Graduate students and professors bring aid to those suffering in Puerto Rico
BERRIEN SPRINGS, Mich.- What was meant to be a trip to develop affordable housing quickly turned to one of relief aid after Hurricane Maria.
Andrews University Professor Andrew von Maur says the need in Puerto Rico is critical. Although it might seem like life is continuing normally, he says many are still suffering.
Von Maur traveled with another professor and 16 graduate students who all saw the need for government aid. “The entire time that we were in this neighborhood we didn’t see single federal emergency management vehicle and we were there from sun up to sun down,” says von Maur.
Von Maur explained previously their trip was focused on working with a community in central San Juan to develop affordable housing designs.
“Instead of cancelling our trip or postponing it indefinitely we decided to just go and bring relief supplies and help with clean up and relief instead of the originally planned activities.”
Working with Proyecto Enlace, a local non-profit, they focused on a neighborhood with 800 families who lost their roofs along with the 70 families that lost everything.
“Some of these people, especially some of the most vulnerable ones, they started crying because we were the first to come help along with our local contact,” says von Maur.
Families there were dealing with snapped power lines and debris littering streets. “You start seeing all kinds of things like billboard structures that just toppled over and crushed houses.”
The Andrews crew was there when President Donald Trump visited the island, but von Maur believes the administration never saw the real devastation.
“When you go to the more impoverished neighborhoods, which is most of the city of San Juan you see a lot of people that really need help.”
He adds there was a point of reflection when he was on his flight back home.
The Las Vegas shooting deserved attention, but that meant Puerto Rico was receiving less attention, he says. ¨It’s important for us to remember all the places that are in need even though it’s not the newest headline.¨
Andrews University is working on future plans to revisit the island.
You can donate through the institute to help those in Puerto Rico.