A group of Puerto Ricans now living in western Washington gathered together to strategized Thursday how they can help one another.
Many still have not heard from family members, even though it’s been nine days since Hurricane Maria hit.
Millions are without power, and basics like clean water, gasoline, and ice are difficult to find.
Bellevue’s Fernmarie Rodriguez helped bring the group together. Instead of worrying about what she and fellow local Puerto Ricans couldn’t control, Thursday’s meeting focused on how they could help.
“The goal is to take action. We are strong,” she said. “We are a small island, but the people are strong.”
They shared how each of the about 30 people and some of their workplaces were pitching in.
“We’re providing database services. We’re getting help from Microsoft and Amazon,” said Luis Luciano, who told the group he works at Microsoft.
One woman mentioned she’s traveling to the island next week – and that she’s taking a satellite phone to help some reach their loved ones.
Rodriguez, also a Microsoft employee, said company employees are also working on adopting different cities. She noted most resources are flowing through the larger cities, while smaller cities don’t have some of the resources needed.
Rodriguez said she only recently learned her mother is okay after her father drove two days through nearly impassable roads to reach her.
“When you don’t know what’s happening, it’s the excruciating feeling because you can’t sleep, you can’t eat,” she said.
“How many of you have family members that you haven’t heard from yet?” she asked the group.
Almost everyone raised a hand, including Jose Santiago. He said he hadn’t yet heard from some uncles and his grandmother. He came here to focus on solutions.
“How we can make the most impact from here, especially since because we are so far away,” he said.
Until a non-profit is established to funnel funds to individual cities, the group recommends sending money to the Puerto Rico chapter of the Red Cross.