The damaging impact of Hurricane Florence revived for many the disturbing memories of Hurricane Maria and the destruction it wreaked on Puerto Rico exactly one year ago. Maria relentlessly battered an island already beaten by Hurricane Irma, and the tragic consequences of that unprecedented disaster continue to plague the place that I and millions more identify with as our family homeland.
While disaster relief is not our mission, Esperanza participated with several coalitions throughout this region that coalesced in support of our Puerto Rican sisters and brothers. Groups and individuals throughout this community raised funds and placed them with effective agencies on the ground to ensure maximum impact. We have been active participants in the Greater Philadelphia Long Term Recovery Committee. We collectively raised our voices to protest an inadequate and unjust federal response to Puerto Rico’s devastation. Plus Esperanza hosted a community meeting with Governor Ricardo Rosselló to bring updates and solicit the assistance of those gathered for the ongoing recovery activities.
Esperanza’s opportunity for direct service was found in assisting Puerto Rican evacuees who arrived in our community possessing little more than hope. We raised $50,000 for rental assistance, and our housing counseling staff hosted community forums and placed sixty-nine displaced Puertorriqueños in housing. Our cyber charter school quickly absorbed students who arrived in the middle of the term, staff created a bilingual “newcomer” curriculum, and we hired an additional teacher to help smooth the transition for these young people. Additionally, Esperanza College of Eastern University partnered with several local organizations to host pro-bono, legal clinics that helped 140 families register with FEMA and submit disaster relief claims.
As we enter year two of the rebuilding of Puerto Rico, Esperanza will continue to address the housing and educational needs of those who have been dislocated. We encourage everyone to continue to advocate for and support efforts that respond to the crisis that continues in la “Isla del encanto.”
Rev. Luis Cortes, Jr.
Founder & CEO