) so that people can choose what to buy based on their family’s immediate needs.

We know that many people still don’t have access to clean water, so they will likely use cash to buy water, food and other essential supplies. We are working as quickly as we can to lay the foundation for recovery. We are making our way to the interior of the island to identify other vulnerable communities and local organizations to continue providing needed support.

One of these communities, located by a canal, doesn’t have to have a hurricane to experience flooding. Community members are regularly exposed to pollutants from contaminated water and are vulnerable to other effects from frequent canal flooding and ongoing environmental degradation.

Wooden structures were severely damaged, if not destroyed outright. The people who live here earn a living through jobs such as cleaning houses and working construction. Some are nurses, teachers or own small businesses, and most of them experienced flooding after the hurricane. One community organizer, Imirse Orrusti Ramos, told us, “People lost everything. A flood of contaminated water? You can’t clean that. They lost their mattresses, they lost everything.”

As we see elsewhere around the world, it will take a concerted effort by multiple organizations and the government to help Puerto Rico recover from this disaster. Puerto Ricans are inspiring us with their commitment to building back better than before the storm, and we are moved to bring our global experience, expertise and contacts to the recovery and rebuilding effort.

On a more personal level, Pax sent along the story of Aide Morales Rivera, whose neighborhood in San Juan was battered for eight hours:

Aide Morales Rivera and her son, Luis.

Aide Morales Rivera (45, pictured with her son Luis, 12), received a $150 cash card, as part of a distribution that was implemented by Mercy Corps in partnership with a local organization.

Aide cleans houses for a living, when she can find work. She has seven children, ranging in age from 11 to 26, and five of them live with her. Helping others has been an important part of her life; the family does a great deal of work in the community, helping homeless people and others in need through their church. They have lived in their home since 2005, and have been in the community for 22 years.

As the storm approached, she sent her youngest kids to stay at their godmother’s house, and she and her two eldest sons stayed in their house to take care of it. Around 1 a.m., strong winds started buffeting her house, and shortly after that, the roof blew off. They heard the pieces of corrugated metal raining down, and trees crashing all around. As she and her kids held hands and prayed, the storm completely destroyed the top floor of her home. “For the first time I was really scared of a hurricane. I tried to stay calm because I didn’t want to make my kids worry,” she says. The storm raged for eight hours, and when they finally ventured outside they found debris from houses across the neighborhood. People were crying in the streets when they saw what had happened to their neighborhood.

Aide and her family have been without electricity since the storm hit; she and 85 percent of Puerto Ricans are still without power.

She was cleaning up debris in her yard when Mercy Corps staff arrived to give her the cash card. She used it to buy water, canned goods, cooking oil, rice, bread, juice, cereal, chicken, plastic plates, cups and spoons, laundry detergent, mosquito repellent, and other food and supplies to keep her family going. “I have been able to buy things that I didn’t think I would be able to buy,” she said. “Even if we don’t have a bed, now we have food. Even if we don’t have electricity, we have food.”

We still have until Monday to raise a bit more money for rebuilding, clean water, food, and medical supplies if you’d like to sneak in a last minute donation. Thanks again to everyone who donated, and to the Mercy Corps teams on-site, working to help those affected by Hurricane Maria rebuild and get back on their feet.

Photos by Ezra Millstein for Mercy Corps, used with permission.