Puerto Rico needs help now

Hurricanes Irma and Maria ravaged Puerto Rico five years ago, unleashing the most environmentally disastrous natural catastrophes to strike the island since 1928. According to the RAND corporation, these two hurricanes entirely devastated the island’s electricity infrastructure, forcing the island’s inhabitants to rely on candlelight and flashlights to see their way through the darkness. With 95% of the island’s drinking water contaminated, Puerto Ricans found themselves yearning for fresh water. Nearly 3,000 people died as a direct result of the hurricanes, and many more were unable to receive the long-term healthcare that kept them alive due to the damage sustained by health facilities. 

It can be difficult for anyone to recover from a hurricane. But for Puerto Ricans, who were already experiencing economic and cultural strife before the hurricanes struck, recovering has been far from smooth sailing. And now, category four Hurricane Fiona is actively flooding Puerto Rico, continuing to lessen people’s access to electricity.

What we must acknowledge is that five years after two hurricanes, Puerto Rico continues to face long-term consequences with little aid from neighboring countries, and Puerto Ricans are now vulnerable to another natural disaster. Instead of observing from a distance, we must do our share as Christians to provide resources and aid for the sake of both Puerto Ricans and the island itself. 

For thousands of Puerto Ricans in the last five years, access to reliable energy has been limited, as well as access to safe drinking water and safe means to care for crops and livestock. Food prices have risen, exporting resources to the island has been difficult and job insecurity is as prevalent as ever, making it difficult for Puerto Ricans on the island to make ends meet. It’s a never-ending nightmare with no end in sight, and with Hurricane Fiona’s latest rampage, the nightmare doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon.

To help Puerto Rico recover, we must do everything we can, and we must do it fast.

The best way to help Puerto Ricans as their already unstable environment worsens is to be proactive in making sure Puerto Rico gets the relief it needs. We need to hold the governments of the United States and Puerto Rico accountable for providing aid to the island and step in if these governments are unable to do so. This time, we must be prepared to go above and beyond to provide relief directly when it is needed, both for the sake of Puerto Rican residents and the preservation of the island’s natural resources.

We could spend our time debating what went wrong in the reaction to the last two disasters and pointing fingers at who is to blame for Puerto Rico’s present predicament. Instead, we should try to guarantee that the mistakes of the past do not repeat themselves in the future. 

There is a widespread idea that our actions of charity must be great and flamboyant, but they don’t have to be. Whether it’s posting awareness messages on social media, contributing to non-profit organizations, or arranging food or clothing drives, every act of aid brings the island of Puerto Rico one step closer to recovery. To help Puerto Rico recover, we must do everything we can, and we must do it fast.

The distance is great, but our determination to fulfill one of Christ’s greatest commandments must be greater.

Given that Calvin’s Knollcrest campus is nearly 2,035 miles away from the island of Puerto Rico, it may seem like aiding Puerto Ricans is out of reach. However, as members of a Christian community, we must be reminded of our biblical responsibility to aid those in need, even if the distance is vast. The Bible is filled with calls to help our brothers and sisters, and these reminders are especially pertinent to the Puerto Ricans who are enduring, and will continue to endure, difficulties as a consequence of Hurricane Fiona. 

We have the potential to shape the narrative of Puerto Rican restoration and God wants us to do our part. Puerto Ricans are God’s children, according to the imago Dei principle, and we must be prepared to do our share to help his children. The distance is great, but our determination to fulfill one of Christ’s greatest commandments must be greater.