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How Can Families Help Puerto Rico Relief Efforts Today?


Since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in August, communities across the United States have rallied to conduct philanthropic campaigns. Many of these projects involve raising money or collecting donations to deliver to families in desperate need.

After Hurricane Maria, FEMA’s blue tarps covered the roofs of the vast majority of homes in Puerto Rico.

Alicia Diaz, associate professor of dance at University of Richmond, heard about the destruction from friends and family living on the island and immediately began planning a fundraiser with her colleagues in Richmond, many of whom were natives of Puerto Rico like her or had loved ones trying to restore their communities.

Diaz says individual projects and fundraisers are important, and the people of Puerto Rico appreciate the generosity of so many on the mainland. She adds that while many people know Puerto Rico as a vacation destination, it is time to look at the island from a new perspective.

“When people travel to Puerto Rico, it is important not to reproduce a tourism disconnected from the needs of the people and their efforts towards a sustainable future for the island,” says Diaz.

She says Puerto Rico would benefit from a new kind of tourist. Three things that American citizens traveling to Puerto Rico can do to help Puerto Rico:

1) Learn about about the colonial history of Puerto Rico and the United States, the Jones Act, the current debt crisis, and the austerity measures that have been implemented in Puerto Rico.

2) Support sustainable tourism facilities like Casa Sol Bed and Breakfast.

3) Engage with local Puerto Rican culture through sustainable, experiential, and community-based tourism like Local Guest.

To learn more about Puerto Rico, its history, the colonial relationship with the United States, the debt crisis, and the aftermath of hurricane Maria, visit Puerto Rico Syllabus.

Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family, including husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director. You can read Karen’s take on parenting her three daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey, also known as the women-children – in the Editor’s Voice.

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