How to help victims of Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 18 and left millions of residents without power or running water.

The Dominican Republic, which was also hit by Hurricane Fiona, is reportedly still assessing the damage. But President Biden has declared a state of emergency in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico since more than 80% of its 3.3 million population are still without power.

The hurricane hit the island with 85 mph winds and heavy rainfall — some regions got up to 25 inches of rain, which triggered flooding and mudslides in addition to the power blackout.

“The damages that we are seeing are catastrophic,” Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said, according to the Associated Press.

The hurricane hit two days before the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, a deadly Category 5 hurricane that devastated Dominica, Saint Croix and Puerto Rico in 2017. It was the worst natural disaster in recorded history for the northeastern Caribbean islands and knocked out power for almost an entire year in some areas.

Puerto Rican officials said the island’s power grid and infrastructure are still recovering from Hurricane Maria. Hurricane Fiona’s impact is sure to delay fixing the damage caused five years ago.

Here are ways you can help the residents of Puerto Rico — especially with groups that are mobilizing on the ground to meet their urgent needs.

Where to donate

Puerto Rico VOAD: The organization has 25 long-term recovery groups scattered across the island. Those wishing to contribute to their work should visit their website or donate directly to members.

Diaspora for Puerto Rico: The New York City-based nonprofit has already launched a site for donations to help volunteers and groups on the ground looking to help Puerto Rican residents.

International Medical Corps: The group has teams in Puerto Rico that are working with authorities and delivering critical care to victims. They are accepting donations here.

Direct Relief: The largest non-government-run donor of medical supplies to health care providers in Puerto Rico. You can donate to them here to help prioritize keeping community health centers up and running.

Brigada Solidaria del Oeste: The mutual aid group is working to provide emergency essentials for residents — first aid kits, water filters, solar lamps and water purification tablets, to name a few. They are asking for donations here.

Taller Salud: The women-led nonprofit is accepting donations such as nonperishable food, diapers, drinking water, toiletries and other essentials. The group is also accepting monetary donations here.

Hispanic Federation: The U.S.-based organization says it has already sent people to Puerto Rico to help provide emergency services and supplies. You can donate to help people and families across the island here.

PRxPR: The Relief & Rebuild Fund was launched after Hurricane Maria and works with local groups to help provide disaster relief across the island. As they help with the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona, they are asking for monetary donations. One hundred percent of the money collected goes directly toward feeding Puerto Rican residents.

ConPRmetidos: The independent nonprofit has spent the last 10 years making an impact on Puerto Rico. They are accepting donations here.

La Fondita de Jesús: The nonprofit is focused on transforming and improving the lives of those experiencing homelessness and other vulnerable communities throughout Puerto Rico. They accept donations here.

Jompéame: The fundraising platform works toward finding solutions for emergencies and poverty throughout the Dominican Republic — from funding a child’s education to covering treatments and operation costs for sick residents. You can donate to their causes here.

Cabarete Sostenible: The organization, which plans to become fully sustainable in a few years, uses donations to help fund community farms, civil agriculture and food aid in the Dominican Republic. You can contribute to eliminating food insecurity by donating here.

SBP: The New Orleans-based nonprofit was founded six months after Hurricane Katrina. The group’s goals include investing in long-term recovery, fighting for protective government policies and coming up with solutions to prevent future devastation following natural disasters. Their donation page can be found here and includes a breakdown of what supplies cost, including protective gear for volunteers and deploying AmeriCorps members to support recovery efforts.

How to avoid a charity scam

It’s instinct to want to help people in need if you can, but some groups take advantage of that generosity. Here’s how to ensure that your money is going where you want it to go and not to a fake charity claiming to be helping Puerto Rico.

Double-check the organizations. Research these groups yourself before donating. Never click on a link someone has sent you and immediately trust that it’s legitimate. Read online reviews about the organizations if you can.

Focus on groups that have proven themselves already. Instead of paying through a stranger’s GoFundMe, go with established charities and nonprofits that have proof they’ve used donations correctly in the past.

Pay with a credit card. This offers an extra level of protection that debit cards do not have — just in case.

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