Residents of the U.S. island territory "need supplies and resources just as badly as their fellow Americans in Texas and Florida," writes the 'Hamilton' creator, whose family was impacted by the devastating storm.
My cousin Daniela is studying to be a veterinarian. Her parents' home in the hills of Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, is like a tiny animal sanctuary — two goats, some cats, several bunnies and birds, nine dogs (!) and a couple of horses. Her older sister Camila has been studying for the MCAT exam — she wants to be a doctor. Across the street is my Aunt Yamilla's home, formerly the home of my grandparents, where my sister and I spent every summer as children. I remember when my grandfather Guisin was building it — at last, moving up to the peaceful hills after a life in town.
There's no shortage of stories about the devastation experienced in my beloved Puerto Rico in the past week. From the children still searching for signs of their parents, to the families who've lost everything but one another, to those displaced from the only homes they've ever known — Hurricane Maria's collision with Puerto Rico has been the most brutal in the island's modern history, leaving a destroyed power grid and unprecedented destruction in its wake.
As Maria roared toward the island, my family in Puerto Rico braced for impact. They knew Abuelo Guisin's wooden dream home — where I worked on new musicals during summer breaks from college — could not possibly withstand a major hurricane. For a time, my uncle's concrete home across the street became Noah's Ark, as my family sought refuge there, along with Daniela's animal menagerie. In addition to the animals, my family quickly gathered the things that can't be replaced: family photos and mementos colored with memories of generations of Mirandas. Needless to say, Camila's MCAT exam has been indefinitely postponed.
I tell you my family's story to give you just a glimpse of what our island is going through. There are 3.4 million stories on this island, all struggling in the aftermath of this storm, and they need your help.
My late grandfather's dream home is in pieces — the roof and the porch, gone. Thankfully Noah's Ark across the road still stands. My family was very lucky. But they and their fellow American citizens on the island now face a host of mounting crises — a lack of running water, a shattered power grid, days without electricity and telephone service and access to the wider world.
Puerto Ricans need supplies and resources just as badly as their fellow Americans in Texas and Florida, and this need is magnified by their geographic isolation from the mainland.
The Hispanic Federation (hispanicfederation.org) is designating 100 percent of its Hurricane Relief Fund to recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. To donate via text, compose a new text message for number 41444. Type UNIDOS (space) YOUR AMOUNT (space) and YOUR NAME. (For example: Unidos 100 John Doe) Then press "send" and click on the link to complete your donation. To donate in person, visit any Popular Community Bank branch (account name: Hurricane Relief Effort; checking account number: 6810893500).
This relief fund is already in action. Right now, it is facilitating the deployment of fully trained and certified first responders, including paying for the flight to Puerto Rico and the accompanying arrangements. These first responders — comprised of NYPD and FDNY members and others — will join relief efforts on the island and provide the technical support and expertise so badly needed. Relief efforts include everything from examining the structural integrity of buildings so individuals can safely return to their homes to providing basic supplies like food and clean water.
With so much to be done and such great urgency before us, let's use our own winds of change to help Puerto Rico dig out and rise up. Do it for Daniela and Camila and their dreams. Do it for your fellow citizens. Thank you.
This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.