by Dawn Vogelsang, president, for the Puerto Rico blog series
One of the more unique things about Hamacher Resource Group (HRG) is our culture of giving. As a company we make it a priority to help our community both locally and globally. Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, we recognized the immense need in Puerto Rico, and, in addition to sending supplies, a group of employees decided to travel to Guyanilla to be of service. Each of those employees documented their experiences as part of a blog series located here.
I, along with my husband Todd, traveled to Puerto Rico because with all the stories about the damage hurricanes Irma and Maria had caused, I felt a monetary donation wasn’t enough. While money is definitely needed, I was concerned about it not getting where it needed to go, which prompted me to want help directly.
On our first full day on the island we met the mayor of Guayanilla, Nelson Torres Yordán, and he directed us to a local gym turned distribution center, where we later spent the majority of our time. While in the distribution center, we were tasked daily with organizing numerous pallets of food, water, and supplies, then dispersing those items to residents. Some residents were able to travel to us, and for those who weren’t, members of our group accompanied local volunteers as they took food directly to various neighborhoods, including towns in the mountains.
On January 6, we were able to take part in the annual Three Kings Day celebration. The celebration serves as way of honoring the three wise men or “three kings,” and includes a parade where local children are handed gifts. We were given the opportunity to travel with the three kings (one being our own Nelson Rodriguez), and assist them as they tossed toys and bags of candy to excited children.
It was during that celebration when I had my most difficult moment. I wanted every child to receive a toy, but unfortunately we ran out, and that saddened me. It was also surprising and upsetting to know that some of the food being dispersed lacked in real nutritional value. Some boxes were primarily snacks and I couldn’t help thinking that we need to do better.
Even still, I had a number of rewarding experiences, one of which included traveling to the mountains. I was able to see a lifestyle much different than my own, yet still foster connections with the people we delivered food to. People were delighted to see us, and some even came out of their homes barefoot to greet us and let us know how much they appreciated us being there and not forgetting about them. Visiting the mountains also provided a much clearer picture of what types of supplies are needed, which I hope we are able to help with going forward.
It was also incredible to see the pride each member of our group had taking part in all the activities. There were no managers and non-managers, competition, or levels. It was just the nine of us, traveling together and bringing our different perspectives to a place that needed our collective help.
My biggest takeaway from this experience was where there’s true need in the world, having a grassroots activity like this is incredibly beneficial. Giving money is important, but being there makes such a difference, and participating in this trip has made me want to continue to push myself to be more personally invested.
To learn more about HRG’s time in Puerto Rico, read the rest of the blog series.