“The home was completely destroyed. Everything blew away,”said Nellie Santiago. “Our lives have changed forever. Nothing is the same.”
Nellie, 63 years old, has been a housewife most of her life.She takes care of her husband Ramon, her children, and her grandchildren.
“I am a housewife without a house. Hurricane Maria stole everything from me,” she said. The storm took her home, her livelihood, and her identity. “If I am not a housewife, then what am I?” she asked.
“After Hurricane Maria, I had no food to feed my grandchildren. You gave me food so I could feed them. That was the most important thing to me,” recounted Nellie a few days after the storm.
Ramon, Nellie and their grandson accept a canned food donation supplied by IRT.
The Santiagos live in Villa Esperanza, a rural squatter community not far from San Juan, the capital. The town was founded only seven years ago when families desperate for an affordable place to live took over an abandoned sugarcane field. The town’s name means “hope” in Spanish. Families like the Santiagos moved there hoping to establish a better future for their children and grandchildren.
Sadly, the Santiagos have not had much hope this past year. Her husband, Ramon, lost his job in construction like most residents of Villa Esperanza, because many business did not reopen after the storm.
The tiny hillside community of Villa Esperanza didn’t stand a chance against Hurricane Maria’s category 5 winds. Nearly everything in the town was destroyed.
A view of Villa Esparanza in various stages of rebuilding a year after the storm.
Nellie’s story is not unique. There are many Nellies living in devastated communities like Villa Esperanza across the island.
Your support provided Nellie and her family with their most essential needs: food and water.
Nellie with her youngest grandson, Omalier, four years old.
“I don’t know how to thank you enough,” said Nellie.
We also can’t thank you enough for showing such compassion for Nellie, her family, and thousands of others who suffered greatly following Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. You helped during the darkest hours of their lives and for that we are grateful.