Solidarity of local and international non-profit entities has become an indispensable component of Puerto Rico’s reconstruction initiatives, with valuable social impact projects.
These non-government organizations are the expression of a new kind of social mobilization that Puerto Rico needs. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and María, these groups proved their efficiency and organization to respond quickly to the emergency. In 2018 alone, they provided emergency assistance to 1.1 million people affected by the hurricanes.
Since then, the scope of their work increased. An important part of the effort was based on strengthening local support networks while developing important relationships with international foundations, non-profit organizations and global socially responsible companies. They maximized resources and made particular emphasis in areas such as health, education, housing, and food security.
Through their management and self-managing principles, voluntary work as an added value and the efficient administration of human and financial resources, the third sector has achieved more sustainability for projects aimed at building resilience to natural disasters. By integrating individuals, families and entire communities into the works that benefit them, the value of citizen participation increases, thus contributing to the sense of community building.
Two recently initiatives show the value of the sector.
One of them is the international organization Habitat for Humanity initiative, which through the model of homeowners’ participation has helped 122 low-income families to have a safe roof. The program is partially funded by a $ 50 million donation from AbbVie Pharmaceuticals. Neighbors pay the rehabilitation of their homes, receive loans at low or no interest, and are trained in household finances. That fact that construction works are in the hands of small construction companies also boosts municipal economies.
This model could be replicated through the island. It would allow families living in roofless homes to recover the stability stolen by hurricanes, foster more self-sufficiency in household finances and strengthen community ties.
There is another initiative by the Hispanic Federation, which leads workshops to train nearly 1,500 coffee growers in technology and methods to improve the coffee production cycle. This educational component is in the hands of the international organization TechnoServe, while the local Puerto Rico Coffee Roasters provides seeds and the World Coffee Research participates in the training phase.
The goal is to double the production they had before Hurricane María struck the island and destroyed 80 percent of the world's best coffee crops. This will reduce the percentage of coffee imported, which is currently 95 percent.
In addition to these efforts, private groups and organizations have contributed more than $ 375 million. Our diaspora community, which contributed $ 211 million after the 2017 hurricanes, has actively participated in this effort.
The crisis also led to the creation of new entities and included the island in the portfolios of important and prestigious philanthropic groups in the United States. The magnitude of the donations reveals their potential as a source of economic and human resources for reconstruction works. This significant window of opportunity to achieve growth through solidarity must be strengthened.
Puerto Rico needs a strong and economically viable third sector because its social footprint is immense. By 2015, 11,570 entities were serving about 700,000 people a year, at a substantially lower cost than that of the government.
Strengthening the third sector is one of the revitalization works that Puerto Rico must undertake.