Roberto Rivera is a Board Member with the American Red Cross Serving Riverside County. Roberto recently deployed to Puerto Rico in support of Red Cross disaster relief efforts after Hurricane Maria. The following account was written by Roberto about his experiences:
“Well, it’s day 45 for me in Puerto Rico. It is warming for me to assist with Hurricane Maria, because my father is from Puerto Rico. The island known by the indigenous people as “Borinquen” is my home and I am proud of my Boricua culture.
My first night was shared with 150 Red Cross strangers in the basement of a church in Rio Piedras. Showers in the morning were quite challenging. I started my assignment in government operations and was able to see much of the devastation on the island. I was a lead in both the Elected Official Liaison (EOL) and Community Engagement Partnership (CEP) positions. After a month, I took the Life Safety and Asset Protection (LSAP) Manager position and was assigned to headquarters.
It’s quite fulfilling to see volunteers from all around the globe. The Hurricane Maria response has international volunteers from eight nations, which I hear is a record for the Red Cross. Additionally, we have first responders from around the United States. The most noticeable were forty firemen that came on their own dime and used their vacation time to assist Maria victims in the mountainous areas of the island that were difficult to reach.
I have thirty days remaining on my deployment, and I hope I will be able to experience other areas of the Disaster Response (DR). The level of human suffering is still high and the reported electricity on the island is for those with generators. Our presence in Puerto Rico will be for a while.
My two strongest memories are the faces of the clients we serve and the bonding that occurs with other volunteers. Its heart-filing to give, and I’m blessed to have the opportunity that I do in Puerto Rico. As a Red Cross volunteer, I came to the island with 150 strangers and will leave with 150 friends. For those that have deployed with the Red Cross, you know what I mean.
The sense of giving to another human in their time of need cannot be compared to anything else I know. We’re made up of individuals, but are one Red Cross.”
Desert to the Sea Region
American Red Cross Serving Riverside County
San Juan, Puerto Rico