Effective, sustainable and innovative solutions for Puerto Rico.
1. Days of action.
On March 22 and 23, ConPRmetidos joined former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and a group of 25 former federal government staffers for two days of community-led action to repair and refresh areas of two public schools in Cataño, where almost 90% of the students live below the poverty line.
A special ¡gracias! to Yoobi, which provided classroom materials for 700 students, and to Walmart Puerto Rico, which donated two playground sets to replace ones lost to Maria. ConPRmetidos is further helping these schools by covering termite extermination costs, replacing damaged ceiling panels and looking for ways to solve problematic, rooftop water leaks.
Such joint efforts are emblematic of how impactful a helping hand can be to community leaders -- like those in Cataño -- who are rebuilding their communities from the children and the vulnerable up. They don’t have easy access to resources, but they don’t give up, they act. They solve. They drive forward as if the future depends on it… because it does.
By enabling a few dozen extra hands and providing tools and materials needed for their self-determined recovery efforts, an entire community further developed capacity and confidence.
2. Connecting with practical knowledge and experience for Puerto Rico's benefit.
Over 30 leaders from Puerto Rico's philanthropic, higher education, entrepreneurial and nonprofit sectors of the island visited New Orleans to learn post-Katrina lessons, aiming to apply New Orleans insights and successes towards post-María recovery on the island.
ConPRmetidos organized the trip with help from Friends of New Orleans and funding from the Skip Battle Foundation.
The delegation from Puerto Rico included CEOs of some of the island's most important foundations; the president, chancellor and deans of island universities; key executives from the island’s largest hospital chain and healthcare and biotech sectors; and entrepreneurial organizations, venture capital firms and nonprofits that are collectively leading post-Maria recovery efforts.
In New Orleans, the group examined the critical role of philanthropy, non-profits, neighborhood associations, universities, local government, and media in the Crescent City's recovery efforts.
They visited leaders and organizations recognized for their work in economic development, social innovation, entrepreneurship, sustainable building and green energy, and K-12 public school reform, including City of New Orleans Mayor Elect LaToya Cantrell, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, Idea Village, BioInnovation Center of New Orleans, Propeller, GNO Inc., Broadmoor Neighborhood Association, Posigen, New Schools for New Orleans, Inspire NOLA, Tulane University, Loyola University and NOLA Media Group.
"Puerto Rico needs a big leap forward. It is crucial we learn from previous disasters’ response and management in order to place innovation at the core of our recovery. We can help our island overcome this disaster, and strengthen its social and economic fiber along the way."
~ Mariely Rivera, Executive Director, Unidos por Puerto Rico
3. Listen and learn, then act.
A hallmark of ConPRmetidos' approach to how and where to act following last year's hurricanes has been to first and foremost, support needs assessment.
Prior to hurricane Irma, ConPRmetidos was already collaborating with ConnectRelief, supporting their efforts to quickly launch and scale up their virtual platform to connect those who need help with those who can provide it directly.
Their on-the-ground assessment efforts in weeks following hurricane Maria, when power and communications were almost totally lost island-wide, were critical to the provision of direct relief to dozens of isolated communities in some of the hardest hit corners of Puerto Rico.
Supporting ConnectRelief proved a valuable lesson for ConPRmetidos, one which we've worked hard to prioritize: Listen to what the communities are telling you is needed, learn what can these needs, and then act decisively:
- Puerto Rico's environmental degradation significantly worsened since Maria, as emergency needs for bottled water, batteries, prepared meals, household goods, and so forth resulted in massive volumes of waste that threaten citizens' health. As part of our commitment to support the development of a sustainable Puerto Rico, ConPRmetidos helped to fund an innovative recycling program developed by Basura Cero - in partnership with Walgreens stores, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Puerto Rico's Department of Justice - to tackle the danger posed by the improper disposal of the huge amounts of alkaline batteries found in products commonly used in post-disaster environments: flashlights, fans, radios, etc. The program was illustrative of the types of non-profit/public/private partnerships that can spring from our community's ability to creatively and jointly solve our challenges. #LongTermRebuilding
- Environmental conservation also requires shifting to alternative forms of energy. In order to provide vulnerable communities with a reliable energy source that will maintain the availability of essential services while preserving Puerto Rico's natural resources, ConPRmetidos is sponsoring Resilient Power Puerto Rico and the installation of solar power generation and storage systems in six community centers across the island. #PoweringUpPR
- Damage across Puerto Rico has been particularly acute for the small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) that are critical motors for the island’s sustainable recovery. In order to help ensure a growing economy, it is crucial to support those who via smart planning and tenacious execution, have managed to maintain operations during these complex times. ConPRmetidos will soon announce it is partnering with some of Puerto Rico's most respected businesses and non-profit organizations to specifically support SMEs. #LongTermRebuilding
These projects are models of how ConPRmetidos expects to successfully operate. Partner with those who are best prepared to deliver practical solutions that materially improve the quality of life of impacted fellow citizens. Work to empower communities, promote self-sufficiency and encourage collaboration among different sectors.