Local Donations For Puerto Rico Stuck In Limbo

Sep 29, 2017

Rhode Island and Massachusetts residents have amassed enough donations meant for Puerto Rico to fill nearly ten cargo ship containers.

But getting those donations to the island following Hurricane Maria is proving difficult. Organizations like The Salvation Army and American Red Cross have been primarily collecting monetary donations.

“But when it comes to food and water and diapers and things like that, they cannot wait,” said Ivette Solivan, President of the Puerto Rican Professional Association of Rhode Island.

Solivan is spearheading donation and relief efforts for the island. She said both The Salvation Army and Red Cross have told her they don’t have the resources available to take the cargo ship containers and deliver them to the island.  

The Red Cross says it takes time to sort out donations of items like food and supplies. The organization says they already have cots, food and blankets for people in Puerto Rico. But Solivan and other community organizers, say they’ve been in contact with people on the island, and argue aid isn’t getting to rural areas fast enough.

“They cannot wait a month, we cannot wait,” Solivan said. “There are people dying of hunger and thirst.”

Solivan, who only got in touch with her daughter and two granddaughters for the first time late this week, described relief operations as time sensitive.

“The island of Puerto Rico has no electricity-- therefore, the ATMs are not working, credit card machines are not taking any (cards),” Solivan said. “If you do not have cash, it’s going to be impossible to obtain a water bottle.”

Solivan plans on shipping the first container of donations Friday. She said she and three other members of her organization plan to travel to Puerto Rico to make sure the donations get delivered. They’re covering flight costs out-of-pocket.

It costs about $5,200 to ship a single shipping container. Solivan’s efforts come as images of similar cargo containers stranded in San Juan’s port flood television screens.

Shipping costs will be covered by some $8,000 residents in Rhode Island and Massachusetts have donated.