What’s Really Going on in Puerto Rico?

Posted on November 15, 2017 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Straight from Those on the Ground

Still no water, homes missing roofs and so many suffering Hurricane Maria’s devastation that thousands are fleeing from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland. What’s going on!

Thanks to our partnerships with on-the-ground, 24/7 recovery efforts, Catholic Charities NY is sharing our inside perspective.  These partnerships enable us to cut through the chaos and deliver support where it is needed now.


Touchdown in Puerto Rico

Catholic Charities NY Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan touched down in Puerto Rico with Cardinal Dolan just days after 175-mile per hour winds tore through the island. 

In Monsignor’s latest JustLove radio show on Sirius XM he speaks about seeing blue tarps where roofs once were, trees across roads, traffic lights out, pandemonium and desperation.

Now, nearly two months later, Father Enrique Camacho Monserrate, Monsignor Sullivan’s counterpart in Puerto Rico and director of Caritas Puerto Rico, reports on JustLove that he, along with everyone from his pueblo and numerous towns throughout the island, remains homeless, doubling up with family in a town hit less hard by the hurricane.

First Bath in 45 Days

“Yesterday, after arriving in New York, I had my first bath in 45 days and it was really nice,” Fr. Camacho said.   “People are drinking water from the rivers and it’s making them sick.  There’s not enough food, especially in the mountainous towns.”   

Cutting through Red Tape to Deliver Desperately Needed Funds  

Already Charities NY wrote $120,000 in checks to 11 key local organizations including our sister agency, Caritas de Puerto Rico, our affiliate, NY Foundling of Puerto Rico, and Comité Noviembre, a non-profit organization that highlights and promotes local Puerto Rican accomplishments.  We are targeting this first wave of contributions to deliver, through our partners on the ground, water, food, housing – whatever people in Puerto Rico need - to rebuild their lives.      

To cut through red tape and deliver desperately needed hurricane relief straight to Puerto Rico, Estoy Con Puerto Rico, (I am with Puerto Rico), launched its hurricane-recovery effort. They teamed up with  Comité Noviembre, the National Association of State Latino Chamber of Commerce, the New York State Coalition Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, the National Supermarkets Association and with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, the program’s fiscal conduit.


Our partner Comité Noviembre, for example, will be delivering $50,000 worth of aid directly to non-profit organizations in the 10 towns with the most need during an upcoming humanitarian effort trip scheduled for early December.  Fortunately, Comité Noviembre built strong ties and relationships with these towns during its annual educational trips to Puerto Rico for past 11 years. 

Towns targeted for donations include:
  1. Aibonito
  2. Arecibo
  3. Baranquita
  4. Caguas
  5. Cayey
  6. Comerio
  7. Loiza
  8. Manati
  9. Naranjito
  10. Rio Piedras

On top of donations to local organizations, Catholic Charities NY is using another $10,000 from designated donations to ship cargo containers filled with food and household donations received at our various Puerto Rico recovery events.  This includes the upcoming Community Day of Service and Social Responsibility at Hostos Community College scheduled for this Saturday, November 18, 2017. 

It costs approximately $3,000 and takes three weeks to ship each container to Puerto Rico.  We are also trying to get airlines and ships to cover delivery costs. 


Accountability: Issue #1

Thanks to Catholic Charities NY’s disaster relief expertise, we know accountability – getting all donations to those who need it - is top priority.

From the World Trade Center disaster to Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, Catholic Charities served as the premier provider and coordinator of disaster relief.  

This is why some of our partners are planning a trip in early December -- paying all airfare and expenses out of their own pockets – to ensure donations reach those who need it most. 


The main purpose of the trip will be to:

  1. Bring much-needed assistance to areas that may not have received any help since the hurricane hit.
  2. Meet with the Puerto Rican business community and government officials to get their firsthand perspective.
  3. Oversee donation distribution facilitated by local retailers who provide trucks, drivers, volunteers and warehouses in Puerto Rico.
  4. Engage in hands-on projects
  5. Distribute gifts and bring a little Christmas spirit to children


Ensuring Accountability:

All organizations receiving donations must send a report including:

  1. How many people were served by this grant, include names and addresses of recipients.
  2. What areas or neighborhoods were served
  3. Receipts for items purchased. 

“This has been the biggest challenge of our lives, the worst disaster in our history,” Fr. Camacho tells Msgr. Sullivan. “Having the support, the love and prayers of kind and beautiful people like you, oh my God.  Wow.  Bless you all.”


Help Catholic Charities help Puerto Rico recover

Donate by Mail:  Make checks payable to “Catholic Charities/Estoy Con Puerto Rico” and address to:

Catholic Charities/Estoy Con Puerto Rico, 1011 First Avenue, 11th floor, New York, NY 10022

Donate Online: Visit


Catch the latest on Puerto Rico recovery efforts on JustLove Sirius XM Satellite Radio on the Catholic Channel 129.


Catholic Charities is responding to the needs of our neighbors during the 
COVID-19 pandemic.

For Help Call 888-744-7900