This is the third in a five-post series about Conscious Capitalism CEO, Alexander McCobin’s, recent relief trip to Puerto Rico and plans for rallying businesses to help in the rebuilding effort following Hurricane Maria’s devastation.
After our visit to the Red Cross, we went out into the streets of San Juan to meet local residents, learn whether the ovens would be of use to them, and discover other opportunities to provide support.
The original idea had been to leave San Juan. While the situation is bad in the city, it is worse in the rural areas. This was illustrated to us by the fact that we couldn’t make it out of the city. Because there’s no electricity, there are no working traffic lights. Many roads are still inaccessible. And with the rain continuing to fall heavily, others were flooded out. Our only option, given the limited time we had on the island, was to stay local.
Our first stop was a local park. While the hurricane’s destruction was apparent all around us, we also saw resilient individuals continuing to live their lives. Groups were playing dominoes, talking to one another, and just spending time under the pavilion.
We unpacked one of the ovens and began to set it up. This wasn’t a scheduled activity. There wasn’t even a need to announce our presence. As soon as the oven came out, people began to gather and ask about it. We began making food, talking with people, and learning their stories.
One young man was a computer science teacher. With no electricity, there’s no way for him to teach computer science. Because of this, he is unable to pay rent.
A young woman was in the park with her two daughters. She moved from Florida to Puerto Rico the Saturday before Hurricane Maria hit the island to take care of her father who had lived in San Juan for years. She had been a social worker in New York City before and was struck by how little was being done since the hurricane.
And we heard over and over that there was not only a use, but also need for the ovens. Only those who have gas ovens or generators are able to cook at home. We didn’t have enough ovens to give away to everyone who wanted one and still visit other parts of San Juan. But we left feeling confident in the need for and future use of the ovens.
In the next post, we’ll cover our stop at a local community center that is feeding 400 people three times each day. Here is a photo of the lot across the street from the center that shows the destruction from the hurricane in the area: