By Belkis Schoenhals
Note: Belkis Schoenhals is one of 10 National Church Residences team members who joined a Volunteer of America team to serve seniors in Puerto Rico.
Yesterday (Friday) our group was able to do a joint project with Volunteers of America. After a morning huddle at their downtown office, we drove to a low the Ramos Antonini housing project in San Juan. This project is massive with 804 units (1,700 people) built in the 1960s. They have not had any electricity since Hurricane Irma!
We broke into two groups, one who translated the property managers’ notes of need onto the Volunteers of America assessment forms and the other to walk to about 40 units that had medical needs.
This project was the most humbling to me. The damage from the hurricanes was still very visible. One apartment building was burned. A family had a generator in their apartment and tried to use a candle flame to start it and caused a fire. Luckily no one died. In addition the roofs are of a style where gravel sits on top. The 185 mile-per-hour winds caused the small stones to fly into the air, shattering car and apartment windows.
After completing our work, our National Church Residences group felt the urge to do more for the community. We went to Costco and bought specific supplies that the project manager said they needed including Ensure, Pediasure, and diapers. They were overjoyed that we came back with the supplies.
Over dinner we went around and shared what our most memorable moment has been this far. We all had different responses, but they all centered around our connections with the residents and their sense of resiliency and gratitude for what they did have. We agreed that our routine complaints at home seem so small compared to what the people here have to endure daily.
Once home in the evening, we walked to the beach where we were greeted with a beautiful sunset.