In this op-ed, writer Danielle Campoamor reacts to President Donald Trump’s latest remarks on Puerto Rico and Hurricane Maria, offering up ways to materially support the victims of the storm.
On Thursday morning, as millions of people along the East Coast prepared for Hurricane Florence to make landfall, President Donald Trump fixated on the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and denied the deaths of nearly 3,000 Puerto Ricans.
Trump lying about the unnecessary deaths of thousands of Americans — many of whom may have died as a result of his administration’s inability to adequately respond to Hurricane Maria and its aftermath — is not surprising. Instead, it’s simply an exclamation point at the end of a laboriously long run-on sentence comprising “very fine people on both sides,” “shithole” countries, NFL “sons of bitches,” and children in cages.
Americans who still value the principles our elected leaders claim this country was founded on should continue to be outraged by this president’s apathy and racism. But anger without action is immobilizing. A 280-character tweet or passionate Facebook post condemning this president’s lies cannot be the only step we, as concerned citizens, take. Expressing our indignation only to fixate on the next breaking news story, repeating a cycle of justifiable anger — these will not aid the Puerto Rican people. They are still in need of our help.
At the beginning of hurricane season, on June 1, a reported 11,000 Puerto Ricans were still without power. Ten months after the hurricane, Puerto Ricans in remote areas still didn’t have access to clean water, yet millions of bottles of water sit on a runway in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, untouched. It is clear this president will not right the wrongs of his administration, but there are concrete steps those of us who value all lives can take to help the Puerto Ricans still reeling from Hurricane Maria. We can, and must, turn our outrage into action, even without the power of a sitting U.S. president.
You can donate to a number of organizations that are continuing to help the Puerto Rican people recover from Hurricane Maria and prepare for any potential storms to come. The Hispanic Federation provides grants to more than 70 support and relief nonprofits in Puerto Rico, and through the UNIDOS Disaster Relief and Recovery Program, it has delivered millions of pounds of food, water, and other essentials to 78 municipalities, according to its website. You can also look through Charity Navigator to locate other nonprofits working to aid Puerto Rico and its people and assess the organizations prior to donating.
If you have the means, you can also visit Puerto Rico as a tourist and pump your money back into the island’s economy and infrastructure. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, tourism contributed to 8% of the total GDP in 2016, helping sustain 68,500 jobs. In June, New York Magazine reported that 50,000 people stand to keep their jobs as a result of tourism, and individuals visiting farmers markets and supporting local farmers can help bolster the local agricultural industry that was devastated as a result of the hurricane.
If you do visit Puerto Rico, you can volunteer while you’re there and spend your hard-earned money. Instituto Nueva Escuela, Amigos de los Animales, Para la Naturaleza, Visit Rico, and Habitat for Humanity all connect volunteers to areas of need.