Below are excerpts from a digital journal being kept by Rick Asselta, a JGI volunteer and friend of Jane Goodall’s, chronicling the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Rick is credited as one of the earliest Roots & Shoots mentors having collaborated with Jane and others on the development of the program in the early 1990s. Rick and his wife, Nelly, established a robust Roots & Shoots network in Connecticut before they moved to Puerto Rico where they continue to share Jane’s message with local youth and Rick serves as the volunteer coordinator of Roots & Shoots Caribbean.
This is Part 2 of a series. Click here for the full series.
Since September 20th, Hurricane Maria, there is still no power or communication on much of the island outside of urban areas. We have to drive about 30 kilometers to find a signal. The good news is gas is becoming more available.
We continue to clean up damage on the farm. Forests, although severely damaged, are already showing signs of recovery with leaves sprouting on bare branches. People are running pipes from mountain streams to roads to get water. Work crews are, sadly, cutting up and moving 100-year-old trees that were ripped up and hit buildings & blocked roads.
The military is finally making runs to outlying areas using helicopters and vertical takeoff planes to bring emergency food, water, medical supplies and take out injured people.
Two Hurricanes in two weeks (Irma & Maria) and the hurricane season still has two months to go.
When we get to an area with cell phone service I will send these messages but even there the signals are too weak for photos. They will come later. The Vice President came to the island a few days ago and was a breath of fresh air. He actually talked with people and offered help and hope.
Our farm has become a wildlife refuge for birds and animals looking to relocate. I think I just saw a large boat go by with two of every kind of animal.
Many species we have not seen before have moved in. We even have a resident bat (Igor) in a corner of our patio. Birds fly into the house. Mongooses are running around, lizards are sitting around with us on the porch, owls resettling in less damaged trees. Our one Papaya plant that survived is turning out fruit like crazy and the birds and bees are using the ripe ones like a cafeteria.
Helicopter circling farm & valley right now. Checking downed high tension lines? More aircraft this week then we’ve seen us last 11 years. They’ve reopened old airports.
My son & daughter arrive tomorrow to help with recovery work. Nelly continues to replant whatever she can.