If you were hoping Donald Trump's visit to Puerto Rico would elicit an outpouring of compassion and urgency from the tweeter-in-chief, you were probably disappointed by Tuesday's reports. From bragging about how much money the United States has spent on Puerto Rico to insinuating the tragedy unfolding there isn't a "real catastrophe," the president seemed oddly content to witness the widespread damage.
In Miami, meanwhile, volunteers and organizations are still working to assist. The South Florida community has mobilized and is committed to helping those affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. A number of charities and grassroots organizations have formed an ad-hoc supereffort to help Puerto Rico and other affected islands. They're cutting through the red tape and getting shipments to people faster than FEMA can.
Caribbean Resilience System (CRS) is composed of more than 40 organizations and community groups banding together to set up donation points and provide humanitarian aid. Michael Capponi, founder of Global Empowerment Mission, one of the many key organizations involved, tells New Times that CRS collectively has 25 years of experience on the ground getting the right relief where it needs to go.
Capponi is in a group chat with more than 100 affluent and well-connected individuals, including Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and representatives of DHL, which donated containers to Puerto Rico. The group has delivered more than 100,000 pounds of aid to those affected by Maria. “It takes all the aid groups coming together. We’re a team of special forces made up of private and grassroots efforts, so we can get there faster,” Capponi says.
The CRS set up the Community Emergency Operation Center at a warehouse at 535 NW 24th St., Miami, donated by Mana Wynwood. These efforts will be ongoing through October.
Sam Van Leer of Urban Paradise Guild, the oldest climate organization in Miami and a member of the Miami Climate Alliance, is working on logistics and inventory at the site. He says the effort is sending a series of containers through DHL to Puerto Rico, where they have their own distribution warehouse. “So we know the aid will be well protected there, which is key," Van Leer says. "The first shipment is 80,000 pounds,” a measurement that doesn't include water, he specifies. The shipments will be received as "high priority" by both DHL and FEMA.
The Caribbean Resilience Central Command Warehouse is also sending donations to the Keys and the Caribbean. Alison Thompson of Third Wave Volunteers and the rest of the CRS aid groups will be on the delivery ship to ensure proper and effective drop-off and distribution.
Dozens of local organizations are gathering funds and goods for areas affected by hurricanes, including the following:
The Caribbean Resilience System: Donation Items include milk crates to palletize gallon water jug donations, and basic necessities such as fresh water, nonperishable food, and toiletries. The organization does not need donations of towels, bedding, clothing, books, or perishable food. Take donations to 535 NW 24th St., Miami.
Global Empowerment Mission: To donate to relief for Irma and Maria victims, visit globalempowermentmission.org.
Third Wave Volunteers: Fund Maria relief and give solar light to Puerto Rico via crowdrise.com.
The Miami Foundation has three active hurricane relief funds. The U.S. Caribbean Strong Relief Fund specifically aids Caribbean islands affected by Irma and Maria, including Puerto Rico, Cuba, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Antigua and Barbuda.
Consulate General of Antigua and Barbuda has set up a warehouse at 9950 NW 17th St., Doral, to receive humanitarian/physical donations to aid in relief efforts for Antigua and Barbuda. Items are being collected for shipment by October 6. The consulate requests donations of Gatorade, Pedialyte, personal care kits, toothpaste, toothbrushes, tampons, soap, shampoo, water purification tablets, diapers, flashlights, batteries, small tents, sleeping bags, mosquito repellent, canned foods, first-aid kits, baby formula, baby wipes, plastic gloves, hand sanitizer, trash bags, towels, baby food, shoes (preferably sandals), T-shirts, shorts, blankets, and cots with mattresses. Please, no winter clothing. All items must be unopened or new. You can also donate to the consulate's GoFundMe campaign.
The Caribbean Resilience Central Command Warehouse needs volunteers to help sort and package donations to ensure they get to their destinations safe and efficiently. If you can dedicate four hours or more on a scheduled basis, you can become a volunteer staff member. Interested parties can find a calendar of shifts and further information at urbanparadiseguild.org.