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On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria, a powerful Category 4, hit the island of Puerto Rico causing catastrophic effects.

Over one week on from the hurricane, the island is still without power, with the exception of a few generators that are being used for high-priority buildings such as hospitals. Millions are left without drinking water and cannot bathe or flush toilets. The lack of water is leading to a serious lack of sanitization and this means that conditions are ripe for illness and disease to spread. The island is in desperate need of help from the international community. If you’re keen to volunteer, here’s how you can help:

how to volunteer: puerto rico needs your help
Photo by Pixabay

1. Who should I volunteer with?

The American Red Cross is currently training volunteers who will be dispatched to Puerto Rico. The Red Cross is using Florida as a base to give initial training, whilst delegating volunteer roles. They are looking for volunteers with all sorts of different skills, from helping to rebuild houses, through to working with children affected by the hurricane. Find out more information or sign up to be a Red Cross volunteer.

Meanwhile, the organization Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) is responsible for coordinating relief efforts and delegating roles to volunteers. There are a lot of smaller organizations focusing on one specific area of the relief aid, and VOAD brings together the organizations so they can coordinate, collaborate and communicate. If you’re interested in volunteering with a smaller organization, you can contact VOAD who will help to put you in contact with relief efforts that are already underway. Volunteer with VOAD.

You can also volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, which is an organization that asses housing and shelter needs in some of the worst-hit areas. Habitat for Humanity is currently seeking volunteers for the recovery and rebuilding phase, which may last months or even years. Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.

how to volunteer: puerto rico needs your help
Photo by Seattle Parks

2. What type of volunteer work is needed?

At the moment Puerto Rico is in a state of chaos. The streets are flooded, there is little-to-no electricity, homes have collapsed and there an estimated 1.5 million people are without drinking water. You should be prepared for difficult, and heart-wrenching conditions. Volunteers will be needed to help at one of the many shelters that are serving the community, load and unload trucks, serve food from the limited supplies, organize the volunteer and relief efforts and help build and set-up facilities.

3. What are the requirements?

how to volunteer: puerto rico needs your help
Photo by The National Guard

If you want to help, you must be at least 16 years old to volunteer with the Red Cross, and for other organizations, you may need to be 18 years old. If you are between the ages of 16-18 and keen to volunteer, you will need parental consent. In order to volunteer, you will need to be fit and ready for manual tasks such as loading and unloading heavy objects bringing supplies and building shelters. Most organizations require that you work 8-12 hours a day, depending on the task at hand. If you are working with children, you will need to provide a background check.

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  1. Tonya Choryan

    I just returned from three weeks, boots on the ground in Houston, TX aiding in animal relief. I was in charge of setting up quarantine and special medical as well as check ins. I am VERY interested in helping in Puerto Rico with the animals. I have worked Katrina, Harvery and Sandy. I am retired so my money is short, but my experience and energy is not! Are there any organizations that I could hop a ride with and spend at least 3 weeks helping, maybe more volunteering? any help or info would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,

    Tonya Choryan

  2. Great info! Thanks!

  3. Henry Agueros

    I have retired recently and I want to do volunteer work in Puerto Rico. HOW DO I JOIN??? WHO DO I CONTACT??? WHAT IS REQUIRED OF ME?? I speak , read and write Spanish. Am a US Naval Veteran…..and have 20 yrs. of working in Medical Care….front and back office.

  4. Hi Kay,
    Would you mind letting me know what Nechama is and All Hands and Hearts?
    I’m hoping to do a week in PR within the next 6-8 months; for a week where my focus is to volunteer. Looking for connections and volunteer opportunities. Muchas Gracias. Jan

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