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Hispanic Heritage Month 2022 : Leaders In Times Of Disasters

On Hispanic Heritage Month, we commemorate the history, culture, impact, and influence of Hispanics in the American culture. This year Puerto Rico and Florida were ravaged by hurricanes. We shifted our focus to nonprofit leaders that are leaving their mark by helping communities navigate through the devastation, loss of life and survival. What is more impactful than saving lives and communities that will continue to prosper and contribute to the American society?

These Hispanic leaders are a few among thousands of Hispanic leaders making strides in the philanthropy sector.

Dr. Geraldine Bayron, Program & Services Director of La Fondita de Jesús.

Their mission is "To make a community with the homeless and other vulnerable populations, transforming lives and promoting dignified conditions, self-sufficiency and spiritual development for all".

What is your focus area and why?

We focus on the homeless and vulnerable communities, mostly in the San Juan Metropolitan Area; within these communities, we serve 61% of older adults (60+ y/o). Among the homeless or at-risk populations, we focus not only on the elderly but also on LGBTQIA+ young adults (18-24 y/o) because we have encountered that these two sectors are the ones that need to build a support network since either they don't have family or their families reject them for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

What is your organization doing right now to provide aid to people in Puerto Rico after hurricane Fiona?

La Fondita de Jesús immediately responded to the emergency by providing hot meals for more than 20 affected vulnerable communities in more than 7 municipalities. We provided more than 1,200 breakfasts and lunches to more than 1,000 families daily. We have also been taking care of homeless individuals in San Juan, providing showers, clothing, food, medical services and psychosocial services. For the communities we have been providing bottled water, emergency groceries, clothing / shoes, over-the-counter medicines, hygiene, and covid-19 prevention kits. We have served San Juan and neighboring municipalities but we have also gone to townships in the northern and central parts of the island that are still without electricity and that were underwater for a long time since nearby rivers flooded the areas. Also, our staff has been going to these communities providing medical and nursing services, social work and case management, health education, and mental health counseling, among other essential services. Many of the affected people we have visited in the communities are older adults with little or no support networks and with disabilities that make it difficult for them to go out and get the help they need.

It’s Hispanic Heritage month, why is it important to highlight the contributions Hispanics have made in American culture and how do you think nonprofits, including your organization, are part of that contribution?

This is pivotal! We must share all that we do and collaborate among sectors to collectively impact society. This way creating positive transformations that can help America embrace diversity and inclusion, strengthening our core values thus achieving social justice and equity for our culture. Nonprofits have the experience, expertise, and diverse perspectives to build stronger relationships with stakeholders that can advance equity, can plan for future emergencies, make informed decisions, and provide opportunities for growth as a more conscious and accountable society.

To support La Fondita de Jesús, click here.

Yanira Ocasio is the Executive Director of For Such a Time as This. Their mission is "To reach underserved communities through outreach and programming that seeks to improve the standard of living for families and individuals affected by natural disasters in Puerto Rico".

Since our beginnings in 2017 our mission has been to deliver love, faith, and hope to at-risk communities. It has been 18 days since hurricane Fiona passed through Puerto Rico, we have been hard at work going daily to the streets to provide hot meals. In the countryside, there are communities still without power or running water. That’s where we go to provide aid.

To us, it is a blessing to be able to dedicate our services to Puerto Rico. Hispanic Heritage Month is a very important time because, as Hispanics, we have been a blessing to the American community because we have been capable of working together without looking at our differences. Together, we are collaborating for the benefit and the blessing of our communities, no matter which community we are impacting. For us is important to bring a message of love, peace, and unity during these trying times in our world.

To support For Such a Time as This click here.

Amarilis Gonzalez is the Executive Director of Techos Pa' Mi Gente. Their mission is "Dedicated to the construction of dignified roofs and the rehabilitation of housing in communities affected by natural disasters. It contributes to improving the quality of life of the individuals who make up these communities. Promotes self-management and provides training in basic building skills to build resilience".

