Brethren volunteers help in Puerto Rico

Two teams work to prepare housing for future volunteers to restore Puerto Rican communities

BY BRETHREN NEW SERVICE | November 25, 2017

Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers work to repair a roof in Puerto Rico.
Credit: Bill Gay

Volunteers from Church of the Brethren congregations in the Continental U.S. have repaired church buildings and homes in Caimito, Puerto Rico during the past month. Two groups of volunteers, assisted with a project which received support from Brethren Disaster Ministries to prepare for future volunteer teams.

In addition to volunteer work, a container of relief goods and supplies for Puerto Rico is finally in transit. However, delivering “it has been a frustrating process” because of port delays and trucking challenges in Puerto Rico, reported Roy Winter, associate executive director for Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Workcamp at Caimito

The workcamps at Caimito Church and Community Center were organized by Shirley Baker, with Jeff Bruens, disaster project leader, providing construction leadership and other volunteers coming from churches in the continental US. These small but productive teams repaired the roof and ceiling at Segunda Iglesia Cristo Misionera, provided partial repairs to the Caimito Community Center that is affiliated with the church, repaired the Brethren House, and worked on homes in the area.

Additional work projects are being organized and planned for 2018, but details are not yet available.

Container of supplies

A 20-foot container of supplies left the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., Nov. 21, bound for Puerto Rico. The supplies were purchased and assembled weeks ago, but port delays in Puerto Rico, difficulty finding an available container, and the challenge of trucking supplies from the San Juan port to Bayamon Church of the Brethren delayed the shipment.

“The Puerto Rico Brethren have developed a distribution plan and are excited to receive these supplies, generators, canned chicken, water filters, and much more, valued at over $40,000,” Winter said. “The container also carries a complete set of construction tools to assist with home repair and rebuilding.”

A church-based response

Puerto Rico District, under the leadership of district executive Josť Otero, is organizing a church-based response to Hurricane Maria with support from Brethren Disaster Ministries staff and financial grants.

To date, more than $28,000 in grant funds have been sent to the Puerto Rico District, some coming from special donations received by several districts of the Church of the Brethren, and some through the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF). These funds are helping meet short-term and emergency needs for food, shelter, and supplies in the communities around each of the seven Churches of the Brethren in Puerto Rico.

The church boards of each of the seven congregations are assessing needs in their communities following the hurricanes, and providing case management. The assessments are scheduled to be completed by Dec. 1, leading to a detailed planning meeting between Brethren Disaster Ministries staff and district executive Otero. The Puerto Rico District board will meet Dec. 9 to further assist in response planning and approve a response budget for the next year.

Find out more about Brethren Disaster Ministries. Contribute financially to the Puerto Rico hurricane response by giving to the Emergency Disaster Fund.

-- Roy Winter, associate executive director of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries, contributed to this report.

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