Update on Operation Water Filter

Our “Operation Water Filters” was a wonderful success for the people in Puerto Rico! All in all, thanks to your incredible generosity, we were able to collect 95 water filters and cash donations of $1000.- in only 3 days!
Thank you all so very, very much!
Please know that those filters that were delivered by Amazon on Tuesday will be hand carried and given directly to people and shelters on the 11th. I will keep you posted on this as well.
I am so grateful for Angel Francisco Anderson to take our donations and bring them right to the local shelter, where they will be put to good use.

The Shelter

People in the shelter have access to well water, but without filtration, it’s not potable.There are 35 families in this shelter, many of them elderly and people with health conditions. The nurse who is running the shelter has lost everything during the storm, and is still there for others, who don’t have a place to call home anymore.Angel shared with me that the difficulties he faced were many: The flight was chaotic, as even the basics of infrastructure and organization were missing, and people were literally checked in by hand as computers weren’t working.Transportation was extremely difficult, as gasoline is very hard to come by, and traffic was chaos due to the circumstances, so that trips that usually take 20 minutes could take several hours.
One morning he tried to fill up his mother’s car when gasoline was available, and he had to wait several hours in line before he could do so. So you can imagine that getting around the island is very difficult, as everything takes so much time.
Many people who could theoretically drive are hesitant to use their car as they are afraid to run out of gas and get stuck.Shopping is extremely difficult, too:

Water is rationed to 4 regular sized bottles per person, and if you imagine living in a hot climate with no air conditioning, that is not a lot.
The shopping centers close to his town could only open if they had power, and waiting in line could again take hours.
There were a few stores in the countryside that had more supplies, but because of the driving situation, many people couldn’t get there.Batteries, especially the big C and D batteries were completely sold out and nowhere to be found. It was a bittersweet feeling for Angel to be able to put batteries that he bought from your cash donations, in someone’s flashlight, and hearing them say “I can now sleep well tonight. I have light…”The Camping shower bags that he bought were delivered to a local school, so that people could take a bath “in decency.”But the biggest problem is communication! Imagine having only very scarce phone or internet access, no radio or TV. How can you communicate, how can you find out about coming help, how can you inform organizations about people in need, when you have no way to contact them?People are on their own. We talked about getting radios with a crank, as well as flashlights and lanterns with a dynamo, so that people can become more independent from batteries and power.
However, please remember how you would feel, having to go from living comfortably in your home, to living in a shelter with nothing left, 4 bottles of water per day and a hand cranked radio…
It is a surreal feeling to have no access to information and communication, and just living day by day…The hardest thing was to see the people in need:

One lady with diabetes drinks only a specific shake for nutrition, and she is almost out. How is she going to get more? And in addition, everything has to be paid cash, as ATMs aren’t working.With the help of the shelter director, and using some of your donated money, Angel was thankfully able to be allowed to buy more than the allowed amount of bottled water in the store, and hand it out to the elderly and others in need. He also purchased gas for several generators, so that people had some more access to power. He also bought gas cartridges for camping stoves so that people can cook.Nobody is talking about rebuilding any time soon. they are still just trying to clear the rubble and debris of the roads so they can become passableOn a personal note: You can imagine that this was a very difficult trip. Knowing one’s own family, especially mom in her 90s in this environment, and not being able to get her to the mainland easily, is very difficult. The feeling of knowing that one’s home, the island you love, the people you care about are in such a situation is hard to describe. It is traumatic, and even though it feels good to be able to do something concrete and meaningful, the need is just so big.So how do we continue?
Your remaining filters will be delivered on the 11th.

And there is some more good news: The local postal service seems to have opened again, so that packages supposedly can be shipped directly. Angel’s cousin, who lives across the street from the post office, agreed to pick up whatever people want to send and deliver it to the shelter. So we have a contact person, who can take care of your donations.

Angel will send a smaller package this week, to see:
– how long it takes
– if it even gets there
– if it is safe and reliable.
So when that is done, we might be able to send packages directly. Angel is talking to Amazon to find out if they deliver to Puerto Rico again. We will keep you posted on this as well.Whatever information we get we will forward to you.
But please know that we understand that many of you have been more generous than anybody could ever expect. Please don’t feel obligated to do more than you can.
Know that those who received your help already are very very grateful. Your thoughtfulness is giving them hope and confidence that things will eventually be OK, even if it takes a while.So now we are looking into finding ways to expand the team, talk to others who are doing similar things, and just see if there are ways to support each other.I truly don’t know if there will be more transports after the 11th, but I will keep you posted on everything I hear.Please keep Angel and his family, the people in the shelters and schools, all the incredible aid workers and the thousands who are now living without a home, electricity and communication and on 4 bottles of water per day – in your prayers.You have made a bigger difference than you will ever know.
Thank You!

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