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Puerto Rico 2019

Into the forest

January 30th, 2019

Today was an adventure in the woods! We visited the Los Cabezas De San Juan Nature Reserve where they preserve one of Puerto Rico’s forests! We were guided throughout the day by an amazing women named Alejandra who’s energy and enthusiasm about the forest made everything more interesting! In the reserve we planted about 50 brand new trees! The goal for the reserves is to plant one million trees in 5 years. We got to do our part which is an amazing feeling. We also removed coconut trees which are invasive to Puerto Rico and were able to pull them out with roots and all if under 6 feet. We ended the day at the beach right next to the reserve which was awesome after being in a hot forest all day. We were able to bond and reflect on our experiences at the reserve.

Tuesday- working with SBP

On Tuesday we traveled to a suberb of San Juan to meet up with SBP and help them with a few homes they were working on. SBP, formerly known as Saint Bernhard Project, was a group started when recovery efforts in New Orleans slowed post Hurricane Katrina. Now SPB is working with Americor and works in areas that have had hurricane damage. Their goal is to reduce the time between disaster and recovery.

We split into two groups for the day. One group worked on a tile project. The house they were at had to be almost completely demolished after the hurricane. It has retained a few of the exterior concrete walls, but that was it. The project started in September, so we installed baseboard tile. It was a slow and tedious process. The floor is not always even but the wall tiles needed to be. We are proud of our work but not going to change career paths to be masons.

The other half went to Nati’s house who’s home was damaged by the hurricane tremendously. The roof of her home was completed ripped off and her home was below water for a few days created more extensive damage to the stability of her home. Before we got to her home to do our part, the roof was completely rebuilt and the foundation was fixed where it needed to be. Her brothers home which was right next to hers had so much termite damage to his home it was inhabitable and will be completed demolished and rebuilt. We as volunteers did power washing and scrapping of old paint on the concrete structure outside of her home which lead all the way to the driveway. We then repainted the walls and a beautifully designed gate made of steel. We did the finishing touches of her home which should be completed in a few days after our service. The communities university had donated a brand new bed, air conditioner, refrigerator, and oven/stove. We were told Nati said that who ever touches her home and had a part in rebuilding her home was a blessing from God. No matter anyone’s religion affiliation, everyone was very thankful in knowing that we are making a difference in Natis life.

More to post later but her are some photos from Monday and Tuesday.

Monday in Puerto Rico


Janauary 28th, 2019

Wow! We have now completed two full days of hard volunteer work! Today’s temperature hit a high of 83 degrees today! It was definitely a hot one, but our day was filled with amazing experiences! We started the day off working with homeowner titi Sarah. Titi Sarah is an 82 year old women whose home was hit hard during the hurricane, ripping the entire roof off of her home and creating extensive water damage. During the hurricane, titi Sarah decided to stay home along with her grandson who’s around 20 years old. She explained how the powerful winds were pushing her door open and the use of a rope to keep pulling the door back shut almost feeling like a game of tug of war that was not fair. With the powerful winds, it was enough to flip the panels of the windows inside out, damaging. We as volunteers spent part of our day taking out her old windows and replacing them with brand new ones with the help of a local carpenter. Titi Sarah’s was such a wonderful person to be around for all of us with her wonderful music and dance moves!

For lunch we visited the local community leader, Onida, who helps organize things such as locations for volunteers. She cooked us a wonderful lunch that had all of our stomachs full and happy. After lunch we visited two homes that were next to each other and split up and did touch up paintings on one and started to finish the second house with more exterior painting. The owner of the first house explained during the hurricane that he stayed in his bathroom tub for five hours and said it was the most terrifying thing he’s ever experienced. He almost began to tear up with emotions speaking about his story which shows the pain of such a horrific experience due to hurricane Maria.
After an eventful and awakening experience hearing everyone’s story, we got done early and headed to the beach! We swam and took videos/pictures capturing a defining moment of team bonding bringing us closer during this experience in Puerto Rico.


Window install

Helping paint another house

Eliot and titi Sarah

What are we doing in Puerto Rico?

Hello blog followers. My name is Nicole and I am going to give you a little background information our alternative break trip to Puerto Rico.

I made contact with Community Collaborations Interntional a little more than a year ago to look into the possibility of taking a group to Puerto Rico to help with hurricane damage. CCI has hosted groups in PR for about 8 years and I felt it was important to work with an organization that had already been established pre-hurricane and that was managed by people who live in PR.

As our blog posts are meant to give you a glimpse of what work we are doing this week. What I can tell you is that so far we have painted a lot of houses and heard a lot of amazing and harrowing stories from people who rode out Hurricane Maria. Some of these sound like the stories the news covered beiefly in the states, but it’s so impactful to hear them right from someone while you help paint their home. Here are some of the things we have heard:

Two weeks to contact family.

Having to drive to the highway and parking on the shoulder to try and get signal.

Two weeks with out power.

Nine months without power.

One year without power.

Having your roof torn off.

Trying to use a rope to hold the front door closed.

Coming home to three feet of sand with water on top.


A fresh coat of paint

Today was our first full day in Puerto Rico! After an “eventful” flight and lack of sleep the day before, we woke up ready for today’s volunteer experience! Today we visit the community of Yabucoa where we met up with volunteer coordinator Russel. Russel introduced us to a local man who’s home is on the beach where the hurricane first hit the land of Puerto Rico. The owner stated that the day after the hurricane he came back and found the street leading to his home was covered with water and three feet of sand. When he got out of his car due to the sand he walked up to his home and walked in his house to find nearly the same conditions and found his dogs (6). Thankfully the owner left the door open so the dogs could escape the hurricane waters and go to the second level of the home. There was extensive damage to the home due to the hurricane but the owner was thankful for him and his dogs to be alive. We as volunteers repainted the entire homes exterior walls with a crisp cream shade and a golden shade. We sweated profusely (while staying hydrated with provided water bottles) but realized the change we are making in this mans life after a devastating catastrophe.
PS: The homeowners dogs kept us comfort and boosted our energy during breaks!

We made it to PR

We are coming to you live from Luquillo Puerto Rico! Our day started very early in the morning with a bus ride to Milwaukee in the freezing cold. By the time we arrived in PR it was 90 warmer than we were when we left campus.

We arrived at the house we are staying in for the week, ate dinner and started getting unpacked. Tomorrow we head to an area that was hit by the eye of Hurricane Maria to begin our service work..

Dreaming of warmer weather and Puerto Rico

Welcome to our blog! We are excited to be able to bring you stories and photos of our Alternative Break trip to Puerto Rico. Our group of 10 leave early Saturday morning and we couldn’t be more excited. Be sure to check back here from Jan 26-Feb 2.


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