On Wednesday, Puerto Rico suffered a power outage that could last up to 36 hours, due to its unstable power grid following Hurricane Maria. Here's how to help.
Hurricane Maria — the third-strongest hurricane to ever hit the United States — devastated Puerto Rico, and its power grid is still unstable. On Wednesday, Puerto Rico suffered an island-wide power outage — the first since the hurricane occurred last year, according to The AP.
The storm made landfall last September, cutting communications, flooding neighborhoods, demolishing homes, and wiping out crop fields. At its peak, Maria was a Category 4 storm with 155-mph winds, according to the National Hurricane Center. At least 112 people have died because of the storm, some are still homeless, and around 40,000 residents remain without normal electrical service (before the outage). And as a result of the outage, clean water will likely become harder to find, because water treatment plants connect to the electricity grid and rely on consistent energy.
It could take 24 to 36 hours to restore power to everyone on the island, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority told The AP, adding that it was prioritizing hospitals, water pumping stations, and San Juan's International Airport.
You might be wondering how to help.
According to The Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI), donating money is almost always the best way to give aid. Before sending material goods (like blankets, food, or toys), the CIDI recommends confirming with relief organizations there is a real need for them. If you want to assist in person, nonprofits both international and local are looking for volunteers.
Below you'll find a list of reputable Puerto Rico-based charity organizations to donate to, followed by larger nonprofits that operate on a national or global scale.
Note: It is not clear whether all these organizations will spend 100% of donations received on hurricane relief and associated expenses. But in past large-scale disasters, they have given high percentages of donations directly to victims, especially if there is a specific fund set up. To avoid scams, it's always good to research a group before donating by checking scores from independents groups like Charity Navigator and Charity Watch.
The United Funds of Puerto Rico
The Fondos Unidos de Puerto Rico is working with the Red Cross and United Way on relief efforts, including an emergency hotline service. The group was started by Beatriz Rosselló, the first lady of Puerto Rico.
Puerto Ricans in Action
Several local charities and food banks are partnering to raise $10,000 through the Puerto Rican Hurricane Relief Fund.
Money raised will be given to Puerto Ricans in Action, a Los Angeles-based Puerto Rican group. They will then distribute the funds among local nonprofits to pay for food, medical supplies, clothing, social services, and other resources.
Friends of Puerto Rico
Last September, the organization also announced that it will raise additional funds to rebuild centers run by the Boys and Girls Club in San Juan, Bayamón, Carolina, Loíza, Isabela, Arecibo, Mayagüez, Aguas Buenas, and San Lorenzo.
The Center for Popular Democracy
The Center for Popular Democracy — located in Brooklyn, New York — has launched the Community Fund for Aid and Recovery of Hurricane Maria, which is focusing on aid for low-income communities of color, women, and girls in Puerto Rico.
Food Bank of Puerto Rico
The Food Bank (Banco de Alimentos) of Puerto Rico is asking for monetary and non-perishable food donations to distribute to Maria victims.
Feeding America, an organization based in Chicago, is also partnering with the food pantry. You can donate through either organization.
Habitat for Humanity of Puerto Rico
The Habitat for Humanity division in Puerto Rico is fundraising to rebuild homes and neighborhoods on the island.
Information on how to donate via wire transfer is on its Facebook page. The organization told Business Insider late last year that it is having trouble access the internet, due to down power.
GoFundMe and ConnectRelief
Like GoFundMe, ConnectRelief is an online discovery platform that compiles information about relief efforts in Puerto Rico. The platform was started by a Puerto Rican nonprofit, and is working with other local Charity organizations, including ConPRmetidos.
Founded in 2003, GlobalGiving is a funding platform that helps people find causes they care about. Users select projects they want to support, make a contribution, and get regular progress updates.
The platform is hoping to raise $2 million for Maria victims through a relief fund, which will go toward emergency supplies like food, water, and medicine, in addition to longer-term support for recovery and rebuilding efforts.
Convoy of Hope
Convoy of Hope is a faith-based nonprofit that works to fight hunger around the world. Founded in 1994, the Springfield, Missouri-based charity also responds to disasters.
The group is sending teams to work with local partners and FEMA to distribute emergency supplies in Puerto Rico. The organization is asking people to donate on its website.
Heart to Heart International
Heart to Heart International is a humanitarian organization that aids millions of people in more than 60 countries (including the US) every year. The Kansas-based nonprofit enlists volunteers and works with local organizations to make a high impact on the communities it serves.
It is mobilizing medical teams in Puerto Rico, and is asking for donations.
All Hands Volunteers
All Hands Volunteers works to address the long-term needs of communities affected by disasters. Over the last 12 years, the organization has enlisted over 39,000 volunteers who have helped 500,000 people worldwide.
The group has set up a relief fund, which concentrates on getting medical and water supplies to Hurricane Maria victims.
Since its founding in 1979, Americares has provided more than $13 billion in aid to 164 countries, including the US. It is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut and specializes in addressing ongoing health crises.
Americares is asking people to donate money to pay for medicine and emergency supplies — donations can be made online via this direct link.
Direct Relief is California's largest international humanitarian nonprofit organization. It provides medical assistance to help people affected by poverty and disaster in the US and around the world.
Direct Relief is shipping emergency medical supplies, including items like antibiotics, surgical devices, and wound-care products, to Maria victims.
If you have additional recommendations of local relief funds or organizations for hurricane-affected areas, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.