by Jose Vargas, data assets specialist, for the Puerto Rico blog series
I decided to travel to Puerto Rico because it felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’ve never had the chance to be helpful on this large of a scale, and it was important to me to partake in it.
While there were a few physical struggles, I struggled more emotionally. Leaving was difficult for me because there’s still so much more that needs to be done and I wished I was able to stay and continue helping.
As a Mexican-American, I was surprised at so many of the cultural similarities we share with the people of Puerto Rico. During our time in Ponce, I learned we share the same patron saint (the Virgin Mary). I wasn’t aware that people from Mexico come to visit Ponce to pay their respects.
Seeing people so happy and grateful was especially rewarding. The residents made sure to hug, kiss, and bless us when they saw what we were doing. They were in such good spirits despite what’s happened. They had such joy and were so welcoming. You could feel their love and appreciation.
The time I spent on the island, and being immersed in another culture, showed me the importance of learning more about my own. I found myself thinking I don’t use my Spanish nearly enough and need to further explore the beauty of my culture.
My biggest takeaway from this experience was I need to volunteer more. My eyes were opened to the benefits of volunteering — including the ability to bring happiness to yourself and those you’re helping. It makes such a huge difference in people’s lives.
To learn more about HRG’s time in Puerto Rico, read the rest of the blog series.