Heartbreak and Hopefulness in Puerto Rico, Part 2


October 15

As we head into 3 weeks after Hurricane Maria things are getting better and worse. We see military convoys daily heading out with food water and equipment. They are trying to reach the more isolated parts of the island. Many private groups like veterans are on the island with whatever aid they can bring. FEMA bringing tarps to cover roofs that were blown off houses.

They’re doing their best but still overwhelmed.

As of today still over 90% of Island with no power, no clean water, people getting sick from drinking from polluted streams. 80% no communication to even call for help. Experts in disaster recovery from hurricanes saying that the destruction is the worst they’ve ever seen.

Took my son to the airport where we were told no tickets out of Puerto Rico until November due to up to 5000 people a day trying to leave. Especially the elderly who need medical attention. To our surprise most of San Juan still without power. Businesses, stores, traffic lights, even much of the airport without electricity. Doctor’s & dentists offices closed.

News flash! Governor of Puerto Rico this morning said he hopes to have electricity back to most of the island by Christmas. He didn’t say what year.

Back on the farm we finally cleared most of the downed trees off the power lines and farm roads and are salvaging wood & tin roofing that went flying all over the farm during storm (most of the heavy work done by my son Victor.) And yes, some of it was embedded in trees like in the movies. Only thing missing was flying cows, I think!

We are trying to replant whatever we can, even righting our lemon tree with winches & cables.

Nelly planting up a storm. “Seeds of Hope!”

An aside, we are inundated with wildlife of all kinds coming to the farm. Birds, bats, reptiles, and other critters whose natural habitat is ruined. They’re eating downed fruits etc. many of them we’ve never seen around here. The whole ecology of the island has been altered.

I’m supposed to go to US for medical checkups and to do Brooklyn Marathon on November 19th. Getting less likely every day. Would have been marathon # 39. Oh well, like the Brooklyn Dodgers used to say “Wait till next year!”

Here’s how you can help:

For those of you who asked how you can help the people of Puerto Rico, here’s a project idea! Research types of tropical fruits and vegetables that will thrive in Puetro Rico and collect seed packets. Box them up and send them to to Rick and Nelly:

US Mail to
Rick and Nelly Asselta
P.O.  Box 1332
Maunabo, PR 00707

With help from local Roots & Shoots students, we will distribute the seeds to the community.

If you want to donate money, we strongly recommend Habitat For Humanity—Puerto Rico programs. They have been building simple but effective housing for families who lost their homes in Puerto Rico. They are honest, reliable, and fiscally responsible.

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About Author

Rick Asselta is credited as one of the earliest Roots & Shoots mentors having collaborated with Dr. Jane and others on the development of Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots 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 Dr. Jane’s message with local youth and Rick serves as the volunteer coordinator of Roots & Shoots Caribbean.