Hurricane Maria Relief
Answering the call for aid after Hurricane Maria, our team installed 4 rainwater harvesting systems in 4 remote communities of Puerto Rico.
This story begins one month after my son, Kai Wyn, was born. On September 20, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico with ferocity. The storm devastated the island. The power grid was destroyed, sewers overflowed into the streets, houses flooded and destroyed, potable water systems were contaminated, and people were killed. The island was a left in a state of despair and the people looked to the outside world for help.
Quick History of PR
In order to understand the situation on the island, one must attempt to understand the history and the people of Puerto Rico. After 400 years of Spanish Colonization, Puerto Rico was taken under 'military control' by the United States in 1898 and is still considered a 'territory' or 'commonwealth' of the United States. This leaves Puerto Ricans in a gray zone. For example, they must pay taxes to the US government, though they are not allowed to vote for our president. As a result, many people do not have faith that the US will support the people in times of crisis.
When Hurricane Maria hit, the Puerto Ricans reached out to outside sources for help. Crowdfunding went wild as government support was uncertain. Many people were fleeing the island in desperation, while others were stuck without a passport (passport offices shut down after the storm for many months).
The call for help was unanimous: Water, Food, Electricity
Initiation of the Project
Ramdesh serves on the board of directors for Sat Nam Foundation. Her heart is big, and so is her power to initiate a project! She contacted me shortly after the hurricane with a sense of urgency, "We have to help!" After researching the situation as best as we could and brainstorming our options, we were left with clear direction: water.
After all my years backpacking and living in the wilderness, I learned that water is the most important resource for my wellbeing. One can easily live weeks with minimal food and no electricity, though water is a daily necessity.
On a tropical island, water is a delicate resource. In certain conditions, disease can easily multiply and infect a large amount people quickly. This was the case in Puerto Rico. Strange water borne diseases were reported shortly after the hurricane, and people were struggling to find potable water.
The immediate response from large organizations was to send bottled water. Millions of plastic bottles were being shipped to Puerto Rico each week with little regard to the impact on the island and ocean.
Sat Nam Foundation took a different approach. We partnered with Isla Urbana (Mexican nonprofit specializing in rainwater harvesting) and Plenitud PR (Local nonprofit with a permaculture/rainwater harvesting project). Together, we created a plan to install 4 rainwater harvesting systems to communities that were without potable wate
By the Grace of God we connected with Marya Satya Prem. She is a Puerto Rican Kundalini Yogi who was excited to serve with us. She connected with community leaders in the mountains that were actively supplying communities up to 1000 people with water and food.
In collaboration with 30 artists, Sat Nam Foundation released the album Kirtan Aid: Chants for Hurricane relief. With the sales of the album and crowdfunding, we raised $30,000+ for our efforts. With these funds, we purchased 4 cisterns, plumbing material, gutters, material for cement platform, and funded the transportation to bring a team of volunteers from Isla Urbana to lead the installation.
After two weeks of hard work, we completed our mission! There are currently 4 complete Rainwater Harvesting systems functioning in Puerto Rico serving 3,000+ people in the communities Comerio, Aibonito, Loiza, and Buena Vista. After each installation, we made sure to educate people in the community about the use and care for the system. We have been in touch with community leaders since the installations, and received positive feedback from all.
Below is a collection of videos that document the specifics of the story as well as catch the mood of the crew and the situation in PR. Hope you enjoy!