This report outlines the work accomplished from May 20 through June 20, 2018

May 20–26, 2018

The team landed in Puerto Rico on Sunday, May 20. The following day was spent meeting our gracious host in, Maricely, in Salinas and visiting the sites of our projects to asses what was to be done on the days to come.

Tuesday and Wednesday was dedicated to Sgt. Santiago, who had lost the roof to his family home during the hurricane. The process included removing the temporary tin roof, to be replaced by wooden beams and plywood that would act as a mold for when the new concrete roof was to be poured. During the two days of labor, we became acquainted with Santiago and his family, including his mother-in-law and 18-month-old son. His mother-in-law confided in us that ever since the hurricane back in September, she had lost many things. Among these things were her kitchen, appliances, and her fruit-bearing trees on the property. Yet most importantly, she had lost her hope that one day their lives would return to normal and they be as they were before Hurricane Maria. As we were leaving their home on the second day, the molds finished and in place, she pulled us aside and told us that we had returned her hope. With the roof back on her home, she would finally be able to clean and bring in new appliances and recreate her home from the mess that Maria had left behind. She told us that life was beginning to look a little brighter.

On Thursday our host brought us to the home of Don Alejandrino, a man with no family to help him and no physical ability to help himself. We spent a long day in the sun, humidity, and bugs replacing the back door along with the back walls of the house. The team had to find materials to work with, as there were none on-hand. Supports were put up and the team got to work putting on the new siding along with a newly salvaged door. While this gentleman spoke no English, we were still able to get the work that needed to be done, done. After we had finished and were packing up to head back to our host’s home, Alejandrino communicated to our host that he was very pleased and we were always welcome to return. The reality of the situation is that this man would have gone on indefinitely without a back door and with a large section of his wall completely missing had we not been able help him.

Friday and Saturday were spent making a water-damaged house livable for a woman who needed a place for her parents to live. Currently, while the house is under repair, the woman’s mother and father are forced to live separately due to lack of space in homes. The woman’s father told us that he could not wait for the house to be finished because he missed his wife. The hurricane caused the sea to flood the entire home. Our job was to remove and replace the vinyl flooring along with taking down the damaged parts of the ceiling. The ceiling had been damaged when a large tree fell over it during the hurricane. The woman had since replaced the concrete roof but left the removing of the loose concrete on the ceiling to us. It took an entire two days to remove loose concrete and remove the water-damaged vinyl flooring. The glue underneath the vinyl had begun to grow mold and that was a big concern that the team had to tackle before new flooring could be put down. The new vinyl flooring had to be put off until a later date when the team could return to Salinas, to ensure that the room was completely dry and mold would not resurface in the future. The house is back on track to being repaired so the family can finally reunite. The woman graciously cooked us lunch each day, telling us it was the least she could do for us as we were helping them.

The one thing that stands out to me, as far as the first week goes, is that every person or family we have managed to help has been resoundingly thankful, and that’s what truly makes it all worth it.

May 27–June 2, 2018

On Sunday, May 27, the team returned to the home of our other host, Parrish. Parrish owns a retreat in Rio Grande called Elemental Eco Retreat. We were to spend the upcoming week helping him to take care of his plantation because helping out the local economy and small businesses is part of our mission.

Monday and Tuesday were set aside to dig out the long winding driveway to the retreat. With machetes in hand, the team cut back the jungle vegetation that was attempting to claim the driveway as its own. While hacking away at jungle vine for two days, the team also uncovered an extra couple of feet of the driveway on each side, thus widening the width of the driveway. It was a long couple of days in the sun for the team, but seeing the reaction of Parrish and his parents at how well the driveway was on its way to looking, made the days worth it.

Thursday and the few days that followed were spent doing other work to care for the plantation. The activities included lending a hand laying the cement foundation that would support a new water tank. After the tank was in place, a team member worked on repainting the wall around the tank.

Team members spent more time wielding their machetes and caring for plantain trees that were beginning to be taken over by other vegetation, not to mention the dreaded jungle vine. Two team members also spent a day using weed whackers to clear the grassy areas of the retreat.

Power washing the front gate of the retreat and then painting it various colors on the days to follow. Before paint could be applied to the arch of the gate, the stucco had to first be repaired and allowed time to dry.

June 3–9, 2018

The team thought it best to split up for the week.

One team member was to remain in Rio Grande to continue work on the plantation. The other two team members returned to Salinas to finish installing the vinyl flooring of the woman’s water damaged home. The two team members in Salinas spent June 4–6 replacing the vinyl flooring. Without wasting valuable work time, the two members returned to Rio Grande the following day.

Friday and Saturday were spent continuing to widen the driveway by clearing out the jungle on either side of the driveway, along with removing dirt and mud that were covering the driveway and thus making it dangerous due to the steep incline of the driveway.

June 10–19, 2018

Sunday was the day for cleaning more jungle vine and debris from the grounds of the plantation.

Each member of the group helped to paint on Tuesday. The gate will be finished with one more coat on the back side. Tuesday was also a day for preparation. In preparation for a greenhouse behind the building that houses the main kitchen, an old enclosure had to first be torn down and carried away. The team worked to untangle the mess of chicken wire left by the previous owner. One thing can be said about the previous owner, when he built stuff, he built them to last. Which made the deconstruction that much harder for the team.

Wednesday was an extension of Tuesday and more. This is because Wednesday called for more deconstruction of the mess of chicken wire where the greenhouse is to be built. The final coat of yellow paint was also applied to the front gate today. With paint on our minds, the team began to paint the building that houses the kitchen, aka the air house. The variety of projects throughout the day give options for the team to keep focus and get more done!

June 20, 2018

This was our travel day home. As we drove to the airport we reflected on how much we had learned, how much we had grown, and how Puerto Rico would always be a special part of our lives. Thank you OpenWorld Relief for this great opportunity!