How to Help Residents of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands Recover After Hurricane Maria

By Ayana Byrd Sep 21, 2017

Maria is the 13th named hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season and it brought devastation to a number of islands that were still trying to recover from Hurricane Irma. Two American territories, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, were in Maria’s direct path.

The storm hit Puerto Rico yesterday (September 20) and the entire island is currently without power. According to The New York Times, "Forecasters say Puerto Rico will see about two feet of rain by Friday, with as much as 35 inches in places." And as Colorlines previously reported, the island’s financial crisis—it declared a form of bankruptcy in May—has negativly impacted recovery efforts.

St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John—the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands—are experiencing massive structural damage and a widespread loss of electricity as a result of the current hurricane season. Maria hit St. Croix on Tuesday (September 19) night and Hurricane Irma struck St. Thomas and St. John on September 6. A curfew remains in effect on all three islands. As Colorlines reported, the Virgin Islands’ combined population of 100,000 permanent residents (76 percent of whom are Black) believe the federal government’s response has not been satisfactory, with one man saying the islanders were "the bastard step-children of America."

To help as these areas rebuild, consider donating to these groups, many of which have ties to local grassroots organizations.

Organizations Focused on Puerto Rico

Low-income communities of color "are often forgotten by reconstruction efforts, and underserved by insurance companies,” reads the website for The Hurricane Maria Community Relief & Recovery Fund. And for that reason, the organization is pledging 100 percent of all money raised to be used for immediate relief, recovery and rebuilding for the areas hit hardest by the storm. The fund works with the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) and is governed by a mix of grassroots organizations and Puerto-Rico based feminist organization Taller Salud. Donate here.

The Maria: Puerto Rico Real-Time Recovery Fund is managed by the nonprofit ConPRmetidos, a millennial-led organization that builds partnerships between private and public organizations to strengthen Puerto Rico’s economic development. The group is working to raise $150,000 to be used for food, shelter and water, with remaining funds to be applied to long-term recovery efforts. 

Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico has worked since 1985 for improved education, housing and economic development in communities across the island. In the aftermath of the storms, the org is now also focused on recovery efforts. Donate here.

Unidos Por Puerto Rico was created by the island’s First Lady as a response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Donations can be sent online and on October 1, there will be a telethon and concert to raise funds for those impacted by the storm. A map for donation dropoff locations is available here.

Wings of Rescue flies in after hurricanes and, as the group wrote on Facebook, “As soon as Puerto Rico airports are open we are prepared to send supplies for both people and pets in, and start flying dogs and cats out immediately, but we really need your support to save lives.” Donate to help the animal rescue mission here.

Organizations Focused on The U.S. Virgin Islands

Since 1990, the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands has brought scholarship and other community-building opportunities to the U.S. Virgin Islands. This week, it became an official hurricane relief charity, donating 100 percent of each gift to assist residents impacted by the storm. In addition, per the website, “In light of the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma on the USVI, current fundraising/programming efforts are focused on immediate relief and long-term multi-generation family and community revitalization initiatives.” 

The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) is a regional, inter-governmental agency for disaster management in the Caribbean. Members include the Virgin Islands, Barbuda and Dominica—all territories devastated by the recent storms. Donations to the  CDEMA Hurricane Relief Fund will be used to purchase relief supplies and support early recovery and rebuilding efforts. 

Former San Antonio Spurs basketball star Tim Duncan, who grew up on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, created the 21 U.S. Virgin Island Relief Fund when Irma hit the island. Now, in the aftermath of Maria, the fundraising goal has been increased to $5 million. Duncan matched the first $1 million in donations. 

The Women’s Coalition of St. Croix supports people impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault. It is collecting donations for those impacted by the hurricanes here. The group is also accepting care packages of toiletries (tampons, sanitary napkins, diapers and insect spray are especially needed) at the following address: Women’s Coalition of St. Croix, P.O. Box 222734, Christiansted, USVI 00822-2734

Organizations Benefitting Puerto Rico and The Virgin Islands

Islamic Relief USA, a nonprofit that opened in 1993 in California to alleviate suffering, hunger, illiteracy and diseases worldwide, was on the ground in Texas and Florida for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and is now working with local emergency teams and community groups. The org is collecting donations for long-term recovery for households and individuals affected by hurricane disasters.

Tom Joyner’s Black America Web Relief Fund was created after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and now focuses on individuals and families who need assistance as a result of publicly declared disasters. Donations can be made here—and those who are displaced or who are hosting people because of the storm can request financial assistance.