By Saramarie Wade
The island of Puerto Rico is in shambles. No electricity. No water. Broken buildings, destroyed homes and families trying to pick up the jigsaw puzzle that is now their place of dwelling.
One can only imagine the grief, despair and discouragement many people from Puerto Rico are feeling. We tend to separate ourselves, as people, when situations don’t directly affect us – leaving a bold line between “us” and the “stranger.” This cannot happen, especially when each of us are called to be a steward of change and mercy by putting ourselves in their shoes.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria have challenged not only the resources, but also the hopes of Academia María Reina (AMR) in San Juan, Puerto Rico – one of the six schools sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood, L.I. (CSJ). AMR is facing limited communication, no electricity, as well as some damage to the building itself.
Each of the five other CSJ-sponsored schools is helping out their sister school through their own unique efforts. The Mary Louis Academy (TMLA) is taking on the challenge of helping get AMR back on its feet. Although nearly 1,700 miles away, our love and care for one another knows no distance.
At The Mary Louis Academy, I am the president of the CSJ Leaders Club and our main focus during the past few weeks has been helping AMR in any way that we can. Fundraising efforts by members of the club include decorating buckets to collect donations during homeroom in the morning and at lunch in the cafeteria.
TMLA students continue to be thoughtful and considerate, keeping students from their sister school in their hearts. The ability to donate online is located at www.tmla.org, under the News section on a page called “Help Academia María Reina in Puerto Rico.” TMLA’s Admissions Director and LOTE Dept. Chairperson, Rita Piro, created a video for our sister school – sending their utmost love, thoughts and prayers to them in their time of recovery.
Our Friends at Academia María
Over the summer I, along with Layla Cerverizzo and Deanna Roberto, also members of the executive board of the CSJ Leaders Club, all attended the CSJ-It Forward, a three-day leadership retreat with the CSJ Leaders of each sister school. We were all so blessed to have met a few girls who actually attend AMR. It was so nice to finally see students from AMR who share the same CSJ mission of unity, reconciliation and all-inclusive love. We definitely made long-lasting friendships that we will never forget.
After the dramatic days of the hurricane, I was finally able to get in contact with one of my friends who attends AMR, Teresa Reguero. She was able to give me some insight on how things are going. Thankfully, she is safe and sound, however, she told me that during the days of the hurricane, experiencing it was something that she would never forget.
During the hurricane, everyone in Teresa’s household stayed together, especially since many people in her family did not have electricity in their own homes. She also stressed to me that if it weren’t for all of her family staying together, the condition of her house would not have been the way it was. She also explained that there was a severe leak in her home and many members of her family reached out to help contain the situation. For a time, Teresa and her family even left Puerto Rico to stay in Boston and Philadelphia, eventually returning due to classes starting again at AMR.
Teresa said that even though classes started, the school is working very hard to restore what was damaged. They still do not have electricity, but are using generators. They don’t have air conditioning, but do have fans in other classrooms. AMR is also collecting supplies from students in each homeroom at their own school, expressing their need for resources like toilet paper and bug repellant.
I also asked Teresa if there was anything else that we, as a sister school, could do to better help her and her school community. She feels that we are on the right track in terms of fundraising and donations because at this point, Puerto Rico just needs to gain back its solid footing.
Helping Hands, Open Hearts
There are still numerous ways to help Puerto Rico, both directly and indirectly. As a Mary Louis student, I know that we have been making an effort to donate as much as we can to help our sister school, however there is always more that can be done.
Whether it is donating batteries and bug repellant or saying a prayer for the people of Puerto Rico, there is always something that can be done to aid our brothers and sisters. The people of Puerto Rico are united more than ever and with being a united front, comes great power. This great power is something that continues to reflect in their hardworking attitudes, their strength during times of distress and their determination to rise above the negative events that occur, not letting those experiences define them.
Although the recent hurricanes were very detrimental to the island of Puerto Rico, these kinds of events that occur reflect who we are as human beings. We all stand together as one, united by open hearts and outstretched arms.
Saramarie Wade is a senior at The Mary Louis Academy, Jamaica Estates.