We know that United Methodists here in New England have been eager to hear about how the Church is helping the people of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has been and remains on the ground in Puerto Rico right now, and is working in partnership with the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico (MCPR) to address immediate needs and develop and implement a long-term response.
Catherine Earl is Director of U.S. Disaster Response for UMCOR. In a recent letter to Conference Disaster Response Coordinators, Earl wrote:
“UMCOR has been working with Bishop [Héctor F.] Ortiz and the MCPR Leadership Team to develop and fund a structure and program which will effectively address outstanding recovery needs in both the short and long-term. This will include volunteer coordination and hosting, construction, case management and material support.”
Watch this short video to see some of the work being done:
About Hurricane Maria
On Sept. 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria, made landfall on the island of Puerto Rico as a category 5 storm. The island had not experienced an event of this magnitude since 1928. In its wake Maria left unprecedented destruction with 100,000 homes completely destroyed, more than 250,000 homes damaged, power lines downed, and hundreds of thousands left without electricity and potable drinking water. Nearly 90 days after the storm, many areas remain without electricity and clean water.
As for teams of volunteers, UMCOR is respecting the advice and wishes of the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico and limiting the number and type of volunteers being invited to serve at this time.
Conditions are extremely difficult; resources, electricity, and medical services are so limited that only experienced ERTs are being asked to volunteer at this time. The lack of electricity and refrigeration mean even experienced ERT members with medical issues or physical limitations are not able to effectively serve in this immediate aftermath of the storm.
Again, from Earl’s letter: “I am requesting that the Conference Disaster Response Coordinators serve as the initial point of contact for all team inquiries through the ERT phase. The first teams to be deployed will be called Specialized Early Response Teams. These teams will be oriented to address circumstances unique to this location and situation, and beyond the general scope of work for our more traditional ERTs.”
If you are an experienced, badged ERT and would like to volunteer to serve on a Specialized Early Response Team in Puerto Rico, contact Barbara Burnside, New England Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, at email@example.com
or (978) 682-8055, ext. 135.
Like all recovery from storms of this magnitude, this will be a years-long effort; there will be many opportunities to serve in Puerto Rico in the future. UMCOR will make an announcement when the MCPR is inviting more traditional ERT teams in; they will be followed, eventually, by volunteer reconstruction teams.
United Methodists in New England have been extremely generous – thank you – and you can continue to support Puerto Rico by:
- Keeping the people of Puerto Rico in your prayers
- Making health kits and cleaning buckets – both of which are being distributed now on the island
- Donating through the Advance #901670
Watch our weekly e-news and this website (www.neumc.org/disasterresponsenews
) for updates.