On Sunday, Oct. 1, at 5 a.m., Andrews University professor of architecture Andrew von Maur, adjunct professor Troy Homenchuk, and 16 graduate architecture students began traveling to Puerto Rico to help with disaster relief efforts in the aftermath of hurricane Maria. They will be there until October 5.
Victor Perez Andino, an Andrews architecture student, is from Puerto Rico and helped the school to connect with a project there. Beginning in July 2017, the graduate Urban Design Studio began to pursue a service project in collaboration with Proyecto ENLACE del Caño Martín Peña. The purpose of the project is to assist with the design of new housing and public spaces in a flood-prone, impoverished informal settlement in central San Juan. The studio has been working on preliminary studies since late August and planned to visit the site and engage the community in a participatory design process beginning on Sept. 26, 2017. But then hurricane Irma hit, followed by hurricane Maria on September 20—an event that will change the island forever.
Since then, the project scope has broadened significantly, and God opened all the necessary doors for the team to help. The airline rebooked the group just in time for commercial flights to resume. The small private guest house complex there was spared major damage and can accommodate them. A firefighter and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) professional provided free disaster relief training and certified many of the team in First Aid, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), and Automated External Defibrillator (AED).
Team members purchased thousands of dollars in supplies and are takings bags and bags of things people need desperately: water filters, tarps, sanitary products, baby formula, batteries, flashlights, solar lamps and chargers, ropes, non-perishable food, water boots, chainsaws, tools, duct tape, two-way radios, first aid kits, plus Spanish GLOW inspirational tracts (which were stuck in the packaging of the donated goods).
According to media reports, Puerto Rico is virtually without electricity or cell phone coverage. Most streets in many neighborhoods are still flooded. Dead animals are floating around, the airport is running at a limited capacity, and there’s a severe fuel shortage. Most hospitals and commercial establishments have suffered too and are unable to operate, and it is estimated that 40 percent of Puerto Ricans are without a clean water supply.