Posted by on Mar 30, 2018 in Aid for Puerto Rico, Behind the Shelf Blog

by Julie Bonnell, vice president, operations, for the Puerto Rico blog series

I decided to travel to Puerto Rico because I set a resolution last year to be a better version of myself, and part of that was focusing on social justice. It was important to me not just to give money, but to be hands on in the rebuilding of Puerto Rico.

Throughout our time in the cities of Ponce and Guayanilla, there were more heartbreaking moments than there were challenges. While helping with the celebration of Three Kings Day, not every kid could receive a bag of candy or toy because of the sheer volume of participants. Another moment that struck me was while cleaning the distribution center where we gave residents food, an older woman returned wanting to exchange tomatoes for fruit because she had no way to cook the tomatoes.

On the other hand, I got to experience an incredibly joyous church service when I attended Mass with my co-worker, Nelson. To see so much joy during a time when there is so much devastation really spoke to the resilience of the people.

One of the most rewarding experiences also came during the Three Kings celebration. Nelson teased me about being “chief waver” of the caravan, as I made sure to wave at all the people, not just the children, we passed as the three kings handed out toys and candy. It was amazing to see the elderly residents light up just at the acknowledgment. There wasn’t a single person that didn’t wave back. When we returned to work at the distribution center the following day, one volunteer remembered being waved at and we exchanged a big hug.

The culture here at HRG is one that made this all possible, there was instant teamwork as soon as we arrived. We all had a common vision to do as much as possible, and it made me very proud. People stretched themselves and did it with such openness and generosity.

My biggest takeaway from the experience was at the end of the day it’s all about people — about dignity, respect, and compassion, which is what it should always be about.

   

 

To learn more about HRG’s time in Puerto Rico, read the rest of the blog series.

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