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Puerto Rican diaspora coordinates hurricane relief efforts

Volunteers with Brigada Solidaria del Oeste gather in San Germán, Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona.
Brigada Solidaria del Oeste
Volunteers with Brigada Solidaria del Oeste gather in San Germán, Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona.

This story was produced through a collaboration between WFAE and La Noticia. You can read it in Spanishat La Noticia. Puedes leer la nota en español en La Noticia.

When Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, it damaged the roof of Willmarie Davila Austin’s family home, where her father lives in San Juan.

Five years later, the roof is still damaged, Davila Austin says. That meant when Hurricane Fiona hit this week, there wasn’t much her father could do to keep the rain out.

“With this hurricane, the water started coming in the house. So, he's lost a lot,” Davila Austin said. “All I want is for his roof to be sealed so that water doesn't keep coming in because it's still raining.”

Davila Austin, a resident of Concord, says she’s struggled to find support services from afar. So, she’s working with a community group, Boricuas in North Carolina, to identify reputable charities to direct donations.

The group previously coordinated donation efforts in North Carolina following Hurricane Maria.

“We do have a list of organizations that we have vetted because there have been organizations and fundraisers where the people of Puerto Rico have not actually gotten the help,” she said.

Boricuas in North Carolina has shared its list of recommended charities on its Facebook page.

One of those organizations, Brigada Solidaria del Oeste, said they are managing donation sites in Puerto Rico to collect items like solar lamps, non-perishable foods and personal hygiene products.

About a quarter of North Carolina’s Puerto Rican population, estimated at 122,000 people statewide in 2021, live in the Charlotte metro area.

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Kayla Young is a Report for America corps member covering issues involving race, equity, and immigration for WFAE and La Noticia, an independent Spanish-language news organization based in Charlotte. Major support for WFAE's Race & Equity Team comes from Novant Health and Wells Fargo.