3.4 million U.S. Citizens are still without power in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria rocked the island. The island’s electrical grid was completely destroyed by the hurricane, and officials estimate that restoring power will take as long as four to six months. One group of Utahans decided to help those devastated from the aftermath through the Light Up Puerto Rico initiative.
The idea started among a group of friends who served as LDS Missionaries in Puerto Rico and wanted to help their friends in their time of need.
“My buddy Jarem texted me about three days after the hurricane and said, ‘Hey, we needed to do something,’ so we went through our rolodexes and started calling people,” said volunteer Vince Dilley.
One of the first calls made was to Jorge and Cari Alvarado, two native Puerto Ricans that served with the LDS Missionaries and recently moved to Utah. When they found out about the project, they took action immediately.
“The biggest thing that we need right now is to light up Puerto Rico and look for a way to bring that commodity to the people which is very scarce right now,” said Mr. Alvarado.
A goal was set, and with the help of Tifie Humanitarian and Robert Workman they planned to provide tents, solar powered generators, solar panels and lights to the island’s citizens to help them get back on their feet and rebuild their lives.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to try to help as many people as we can,” added Dilley.
Seeing the footage from TV stations of their home destroyed was surreal for the Alvarados.
“It’s devastating…it’s our home, our place,” Cari Alvarado said.
In the days following the hurricane, the Alvarados were left waiting to hear from friends and family.
“It took three, four, five days just to know if they’re fine,” Cari Alvarado said. “Then after that, after the shock, and after them telling us how they were, the survival mode started.”
It was a relieving moment once they were able to connect with their family members.
“When we finally connected on the phone I was like, ‘Mom!’ and she was like, ‘Cari!’ and we started crying,” Cari Alvarado said.
The Alvarados’ family members were alive, but were left devastated without access to many of their basic needs.
“What we’re experiencing is probably worse than a Third World Country,” Jorge Alvarado said.
The charity shown by countless individuals means the world to the Alvarados after seeing their people suffer so much.
“I can’t believe what a big and wonderful response we have had,” Cari Alvarado said.
The first group of volunteers went down to Puerto Rico on Oct. 11 and has already provided families with power. For those who would like to donate to Light Up Puerto Rico in any way, go to www.youcaring.com/prsj. For more information on the campaign and opportunities to volunteer, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/lightuppuertorico.
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