A message from Miguel A. Soto-Class
Published on March 21, 2018
This week marks the six-month anniversary of one of the worst disasters in the history of Puerto Rico. Hurricane María brought about much trauma and devastation and now it is sometimes difficult to discern what was previously existing but unattended precariousness and what is the result of devastation brought about by wind and water.
Sadly, in many places in Puerto Rico it seems as if time has stood still and the storm passed just yesterday.
The Puerto Rico Recovery Fund has striven from the beginning to differentiate ourselves and to hold true to our values. This allowed us to be the first to move. We went directly to communities and non-governmental organizations overpassing the ineffective and, at that point, mostly catatonic government institutions. We emphasized work over publicity and self-congratulation. We bought our food locally so as to not harm the local economic ecosystem. And from the beginning, when it had yet to become fashionable, we dedicated time and resources to the long-term recuperation and renovation of the island both through the CNE Growth Commission and through the founding of the Resilient Puerto Rico Advisory Commission.
We are proud of what we have helped accomplish. We were able to set up within days of the hurricane a sophisticated logistics operation with ten distribution centers and corresponding satellites all over the island.
This in turn allowed us to deliver almost four million pounds of critical supplies, to coordinate thirty humanitarian flights, ship and distribute almost one hundred containers, save hundreds of jobs through our small business grants, reignite many closed non-profit organizations, set up mobile service centers with satellite Wi-Fi for FEMA applications, and impact hundreds of thousands of people in each and every one of the seventy-eight municipalities in Puerto Rico. Not bad for a small group of young people who at the time labored without power, gasoline and telecommunications.
We also activated our office in Washington, DC, spending hundreds of hours coordinating and undertaking dozens of meetings in Congress and with Executive Branch agencies.
Puerto Rico now enters the second act of this great tragedy. It is the period where, as we have seen repeatedly in disasters all over the world, the same army of experts, consultants and celebrities come. It is important that as we gratefully receive the help that comes from all those with good intentions, we simultaneously remain alert for those who come for treasure and not for service.
I must admit to you that during these last six months it has been difficult to summon up optimism. But I must also tell you that we have never lost our enthusiasm. We continue to work, not because we see a light at the end of the tunnel, but because we don’t. We continue to toil not because it’s easy but because it is the right thing to do.
The Puerto Rico Recovery Fund is now expanding and creating a new line of work related to preparation for the upcoming hurricane season which begins June 1st. Hard to believe but that is just weeks away! We will be developing trainings and seminars for our distribution partners and others to draft preparedness plans, increase the resiliency of their facilities, develop business continuity plans for their organizations, and establish an overall better coordinated resource strategy. God forbid another storm hits Puerto Rico, this time we will be better prepared.
I never want you to forget that no matter how far you are, no matter what amount you contributed, this is your story. If you supported our work, whether by money, or sweat or prayers, then our accomplishments are your accomplishments.
We could never have succeeded in any of this had it not been for all of you and for the extraordinary team of Puerto Rico Recovery Fund staffers, volunteers and major partners that unselfishly dedicated so many endless hours to the effort, sometimes in the stifling heat, and many times in the deepest darkness.
Puerto Rico has new challenges and opportunities ahead. It will require from each of us an open but discerning mind and the willingness to come out of our comfort zones. There is no doubt in my mind that there are better days ahead for Puerto Rico. But it will not occur automatically or by magic. We could delay it, or indeed prevent it, if we don’t put in the effort.
I believe we are up to the task. Your generosity and support are the best evidence that we have.
¡Gracias, y recuerda siempre que Puerto Rico es UNA GRAN CAUSA!
Very truly yours,
Miguel A. Soto-Class
President and Founder
Center for a New Economy