Seattle school hit hard by Puerto Rico disaster

More than a dozen staff members at La Escuelita Bilingual school are from Puerto Rico, including the school's founder who is now trapped there.

A Seattle pre-school is paying close attention to the devastation in Puerto Rico.  More than a dozen staff members at La Escuelita Bilingual School are from the island, including the school's founder who is now trapped there.

Director Teresa Baradas said they finally heard from the school's founder last weekend. 

Carmen Masso flew to Puerto Rico for her annual trip home to see family just before the hurricane. Now she can't get back to Seattle and was barely able to get a phone call out to relatives here.

"The communication was barely, you know, easy to understand each other," said Baradas. "But she says she's fine, personally no loss within the family, which is good. But two cousins lost their homes."

Teacher Oti Reyes said working with children keeps him from being overwhelmed with worry. His sister Naomi lives in Loiza, Puerto Rico with her family.

Reyes still doesn't know if they survived the hurricane.

"I can do nothing," Reyes said. "I don't know if she's okay. She had three kids."

Staff members Minerva Rosa and Chavely Cherena at least know their loved ones on the island are okay. But the devastation they see in the photos sent to them is only matched by the stories they hear.

"My sister described it as feeling and seeming unreal, you know," Cherena said.  "There are people committing suicide. It's sad. They've lost everything."

Their families have lost so much and they feel powerless to help them. When asked if the U-S is doing enough, they say the wheels are turning too slowly.

"The level of compassion and empathy is a lot lower than I thought it was going to be," said Chavely.

The school is working with La Isla Restaurant in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood to collect money and canned food to send to Puerto Rico. You can drop off donations at the school's two locations in Rainier Valley or Green Lake neighborhoods.

La Isla is hosting a fundraiser on Sunday, October 8, to raise money for relief efforts. 

These charities are also collecting cash donations as well:

United for Puerto Rico - led by the first lady of Puerto Rico.

- Unicef

© 2017 KING-TV


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