Tampa – Hurricane Maria didn’t hit Tampa Bay but the devastation she wreaked on Puerto Rico hits home for many in the community with family who endured the storm.
Carina Galarza Minondo, a 20-year-old junior at the University of South Florida, spent over a week trying to get in touch with her father in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Minondo spoke with her father the Monday before Hurricane Maria hit and didn’t hear from him for days, wondering if not only her father, but her grandparents and cousins, had survived the storm.
“I was under so much stress,” Minondo said. “I couldn’t sleep, eat or focus on anything. I was having panic attacks at work.”
The days grew longer and longer for Minondo as she worried about her grandmother in Puerto Rico with Alzheimer’s disease.
“I didn’t know whether she had been at home or if she was with my uncle,” Minondo said. “My step grandmother’s house is a wooden house, so I was worried about that too. It was the most horrible week of my life.”
A rush of relief overcame Minondo when she finally received a phone call from her father eight days after the storm had passed. Hearing his voice was all it took for her to break down in tears.
“They were all fine,” Minondo said. “Of course, no power, no water, but at least they’re all healthy and there was no damage to their homes. It was suddenly the best day ever.”
Minondo’s family will not be coming back to the United States while Puerto Rico rebuilds from the storm. She said her family members are stubborn and would rather stay to help the island get back on its feet.
When asked what her family is doing to get by while they recover, Minondo said they’re all going to bed early these days.
“The notion of time has pretty much disappeared for them,” Minondo said. “My dad started work again, but without electricity everything is old school paperwork being done.”
“Banks are only giving $100 per person since the only goods available are food and it can only be paid for with cash,” Minondo said. “My family is scared to even have $100 in their pockets because they could easily be robbed.”
The food, water and cash shortage in Puerto Rico continues to be an issue. Those receiving payments from family members in the states are out of luck while they are still out of power. Even though there are supplies being brought in, it’s not reaching every part of it.
“It’s like only the metropolitan area is receiving help while the rest of the island just suffers,” Minondo said. “It truly hurts to see such a beautiful island, and islands in the Antilles in so much pain and destruction.”
Collecting supplies for Puerto Rico has not been an issue, in fact there are 100 tons in one warehouse, but securing a plane to get the supplies there has been the biggest hurdle.
For those interested in making donations to Puerto Rico, Course of Action PR is still accepting donations at Homeland Intelligence Technologies. Located at 4916 S Lois Ave., Tampa, FL 33611. The drop of location is open Monday thru Saturday, from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
The drop off location also has three shifts open to any volunteers who are at least 18 years old. The facility asks that you show up only at any of these specific times: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. or 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Visit the Course of Action PR page on Facebook for an updated list of donation items.