By Belkis Schoenhals
Note: Belkis Schoenhals is one of 10 National Church Residences staff members who are working in Puerto Rico with Volunteers of America to assess senior needs and provide supplies. This is her blog.
Today was another great day of service and new experiences. We started the day around 8:30am by greeting a National Church Residences van that came from Villa Santiago in Fajardo, PR. The driver and property manager helped us load 250 pounds of supplies onto the van to be transported to Fajardo for the residents.
We followed behind the van for the 1.5 hour drive. The drive was beautiful, many humble homes dotted along the hillsides with mountains in the background. We also passed electrical crews working to restore fallen electrical poles. Once at Villa Santiago, we made and sorted supply bags to pass out to residents, and visited and assessed all 65 units. The residents loved the supplies and were so happy that we took the time to speak with each of them.
One woman, Maria, stood out to me. She is almost deaf, and her family lives in Colorado so she only has one friend who helps her regularly. She admired my lanyard and plastic ID holder, noting that she’s been looking for something like it to hold her medical ID and keys, which are often misplaced. I immediately took mine off and gave it to her, helping her put in her ID. She was so moved she cried. I realized how seemingly small acts of generosity can mean so much. Attached is a photo of us with her new lanyard!
After we finished at Villa Santiago, we drove to Carolina, PR, which is 20 minutes outside of San Juan to deliver supplies and assess the 100 units at Villa Esperanza (Hope Village). By this time, it was 4:30pm so we were a little tired, but happy to speak with more residents.
Overall these residents were overjoyed that they had electricity back, but are concerned that they can’t find bottled water in the stores. Clean water is scarce, but we reminded them to boil the tap water for at least 5 minutes before drinking it. We found many residents in the community room socializing and playing dominoes. We ended our visit with a group photo with them.
It’s past 11 pm, and we are just getting showers and winding down for the day. We are truly humbled to assist and speak with our residents. We are amazed by their steadfast faith and sense of communal support.
I also want to note what a great group we have. We always hear about being Mission Ready, and this group certainly is. We use our unique skills to work as a team to serve, and I am proud of each and every one of my teammates.
Tomorrow we head out at 7am two or three hours towards the northwest to assess a VOA property. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers as we travel around the island.