By Belkis Schoenhals
Note: Belkis Schoenhals is one of 10 National Church Residences employees serving on a trip to Puerto Rico with Volunteers of America to help assess and provide supplies to seniors on the island. She is providing a blog diary of their work.
Although we spent all day traveling yesterday, we all felt a collective uplifting energy as we flew to San Juan. We saw many military persons, electricians, and people with relief organizations all coming to help. We were able to get to our house safely due to the skilled driving of Kevin and Chris. Traffic lights are out here and driving around is very hectic so we appreciate their nimble skill! Last night we ate at a local restaurant nearby and enjoyed Caribbean dishes such as mofongo, tostones, and arroz con habichuela.
This morning we headed out to the hotel and met with the VOA group. After a huddle we went to their downtown warehouse where we made about 400 bags filled with water, food, and personal supplies for the VOA properties (the video I sent). We also made 200 bags filled with protein bars and water along with the supplies we were sent down with for our residents at our three PR properties. After about two or three hours of filling bags and sorting supplies we headed 40 minutes away to Guaynabo to do resident assessments at our Villa Provedencia property. We split into 4 groups and visited all 75 units and spoke with each household to see what their needs and concerns were. Most were in very high spirits and very thankful for what they had. The main concern was the elevators not working as many residents on floors 2-5 cannot do stairs. Interpreting for the residents will stay with me forever- their gratitude, warmth, and kindness in the stressful circumstances is humbling. One man I interpreted for was so moved by our presence that he cried. We spoke with him and his brother who love to paint and do puzzles. Another woman said “I live here in peace and happily. The assistant property manager and service coordinator are our angels- they never abandoned us.”
We also spoke with the assistant property manager and the service coordinator. Their sacrifice, strength, and resilience is incredible, but they are exhausted.
Truly a hard day’s work, but one that has left us feeling blessed for this opportunity to serve and make an impact.
Tomorrow we head to our property in Fajardo, which is 2 hours away to do more assessments. We will also assess a VOA property there. Pray for our safe journey there and back.
Over and out until tomorrow.