In September, Puerto Rico was struck by a catastrophic hurricane—the worst natural disaster to hit the Caribbean on record. Hurricane Maria killed more than 500 people in the region and left many residents without access to food or safe drinking water, not to mention electricity and cellphone service. Five months later, the situation remains dire in many areas.
The IEEE Foundation is raising money for Project Juntos Podemos—which translates to Together We Can. The IEEE West Puerto Rico Section is working with Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) in IEEE to provide solar-powered lights and charging stations to rural communities in the interior of the island, where some people aren’t expected to have power for at least a few more months.
The Foundation has established the IEEE Puerto Rico Disaster Response Fund, with the goal of raising US $37,500 to complete the project. As of 1 February, more than $19,000 has been raised. You can help by donating online.
THE GREATEST NEED
Currently, the most pressing need is power for lighting and drinking water. Although some people have the resources to purchase portable generators, those in underserved communities are still living in darkness or using candles.
IEEE members who reside in Puerto Rico have banded together to help the most severely affected areas of the island through a two-step approach.
Once the first $12,500 was raised, the volunteers began phase 1—Project Brillo—which distributing solar-powered lanterns to individuals and families in a dozen rural towns. So far, the volunteers have distributed 130 lamps to 126 households. The next 30 lanterns are arriving in early February, with another 350 en route.
Once that project is complete, the volunteers will focus on phase 2—Project Oasis—a plan to develop structures about the size of a bus-stop shelter with four photovoltaic panels on top. They plan to equip the structures with a battery box, electrical boxes, electronic components, an LED lamp, and a refrigerator. Residents can use the structures to charge their cell phones and other electronic devices, while the refrigerators can provide safe storage for medications and other perishables. Each structure costs about $6,250 to build.
The supplies for this project arrived earlier this month at the University of Puerto Rico, in San Juan, and the shelters will be deployed no later than mid-March. However, additional funds—about $18,500—are needed to fully fund this effort.
Visit the Project Juntos Podemos Facebook page for photos and updates.
Karen Kaufman is senior manager of communications for the IEEE Foundation.