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Leaders Share Experiences Serving Hurricane Maria Evacuees

Josue Mendez, Melanie Latorre, Rosa Cruz-Cordero

Two years since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, hundreds of thousands of residents have relocated to the United States mainland. This exodus represents one of the most significant movements of Puerto Ricans to the U.S. mainland in the island’s history in terms of both volume and duration. Stories of the migration experience have been shared in news publications following the disaster, many also mention the work of civic organizations that have committed to help them with the transition to the states.  At the Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans Diaspora Summit 2019: Rebuild Puerto Rico, Two Years after Maria: Challenges and Opportunities, we will hear from leaders who lead the civic sector’s response. At the Evacuees and Local Action panel, we learn about initiatives in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.

Peter B. Gudaitis is the Executive Director of the New York Disaster Interfaith Services. NYDIS is a faith-based federation of service providers and charitable organizations that work in partnership to provide disaster readiness, response, and recovery services to New York City. After Hurricane Maria, NYDIS set up in the Service Center located at the Julia De Burgos Center in East Harlem. NYDIS spent well into the millions to support this effort, including providing a clothing mart so that families are able to get brand new jackets, clothing and household goods. They also provided food, MetroCards and medical referrals for families.

President & CEO of the New Jersey Puerto Rican Congress, Inc. Lydia J. Valencia has spoken extensively on the concerns of the Puerto Rican community in New Jersey. The PRC works to fulfill its mission to serve the role as a statewide advocate for the Puerto Rican evacuees in New Jersey by planning, implementing and operating programs designed to improve their social economic and educational status.

Nilda Iris Ruiz serves as the President & CEO of Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha, Inc. The APM hosted many events including a resource fair to help Hurricane Maria evacuees from Puerto Rico in their continued recovery from the storm.

Betty Medina Lichtenstein is the Executive Director & Founder of Enlace de Familias, Inc.. Hurricane Maria evacuees arrived in Holyoke, Massachusetts with many challenges. They arrived without basic necessities such as food, housing or proper clothing for a New England winter. Many struggled with health issues and had difficulty finding work, housing, and schools for their children. In Holyoke, Enlace de Familias Resource Center was designated by the Commonwealth as one of 22 welcome centers for Puerto Rican self-evacuees. They assisted 13–23 families each day.

Join the conversation this Friday; RSVP here