This weeks meeting is to highlight the work our member Gene Gaines did with Rotarians in Puerto Rico.

Report on Joint Rotary Virginia — Rotary Puerto Rico emergency project

 This was a joint emergency relief project between Rotary District 7610 Virginia and Rotary District 7000 Puerto Rico.

Three hundred portable solar charger-lights in two models totaling 500 pounds were purchased and shipped by air to Puerto Rico.

Project goal was to identify items that would be critical to Puerto Rico a month after the hurricane, purchase the items, rush deliver to Puerto Rico, and through Rotary Puerto Rico deliver the items to those of the 78 municipalities on the island that were expected would be without power for weeks.

We asked the advice of Vint Cerf, VP of Google who has proven to be a good resource in disasters, and Ramon Morales, a Puerto Rican native who was an officer in the Internet Society in Puerto Rico and headed several electronics companies. Their advice was that they expected cell service would be restored within a few weeks on the island, particularly with Google augmenting cell service with Project Loon (high-altitude LTE cell service balloons) — but electrical power was expected to be out over most of the island for 6 months or longer. They recommended there would be widespread, severe need for solar-charged lights and for solar chargers for cell phones. Their prediction proved correct.

Cerf recommended a solar electricity expert. He recommended “d-light” solar brand, based on his experience in Africa.  We met with Don Wellen, District 7610 emergency services coordinator, reviewed the need, the products and distribution plan. Don approved the project. Rotary District 7610 Foundation quickly released the $10,000 emergency funds for the lights. We essentially bought out the U.S. supplier, and through a friend at UPS air-shipped the 300 units to San Juan, to be held outside the normal freight delivery system for pickup by Rotary Puerto Rico.

UPS held the 300 cartons at the San Juan airport. The Governor of Rotary District 7000 Puerto Rico and the President of Rotary San Juan arranged to pick up the shipment. That weekend, Rotarians from the 20 Rotary clubs throughout the island met and distributed the lights, with the objective of delivering 10 lights to each of the Puerto Rico municipalities still without power.

Summary. We succeeded in purchasing the lights and shipping to Puerto Rico for $8,600, and distributing the lights through Puerto Rican Rotarians –in the 3 week time frame we planned, less then a month after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico October 20, 2017

Photos below show the two light models and activities of Puerto Rican Rotarians handing out the lights. The text with the photographs is taken from emails received from Puerto Rican Rotarians to report on the distribution of emergency solar lights-chargers

Email from Jose Lucas Rodriguez

Governor, Rotary District 7000, Puerto Rico

Hi Gene:

Regarding the proposed project to prove laptop computers to needs veterans in Puerto Rico. This is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference with veterans. I talk with Director of Veteran’s Office of Puerto Rico Government, who is a Rotarian, and we can have a plan to distribute to veterans those computers, because they run a problem that offers computer training to this population and have records and contact of those take the course.

Also, we are talking to identify veterans that are enroll in University campuses around the Island to be recipient of those computers.

I wait for your response and what other information you need to go forward with this project.

Reporting on the solar lights project:

D-light Model S300

D-light Model S100

Regarding solar lights and chargers, we had a meeting with Assistant Governors and Presidents of Rotary Clubs to give them the lights, and they are delivering them to the different towns to given to community leaders.

Also we are making impacts in communities like Utuado in where community leaders participate with us identifying more affected people in specific community.

They recommend delivering lights to specific people that really need them.

For example, a mother that lives alone with two young kids with disabilities.

Elderly people that does not have light and live alone in remote areas.

On the photos, community leaders go with us to identify residences where we deliver the lamps to Rio Abajo and Rio Arriba communities near Dos Bocas Lake in Utuado.

I think we make the difference for those people who received the lights. The mother with the two disabled children thanked us because the children were terrified in the night. With electricity off across most of the island, the nights are very dark, children are frightened and can scream. With our solar-charged lights they can sleep.

Email from Ken McGrath

President, Rotary Club San Juan, Puerto Rico

For your information, I have attached photos of some of the activities that our club has been involved with during the last few weeks,

The first two photos are of a very poor community in San Juan called “Hills Brothers”.   Our club arranged for the delivery of food, and solar powered lights and cell phone chargers.  The lady with a white t-shirt, Carmen, is the community organizer with several Rotarians (I have a blue shirt).  Carmen is a real leader and everyone in the community is relying on her leadership skills to obtain food and other needed supplies.  She very much appreciated the solar charger and gave another one to her assistant.

The third photo is of work being done by volunteers to replace a roof on a damaged home.

Our club is considering supporting an effort to repair other damaged homes in the area as well. About 37 houses in this community were completely destroyed by the hurricane.  This community has 2000 people which have mostly been bypassed by the relief organizations and needs help to recover.

The fourth photo is Carmen with a solar charger.

The fifth photo is in a community called “Cupey Baja” which is very poor.  The picture shows a community organizer and residents is in front of a roof which was blown off of their community center.  I visited homes in the area with four other Rotarians that had no electricity or water.  It is very dark at night and the solar chargers were really appreciated.

FEMA has mostly ignored this area since most residents do not have deeds to their properties, a requirement of FEMA to provide aide.  We gave them solar chargers and water filters, and will consider additional aide at our board meeting today.

The last photo is with the District Director Jose Lucas at a meeting held last Sunday with the Puerto Rico Rotary club presidents to organize and coordinate our relief efforts.  We shared the solar chargers with the leaders of each zone who passed them out to individual clubs who attended the meeting.

I also got the support of the clubs to help to distribute 300,000 packets of baby food weighing 52 tons, which is scheduled to arrive here in about a week.  This will fill a particular need so far ignored by most relief organizations and will be distributed by all of the clubs throughout the island.

The food and cost of transportation were supported by a donation made by clubs located in Ithaca, NY, Toronto Canada, and clubs in Indiana where some of the food is being manufactured. Also, this weekend our club, with the support of four Interact and Rotaract clubs, will be distributing hundreds of packets of dried food given by a club in Wisconsin.

I hope that this gives you a better idea of the scope of our relief efforts.  There is still much need on the island as most people still not have electricity and are not receiving much help by other organizations or the government.  We are still trying to determine which are the most needy areas in order to concentrate our efforts and have the most impact.

Thanks for your continued support of our relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

Regards, Ken

Email from Jose Lucas Rodriguez

Governor, Rotary District 7000, Puerto Rico

Hi Gene:

I send you some photos of a pre scholar center that is now illuminated by our solar lights. Thanks to the lights these kids can return to the facility and parents can move to their jobs because they have their kids safe. In the first photo, DGA Edna Seminario delivers the light to one of the teachers. The second photo is of a community leader that identified the necessity of lighting this child preschool.

Other photos shows rooms before and after solar lights.

José Lucas

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