What is your focus area and why?

We rebuild roofs for families that haven’t been properly served after disaster. Those that have not qualified for help even in desperate need of a safe roof, a basic need of all humans. Paperwork has been put over the need in their cases but we see them and help them get on their way to recovery

What is your organization doing right now to provide aid to people in Puerto Rico after hurricane Fiona?

Since Hurricane María, Techos Pa’ Mi Gente has been rebuilding the roofs of families whose homes were damaged. But since Fiona, we have received a huge influx of cases. We’ve set out to various parts of the islands to visit families and assess their situation and immediate needs. Through this process, are discovering more and more families in desperate need of help, and not just with the structure of their homes.

A large percentage of the island is still without power. For some, this means they do not have access to water. After this realization, we sent out requests island-wide to donate basic needs like food, water, clothes, hygiene items, rain boots, and first-aid kits initially after the hurricane, and have since then received donations daily from strangers across the island and even from the states.

These donations are being distributed to municipalities that are most affected by the hurricane.

As we progress through recovery, we are also developing systems that allow us to serve roof cases faster so as to lower the number of families on the island without homes.

This hurricane definitely made our job more difficult and set us back further in our mission. But the support we’ve received from the community for and wide has given us hope for a faster recovery.

It’s Hispanic Heritage month, why is it important to highlight the contributions Hispanics have made in American culture and how do you think nonprofits, including your organization, are part of that contribution?

Representation is key to motivation. An example of all we have accomplished and how we can contribute to the community's well-being and self-management.

Non-profits are born from the base of communities. Know the needs and how to fully attend them. We learn fast from previous experiences and put resources at the service of those most vulnerable.

In this sense, non-profits contribute to social well-being, not only, through the direct service provided, but also, as inspiration to others on all we are capable of doing. Promoting resilience, giving hope, and opening doors to further community-based initiatives.

To support Techos Pa' Mi Gente click here.

Dr. Karen Caraballo is the Chief Executive Officer of Puerto Rico Rise Up, their mission is "Empowering and uplifting the people of Puerto Rico to achieve equitable opportunities and secure a sustainable future through unity.

“We are stronger together.”

What is your focus area and why?

We are delivering essential items and food across the island of Puerto Rico to vulnerable communities impacted by the hurricane.

What is your organization doing right now to provide aid to people in Puerto Rico after hurricane Fiona?

Since Hurricane Maria 5 years ago, Puerto Rico Rise Up has been on the ground helping the most vulnerable communities on the island. First, in the acute phase after the storm and the past years, we have continued to help in long-term recovery efforts and have been actively present and providing help through COVID, earthquakes, and now Hurricane Fiona.

Once again, we are collaborating with community leaders who are directly involved with those in need and can deliver what they need straight to their hands.

It’s Hispanic Heritage month, why is it important to highlight the contributions Hispanics have made in American culture and how do you think nonprofits, including your organization, are part of that contribution?

It's important to highlight our contributions because Hispanics are the largest minority in the U.S. Based 2020 Census data, there are 62.1million Latinx/e living in the United States. Despite being the second-largest racial or ethnic group, there is still a lack of representation of Latinx/e at every level of our society due to multiple systems creating and perpetuating inequality and injustices.

Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to bring visibility to who we are, what we do, and how we contribute to society. During this month we celebrate our "cultura", accomplishments, stories, values, but also educate others about our impact and influence in the U.S.

Like in other areas of our society, Latinx/e non-profits leaders continue to face challenges, often struggling to find funding and a seat at the table. As non-profit Latinx/e leaders, sometimes we have to bring our own seats to the table and sometimes bring the table too!

I firmly believe that once we have a seat at the table, we have a social responsibility to share opportunities, elevate the voices, and amplify the issues in our communities. That is our commitment to our community leaders and vulnerable communities in Puerto Rico. We acknowledge and value their contributions. We take our responsibility seriously and fight for equality and justice in our communities.

To support Puerto Rico Rise Up click here.

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