Every person in Puerto Rico shares stories about the damage and distress caused by Hurricane Maria as it roared through the Caribbean in the fall of 2017, the worst hurricane to hit the island in eight decades. And every person can share stories about the months of recovery since.
Their experiences are like threads, crisscrossing and interwoven in a fabric of relief, regardless of one’s race or religion. And the Church, its members, and LDS Charities are interwoven in that fabric as they continue to help member and nonmember alike. They are making a difference, one person, one household—one thread—at a time.
For example, Audora Agosto and her family, who are not LDS, are visited by doctors from a Vega Baja clinic, who have driven 12 and a half miles (20 km) up winding roads in a van provided in partnership by LDS Charities and Real Medicine Foundation. Medical personnel give extra attention to Audora’s adult grandson, José Manuel Adorno, a wheelchair-bound paraplegic who accesses his shack on ramps crafted from post-hurricane scrap lumber.
Along the Camino Nuevo coastline, LDS bishop Miguel Rodríguez of the Humacoa Ward is joined by his wife, Rosa, and two full-time missionaries, Sister Mary Ruff and Sister Erin Bianucci, who were among the first missionaries to return after a post-Maria evacuation. Together the four visit neighbors in damaged homes, inquiring about well-being and needs while distributing cleaning kits, food, and other assistance items as well as an occasional Book of Mormon.
President Juan Torres Román of the Toa Baja Puerto Rico Stake says that after the hurricane, fallen interstate supports isolated his neighborhood, so he was unable to leave home or check on stake leaders and members for three weeks. Instead, he and his family turned their attention to neighbors they could help.
He had 1,700 gallons of emergency water stored in drums on his property. He shared the water with others. He discovered that a gas tank used to fill a generator the day before Maria was inexplicably full again the next day. He used the gas to service a neighbor’s generator. President Torres and his family also found and helped a man who had lost a leg. He was trying to survive with no food and drinking only water he gathered from his roof.
“It helped us realize that despite all the difficulties that we were having, the hand of the Lord was among us,” President Torres recalls.
In addition to the one-by-one service provided by members, the Church amplifies its assistance as LDS Charities partners with nongovernmental organizations. In Puerto Rico, LDS Charities has been working with six relief partners and is looking to join a seventh soon in a water project on the island.
To date, the Church has provided more than $4 million in in-kind and cash donations to these NGOs in the Caribbean Area after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, much of it going to aid Puerto Rico because of its greater population. Some 100,000 households on the island have been assisted, more than four times the local Church membership.