A team of 14 of us from Gateway in South Austin travel to Puerto Rico to serve alongside Hunger Corp.. This nonprofit began in Puerto Rico and has usually focused their efforts on serving people in need living in the jungles of Central America.
We went to a neighborhood called La Hormiga, a place where residents built houses years ago but without permits. Although considered a squatters village, the government built a basketball court for the neighborhood, delivers mail, and even picks up the trash.
After the hurricane, the residents were unable to get government assistance because they were unable to provide proof of ownership with a title to their home.
Hunger Corp mobilizes mission teams to help rebuild. Since we had a team there last year it was amazing to see the progress from one year to the next.
During our trip, we helped with 3 projects along with 2 other teams – 1 from Minnesota and another from Florida. Some of our teenagers helped put tile on the floor‘s of a new home for Barbara and her two kids. The other teens helped build two temporary homes so that Hunger Corp can knock down the original dwellings and rebuild homes made out of concrete. Both of these homes still have “blue roofs” which are actually tarps along with rotten walls. Some of our teens helped with some demolition as well. We also cut back the vines from the fences with machetes and trimmed the grass along the roadway with a weedwhacker.
One story in particular really inspired us. Hunger Corp approached Rafael an older gentlemen in La Hormiga about working on his home. Now Hunger Corp only partners with residents willing to do some of the work, and Rafael had answered the door sitting in a wheelchair with long hair and a long beard. Even still, he readily agreed to help any way he could. When the team returned a few days later, they were surprised to see him newly shaved, with a haircut, and walking! Rafael explained he had been so depressed for so long and so overwhelmed with all the work that needed to be done that he could hardly walk around the house so he just scooted around depressed day after day. Now Rafael helps cut wood and gets to know the teams that come and visit and help him rebuild his home.
It was amazing to develop friendships so quickly with the local residents and the teams we were serving with and even quite impressive to see the amount of work we were able to accomplish in one week. In fact I determined that if one person tried to do the work that we all accomplished in that one week it would require one year and three months of work!
Our teenagers had the opportunity to spend time with God each day on their own and as a group, grow in their faith, put their faith in action, and develop meaningful friendships with each other and others including the locals who work with Hunger Corp and the residence of La Hormiga!
I enjoyed traveling with Trevi to such a beautiful place with such amazing people who are still in need of help. There are still many blue roofs in this American territory. Grateful for the teams that have been coming and will come in the future!