After breakfast, we heard the mayor of Cayey, Rolando Vasalez, speak. We had been told that because of Mr. Vasalez’s high efficiency in preparing for the storm, he had attracted national and FEMA attention. We were impressed with how humble he is, and James, the director of Group International (the mission organization) is very impressed with what the efficient way that he had addressed the disaster.
We got a tour of the downstairs of the stadium, where National Guard troops were serving to keep the peace and oversee distribution of foods. We also saw the board that details the progress of repair and restoration of water and electricity. Today is day 100 after Maria. Cayey, has 25% electricity in its homes, and not everyone has water.
The Mayor’s temporary conference room
Ground floor of the stadiium
We see a handful of people each morning apply here for help.
Hover on these pictures to see the captions.
We were told that we would be working in the district of Vegas. That’s right: Las Vegas. We caravanned to the community center there. James had told us that if we were following him, and if he ran a red light, to follow him, that he would pay the ticket. He said that here in Puerto Rico at an intersection the most aggressive person has the right of way. The driver on Team Ocala, Ed, learned to drive like a Puerto Rican very soon.
We met at the Community Center at Las Vegas. Behind the community center was a covered basketball court and a handful of people gathered around an outlet, charging their cell phones. Another little girl rode her bike with training wheels around. Amy, the coordinator of Group International did a double take when she saw a certain man on the court. She said it was Guillarmo, who she had been trying to reach for a while. Guillarmo’s wife is the president of this neighborhood, Las Vegas. Guillarmo came over and addressed our group and explained that in Puerto Rico, many people have trouble getting assistance from FEMA because they may or may not have title to their property, since often property gets passed from father to son without any sort of formal surveying/deed writing.
I’m not sure how this happened, but soon after that, some of our team was following Guillarmo’s wife, Rosita, in her car to her street. Some of the team cleared debris from the yard of a school and others went to her house. That team spent two days clearing debris from their house and stripping the walls, ceiling, and floor, then treating the black mold. Guillarmo stood in his house, obviously moved and emotional about the help that he was receiving. He said several times that he didn’t expect to have this work done on his house until April or May. He and his family have been living with his father.
Rosita is the artist; Guillarmo is the landscape artist. Their home is so beautiful!
The next day, some of us finished Guillarmo and Rosita’s house, and others went to Chuco’s house; he lived in the lower part of a formerly two-story house. The second story was blown down the mountainside, and now water leaked into his home. The crew scraped the damaged paint off the walls & ceiling, treated it for black mold, and tarped the “roof”—the floor of the second story—to keep out the rain.
Scraping damaged paint
Don is standing on what was once the second story.
Back at the stadium, filthy us drove the 15 minutes back. The ladies had first turn in the showers, and the men got their turn from 5:00 to 6:00.
Darlene fed us well, and then tried to host a movie night, but couldn’t get the movie to play, so we ate popcorn & chips and played pool.
We heard that Team New Jersey was working on Awilda’s family’s home—Awilda is the other lady in the kitchen at our stadium home. That home had been badly damaged by a mudslide, and the grandpa’s chicken coop had been nearly destroyed. That team cleaned up the debris of what used to be the chicken coop, and others on that team re-stucco’d the damaged wall. At dinner that night,
Misty and I taking a break. The view from Awilda’s house.
Marc, Jim and Frank stucco’ing the wall.
Hover on the pictures for the captions.
Team New Jersey told us what a mess that place was—so muddy and so much work left to do. So we were told that they needed another team to help them the next day. And Team Ocala was to be the ones to go. But first, Awilda’s family wanted to feed us. Not only Team New Jersey and Team Ocala, but the entire team of 30 people.
We were told what to expect at the church that we were going to be visiting. Music like Miami Sound Machine, and a sermon that would be in both Spanish and English.
So we all piled into cars and had a fantastic traditional Puerto Rican holiday meal—rice & beans, bbq pork, chicken, cabbage and carrot salad, and coquito to drink. Coquito is homemade rum/moonshine with fresh coconut milk. In a word: delicious!