A year ago, the island of Puerto Rico was plunged into darkness and destruction after Hurricane Maria slammed ashore.
In the days after the storm, a group of volunteers in Seattle started putting together a plan for how they could help.
“I needed to do something,” said Erika Almanza Brown, one of the people who gathered at La Isla Cuisine, a Puerto Rican restaurant in Ballard, last fall.
They started by putting together First-Aid kits and sending them with people who were planning trips to Puerto Rico.
The group also gathered supplies, such as water filters, bedding, and stoves. They filled a giant container and shipped it to the island.
In July, a group of volunteers traveled to Puerto Rico, to rebuild homes.
“There is a lot of work to be done, undoubtedly. You look at the reports, you look at the pictures, and you think, ‘oh my gosh, we're not doing much.’But when you see a house that was almost completely wiped down, and so much destruction, to now have its second floor again, and to have a roof, and you think, ‘OK we're doing something,’” Almanza Brown said.
Today, La Isla has its own foundation. It’s a certified nonprofit called the La Isla Hurricane Relief Fund. Almanza Brown helps oversee it.
They hope to partner with construction companies in Puerto Rico over the coming year to help rebuild more homes.
“We're also trying to work with farms in Puerto Rico, where we can help do something as simple as purchase seeds for them to be able to regrow the agriculture industry,” Almanza Brown said.
“There are still people that don't have water, and there are still a lot of people who don't have like even a house or a roof, and there's still a lot to do,” said Vicente Bravo, the owner of La Isla Cuisine.
More info on the local relief effort here.