This years hurricane season has been absolutely relentless. It started with Harvey's destruction in Texas and soon after, Irma, Jose, and Maria charged through the Caribbean and up the east coast of the United States. Meanwhile, Mexico has suffered multiple earthquakes that have resulted in hundreds of deaths.
We at iTi have fully felt the impact of these disasters. We are a language company with diverse employees with familial backgrounds from many of these regions and work with translators on a daily basis in affected areas.
The most recent catastrophe from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is especially near and dear to our hearts. Our owners are Puerto Rican and many of our employees are as well. I, myself, am not originally from the island but having spent much of my life regularly visiting and spending time with family down there, I feel an immense connection to the island and consider it a second home.
I know I am not alone. I know plenty of people in the States who are second generation Puerto Ricans and frequently visit family that live on the island. Did you know that there are an estimated 4.9 million people of Puerto Rican origin residing in the United States mainland? That is greater than the population of Puerto Rico itself, which was 3.7 million in 2011 (Pew Research Center).
The entire island of Puerto Rico has been without power with very close to zero communcation access for at least 24 hours. Very few have been fortunate enough to have some intermittent contact.
Although we have seen a small, yet steady stream of photos and videos come in, it seems that the news has minimal updates. It's heart breaking and extremely painful not being able to reach your loved ones. It's heart breaking and extremely painful to see photos of the island and town you consider a home completely destroyed. It's even worse when you learn that the Guajataca Dam, in our family's hometown of Quebradillas, a lake you have driven by countless times, has breached and is nearing failure.
We have seen destruction on new levels this past month & it has been incredible to see the people of the North America and the Caribbean come together to support the areas who need it. Texas, Mexico, Florida, the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Barbuda, countless small islands throughout the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico.
As I write this, Mexico has just suffered another 6.1 earthquake in Oaxaca, likely an aftershock from one of the previous earthquakes. While the scene in the Caribbean is awful, Mexico is also struggling and needs support more than ever. We've lost contact with several translators in Mexico over the past week and our thoughts and prayers go out to them and all other families struggling to make it through this tumultuous time.
There are so many places that currently need help. There are countless charities and relief funds to contribute to. If you can donate, it is very much needed, but if not, we ask that you keep these affected areas in your thoughts & prayers.
Mexico and the Caribbean islands are seen as vacation destinations but they are so much more...and they need our help.
How To Help
I consulted with my great friend, Hannah Howroyd, Senior Development Associate for Physicians for Human Rights in New York City. She advised the following:
- Ensure the organization has a secure payment guarantee on the donation page
- The organization should say what percent of their budget goes to program services vs salaries and management. Anything above 80% is good. Especially for emergency relief, you want to make sure the money is getting to the actual destination and not the office rent.
- A Charity Navigator seal on the donate page means that Charity Navigator investigates and rates them which is a good way to determine how legitimate the organization is (4 stars is the best and 3 stars is still good!)
She also added, "you either want people already in action (Project Hope) or funds that will go directly to the local organizations (Hispanic Federation)" and based off this criteria we settled on the following organizations to support at this point in time.
Another barrier to relief efforts that is often overlooked is how responders communicate with people that speak various languages. Often times, emergency crises face a shortage of interpreters. Translators Without Borders works to fight this by providing language service support to areas in need.
There are countless relief funds being set up by people and organizations across the globe including well known Puerto Rican celebrities such as Ricky Martin, Jorge Posada, and Daddy Yankee. There are also plenty of funds set up to help other affected areas as well as international funds that support ALL areas of disaster. If you wish to contribute, do your research and find what resonates with you.
Being completely cut off from our islands, we feel this is one small way we contribute. To spread awareness and support those who wish to help but are not sure how. We stand united with all those going through this difficult time. Thank you for reading and blessings to all!