Hurricane Maria has wreaked havoc and tragedy on the island and United States territory of Puerto Rico. The death toll from this catastrophic natural disaster continues to climb. As of October 13th, the death toll was 45.
Three weeks after the hurricane struck Puerto Rico, the majority of the island is without water and electricity. At this time, approximately 84% of the island is without power, about half of residents have no working cellphone service (virtually cutting them off from the rest of the world) and just 63% of the residents have access to clean drinking water.
Project HOPE in Puerto Rico
The United States government has received much criticism in its handling of this natural disaster. Prospects of recovery seem bleak. However, this does not stop one scrappy charity from doing everything it can to improve the situation in Puerto Rico. The charity that you may have never heard of but is making an impact in an effective, powerful way is called Project HOPE.
What is Project HOPE?
Project HOPE was founded in the United States in 1958. The name HOPE stands for Health Opportunities for People Everywhere. The organization started with the SS HOPE, which was the very first peacetime hospital ship that traveled around the world to deliver medical care and training to native people. After stationing in countries such as Indonesia, Peru, Ecuador, Guinea, South Vietnam, Nicaragua, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Jamaica and Brazil, the SS HOPE finally retired in 1974.
Throughout Project HOPE’s history, they have been committed to, “providing lasting solutions to health problems with the mission of helping people to help themselves.” Today, Project HOPE provides health education, medical training and conducts humanitarian assistance programs in over 35 countries. According to their website, Project HOPE “delivers essential medicines and supplies, volunteers and medical training to prevent disease, promote wellness, respond to disaster and save lives around the globe.” The organization focuses on natural disasters and health crises, infectious diseases, chronic diseases, maternal, neonatal and child health, and health policy.
According to their website, 90% of their expended resources go towards supporting these causes. Charity Navigator has given the organization a 4-star rating with 93.2 out of 100 score.
Two notable programs that Project HOPE has been apart of in order to recover from natural disaster is Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. Right after Hurricane Katrina, Project Hope sent volunteer medical response teams to the Gulf Coast to treat the people affected. The organization did the same thing right after the devastation of the earthquake in Haiti. Today, Project HOPE is prepared and equipped to be on the front lines of sending relief to Puerto Rico.
What is Project HOPE Doing in Puerto Rico?
Hours after the White House declared Puerto Rico a “disaster” zone, Project HOPE released a statement that they would be deploying an emergency response team to the people of Puerto Rico.
The organization is going door to door in the devastated island to ensure the wellbeing of the residents. Often, Project HOPE discovers many patients who are battling critical illnesses, cancer, and other disabling diseases.
These individuals are usually without running water, electricity and medication. In these cases, Project HOPE exhibits their bootstrapping, genuinely committed way of caring for individuals.
They report the medical emergency back to their offices in Virginia and pull out their rolodex of companies and people with, as Vice President Franklin Guerrero describes, “oversized hearts”. Project HOPE’s contacts, which are often pharmaceutical companies and individuals, donate the necessary medications.
The organization aims to fully utilize all available resources and is constantly using creative problems solving skills. Guerrero states it this way:
“We model ourselves on the scrappiest of entrepreneurial businesses. Partly this means treating every dollar as if it is ours, but also it means focusing on resources beyond money. Many who contribute to Project HOPE contribute their medical expertise, or supplies, or space on their company jets, or their creativity. We’re like a small business where every expenditure has to be accounted for and every dollar has to pay for itself, except that our goal is to put ourselves out of business—to get our constituents on their feet and self-sufficient as soon as possible.”
For Guerrero, Hurricane Maria is an incredibly important undertaking not only because it aligns with the charity’s mission, but also because of the personal attachments to the island:
“I grew up and was educated in Puerto Rico, and have always been very optimistic about the outlook for the island. To watch it be brought to its knees by a CAT 5 storm, one of the worst storms to hit the U.S. in recorded history, after having its infrastructure pre-weakened, so to speak, by Irma… it’s like one of the stories we had only heard about, of storms and the damage they wrought a hundred or more years ago. It is a massive and urgent situation, and one I feel both blessed and obligated to assist with.”
Project HOPE has delivered teams of nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians, and mental health specialists to provide emergency healthcare. Because of the continual shortage of clean drinking water and power, there is a pervasive lack of proper hygiene and sanitation on the island. This further contributes to the health implications of the residents of Puerto Rico.
This organization is leveraging all of its resources and training to provide relief during this disaster. However, they could still use our help.
How Can We Help?
Project HOPE is unique in that it does not only seek monetary donations. If you have money to donate, either one-time, monthly or on a scheduled basis, visit their website. However, if you want to be a part of their “rolodex” of people with “oversized hearts” and can offer medical supplies or similar gifts, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a medical, nursing, social work or similar type of degree and want to donate your services or expertise, visit http://www.projecthope.org/get-involved/volunteer/. Lastly, if you or your company own a private jet and wish to make a transportation donation, email Fguerrero@projecthope.org.