Relief Efforts

Open Letter:

“We are still a long way from recovery, and the earth beneath our feet won’t stop shaking. We need help!” Guanica Puerto Rico Resident

The people of Puerto Rico, our beloved island, are working hard to recover from earthquakes and tremors that have damaged homes, buildings, infrastructure and have affected the emotional well-being of the 3.2 million residents of the island, a U.S. territory during the first days of 2020.

Starting on December 28, the island, home of 3.2 million people, has been hit by consistent seismic events along the southwest coast of the island. Finally, on Tuesday, we experienced the most massive quake yet. A 6.4 magnitude earthquake that left one man dead, damaged hundreds of buildings, bridges, roads, and highway infrastructure, cracked or destroyed countless homes, knocked out the electric power of the whole island, and brought back the fear and despair inflicted by hurricane María. 

Entire families and neighborhoods are sleeping outside their homes inside tents, on cots, and improvised camps. Many because their homes were destroyed, others because the fear of waking up too late amidst an earthquake keeps them out of their homes with babies, young kids, and elders. There is no electric power in the southwest of the island, and for more than two weeks, people have been experiencing more than 40 quakes or tremors per day. Some magnitude 4.0, 5.0, and even 6.0; this has happened non-stop, and much more aggressively for the past seven days. Since December 28, 2019, more than 1,000 tremors and earthquakes have been felt by the residents.

 All the lives we thought an earthquake was something that happened one day, at a particular time and place, and then we were free to recover. We were wrong. Most of us have endured seven days of constant movement; others, many in the south, have been suffering since December 28, 2019, when the tremors started. Until now, for all of us, our home was our safe place, our sacred place, a place full of memories and warmth. Today, this place has become a place of fear, hopelessness, and sleeplessness; the location of safety has turned into the home of fear, an unstable trap that can end our lives in a second. Fear, anguish, and anxiety are roaming free. Along with supplies and provisions, mental health support is urgent and critically needed.

 The experience has taken a toll on the emotional well-being of most of many, and urgent help is needed. Supplies are required, water, food, sleeping bags too, but most of all, support and emotional assistance is necessary. Guayanilla, one of the critically affected municipalities, has already recorded three suicides. As heartbreaking as this is not new to the reality of Puerto Rico, in 2018, 243 suicides were reported, out of those reported 87% men and 13% women, 72% were older adults from 50 to 69 years old, and an average of 8% identified as LGBT+.

 As of today, across southwest Puerto Rico, families are huddled on parking lots, basketball courts, and even roadsides on formal and informal camps, as an unrelenting series of aftershocks continue to rock the island. At least 40 earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude or higher were registered since early Tuesday, January 7, morning, according to the Puerto Rico Seismic Network. Most of the southern region of the island people remained without power.

 Waves Ahead and the ReconstruyeQ project

At Waves Ahead, we support marginalized and vulnerable communities in Puerto Rico, with a focus on well-being and access to emotional and mental health services. We help to strengthen and re-establish individuals, particularly LGBT+ Older Adults, Female heads of households, the homeless, and other marginalized communities on their primary areas of needs. Our skilled mental health professionals are trained to support, assist, and provide critical services to our population in need. We have three community centers on the island, one located on the southwest region in the municipality of Cabo Rojo.

As of 2018, our project ReconstruyeQ has rebuilt 19 homes that were damaged by Hurricane María, positively impacting 1,140 individuals; 31% are elders over 60+, 40% were families with children, 55% live alone, and 42% are LGBT+ community members. Now responding to the needs after January earthquakes, we have already visited the communities in the affected areas and have organized volunteers, mental health professionals, supplies, and provisions.

Now more than ever, your help will allow us to continue providing essential support and start the process of rebuilding lives and homes.

Current Situation

Waves Ahead and the Community Centers for LGBT+ Older Adults are assisting the municipalities impacted by more than 1,000 plus earthquakes. Your donation or financial contributions will go directly to the people and their communities without intermediaries.

As we did after the impact of the hurricanes of September 2017, we are committed to assisting the community with a focus on the LGBT, Female Heads of Households, and Older Adult communities. We can only do our work with your help!

 The severity of the events has caused an increase in anxiety and despair. We are mobilizing volunteers to provide mindfulness sessions, mental health first aid, meditation, creative arts, and case management to LGBT older adults and All the impacted citizens of these towns. The anxiety of each individual is palpable; many are sleeping on the streets, parking lots, and shelters. This past week alone, we have been informed (in local media) that there have been four deaths by suicide; when we talk to neighbors, they all say the same thing – they didn’t have any other option. 

Municipalities that will benefit from your support are:

Cabo Rojo, Lajas, San German, Guayanilla, Guanica, and Peñuelas 

 Financial Contributions: via PayPal: wavesaheadcorp@gmail.com or via our website/PayPal or sending checks to Waves Ahead, 1149 Ave Americo Miranda, San Juan, PR 00921. Our number is 787-940-8851. 

Based on our on-site interviews, we are in urgent need of:

  • Water or water filters
  • Solar based phone chargers and lighting equipment
  • Surfaces to sleep on like sleeping bags, pads, and cots
  • Camping tents or tarps
  • Portable camping stoves
  • Disposable underwear for older adults
  • Nutritional support such as Ensure or Glucerna 
  • Pillows, towels, sheets, and blankets
  • Toiletries
  • Portable showers or camping showers

Please help us to share Love, Support, and Hope among the people of Puerto Rico. Urgent help is needed now. With your support, we will be able to provide it.

 Sincerely,

Wilfred Labiosa

Executive Director 

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Reconstruye Q: Resiliency, Rebuilding Lives 

We are helping individuals and families devastated by the earthquakes and hurricanes.  We need your help! We accept cash donations, goods, and volunteers!  Contact us for details.

Please consider participating as a local volunteer or donating in order to help us rebuild PR. We will be hosting humanitarian rebuild trips throughout 2020.

Thanks to our volunteers from the US and the UK that made a total success our Reconstruye Q efforts held in 2018 and 2019. We have rebuilt 19 homes and counting….

We need food, water, water filters, and personal hygiene items plus any “camping” gear including tents, mats, portable showers, etcetera.

We give thanks to the many volunteers, supporters and sponsors of our efforts – #ReconstruyeQ – special gratitude to the members of the Puerto Rican and LGBT Diaspora from United States, Cuba, United Kingdom, New Zeland & Canada who continue to support our local efforts!