In Puerto Rico, Convoy of Hope still helps those recovering from a disaster that took place more than a year ago — something not many organizations can say.
Ramón and Nelida have always called Puerto Rico home and have a big family … 24 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. Many members of their extended family lived with them until Hurricane Maria destroyed their home.
Both over the age of 60, and Ramón in poor health, the couple was quickly overwhelmed. Their house was in shambles, and Ramón’s condition was getting worse. Depression set in as they struggled to recover with everyone else on the island. They felt forgotten and alone.
Thanks to generous friends and volunteers, Convoy of Hope responded to Hurricane Maria immediately and deployed much-needed aid. We also sent Field Teams — volunteer teams made up of people from churches, universities, groups, and organizations — who partnered with local churches and community leaders to help rebuild homes across the island.
Field Team participation has exploded over the last six years. In 2013, we sent out 30 teams with 365 team members to four countries. Compare that to 2018, when we sent 82 teams with 1,018 team members to 11 countries.
For teams serving in Puerto Rico, the goal was to help alleviate the stress and struggle those on the island were experiencing, and continue to experience to this day, after the devastating storm.
“[When we heard help was on the way, we were] very grateful, happy, joyful,” said Nelida. “We had nothing and we really needed it … we had to feed the kids, and now they have food and water.”
While Nelida was optimistic, Ramón was skeptical. He feared being taken advantage of and that the dignity of his family and community would be degraded even further because of outside help.
The longer he interacted with Convoy of Hope’s teams, though, the more he realized they truly cared.
“After Hurricane Maria, we received a lot of help,” he said. “And we still are receiving a lot of help from Convoy. [We have received] food, everything, water, clothes, toys for the little kids.”
“The goal isn’t to do things for local leaders, but instead to walk with local leaders towards the fulfillment of dreams in their hearts,” says Field Teams Director Matt Wilkie. “Through this ‘withness’ in strategic places around the world, we’ve seen beautiful things set in motion on the field, and deep and lasting impact in the lives of team members.”
Elvis — one of the local pastors who works closely with Convoy of Hope — developed a special relationship with Ramón, and Ramón began to trust him and the Field Team members. Their desire was to forge genuine connections with those they were helping, going above and beyond what was the norm. The genuine love they demonstrated and the selfless nature in which they helped Ramón’s community recover convinced him there was something different about this group.
Sadly, Ramón passed away from his illness soon after his home was completed. Ramón’s community mourned his passing, but celebrated the comfort of knowing his family now has a safe place to live.