Councilman helps repair homes destroyed by Hurricane Maria
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — For more than a year, Carmen Ortiz Colon’s home in the mountains of Orocovis, Puerto Rico, was constantly leaking after Hurricane Maria heavily damaged the property.
“It was difficult to keep anything dry, and we suffered a lot those first few months because we did not have electricity and we needed to use candles, but the rain would always get in the house, ” she said in Spanish during a phone call from her home in Puerto Rico.
Now she has a brand new roof and a dry home thanks to the efforts of Heart 9/11 and the New England Regional Council of Carpenters Local 336.
It’s been a year since Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria. Thousands fled to the US,many ending up in Mass.
“We are currently working with professional carpenters who volunteer their time and their skills to repair homes damaged by Hurricane Maria,” said Almarie Vivoni, project manager for Heart 9/11, “an expert-led, volunteer driven nonprofit disaster relief organization committed to a mission of rebuilding communities and rebuilding lives of individuals coping with disasters and related trauma” all over the world, according to its website.
Since arriving in Puerto Rico, the organization has facilitated repairs on more than 50 homes and completed roof replacements on more than 150.
Recently, Springfield City Council President Orlando Ramos, who started his career as a carpenter, joined fellow Springfield carpenter Carlos Melendez and other members of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters Local 336 to work on roof replacements for families still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in 2017.
“These are my brothers and sisters, and there was no way I was going to pass up an opportunity to go to my homeland and contribute to the rebuilding of Puerto Rico,” Ramos said.
Recovery efforts continue in Puerto Rico, where communities remain shattered one year after Hurricane Maria.
Vivoni said the people who qualify for help sustained damage to their homes, but not enough to receive full federal funding for new homes and repairs.
“We also help people who can’t get help, and we put a safe roof over their head,” she said. “As soon as they have a safe roof, they can receive help from other organizations.”
The volunteer carpenters not only worked on repairing the homes themselves, but also taught valuable skills to volunteers on the island who are a part of Heart 9/11′s mission to train locals to respond after natural disasters and tragedies.
“We have an apprentice program where we have already trained 20 people from the community to develop the skills to not only support themselves as carpenters, but to be ready to help if there is another emergency,” Vivoni said.
As for Ortiz Colon and her family, they are excited to celebrate the holidays in their home.
“We couldn’t really get new furniture because everything was being damaged by water every time it rained,” she said. “Now I feel like I have my home back. I am so grateful to God and to all of the wonderful people who made this happen.”
Ramos said it was a great experience to see Dona Carmen, (Dona a loving term for elderly women) walk into her home for the first time after the repairs.
“Dona Carmen embodies everything the Puerto Rican culture stands for,” Ramos said. “She was so humble and polite and very welcoming to all of us, and I’m so glad to have met her and worked on her home. I just wish I could have stayed longer and done more homes.”
Information from: The (Lynn, Mass.) Daily Item, http://itemlive.com