Shockwaves from Nepal’s powerful earthquake reached as far as the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, whose Seventh-day Adventist community has a special connection with the south Asian country.
Within days of the April 25 earthquake, Adventist leaders in Puerto Rico responded by calling two news conferences to raise funds for Adventist-operated Scheer Memorial Hospital, whose chief medical officer and administrator, Fernando Cardona, is a Puerto Rican native.
By Wednesday, the fundraising drive had collected US$37,000 and was on track to top $200,000, said Jose Alberto Rodriguez, president of the Adventist Church in Puerto Rico.
“I know we will have more than $200,000 collected in a matter of weeks because we have a giving church,” said Rodriguez, who also works as country director for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Puerto Rico. “We also have many friends of the church who believe in our work and the work of ADRA and like to help others.”
Rodriguez, who maintains daily contact with Cardona, said $15,000 has already been sent to the hospital through the General Conference, the administrative body of the Adventist world church.
The amount of money being raised by the relatively small Puerto Rican church, which has a membership of nearly 34,000, is impressive by any measure. Local church members have a track record of giving and encouraging others to give. Rodriguez spearheaded a fundraising drive through ADRA’s Puerto Rico office that collected several hundred thousand dollars after a devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010.
Other Adventist entities are also raising money for Scheer Memorial Hospital, located outside Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. The General Conference has created a page at the Fundly.com website that collected $5,190 by Wednesday. AsianAid USA, an Adventist-supporting ministry, is also gathering funds for the hospital.
But no one seems to be coming close to the amount raised by the Puerto Rican Adventists.
The hospital and other Adventist organizations providing relief in Nepal have asked for cash donations because shipping is difficult and the main local needs — medicine and food— can be bought locally.
The Adventist Church in Puerto Rico opened a local bank account for Nepal donations before organizing the April 28 and 29 news conferences in the cities of San Juan and Mayaguez on opposite ends of the island. Reporters from major local newspapers and television stations attended the events.
Rafael Garcia and his wife, a missionary couple who managed Scheer Memorial Hospital for three years before Cardona arrived, spoke about their experience in Nepal and the hospital’s needs at both news conferences.
Cardona, a pediatrician who left his post at the church’s Bella Vista Hospital in Mayaguez seven years ago to work in Nepal, spoke by telephone at the Mayaguez news conference. Cardona told of how the hospital was overrun with people seeking medical treatment after the earthquake, which killed more than 7,500 and injured nearly 15,000.
The hospital escaped damage.
Cardona, who has been getting two hours of sleep every night, said he initially was forced to perform outdoor surgeries, including cesarean sections, amid fears of another earthquake.
Now, he said, the hospital grounds are filled with former patients who have nowhere else to live. Nepalese authorities have asked the hospital to allow the people to stay until it can open up a campground for temporary shelters nearby.
He thanked the people of Puerto Rico for contributing to the hospital’s needs.
“God has been good to us and has protected us, and He continues to gives us strength to continue helping people,” he said.