A group of children participate in Save the Children’s signature social and emotional support program, Journey of Hope, at a community center in eastern Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Save the Children community engagement specialist Alfred Ferrer leads an activity where the children are using the parachute to communicate their feelings after the catastrophic 2017 storm. Photo by Shawn Millsaps for Save the Children.
Save the Children Helping Children Fully Recover Two Years After Hurricane Maria
Efforts Focused on Restoring and Improving Early Learning and Education Programs, Helping Children Emotionally Heal, Prepare for Next Emergency
SAN JUAN (September 20, 2019) – Two years after Hurricane María devastated Puerto Rico and the more than 3 million people living on the island, Save the Children is committed to making sure its most vulnerable victims — children — get the long-term recovery support they need.
Hurricane María was the most powerful storm to hit Puerto Rico since 1928, when it made landfall in September 2017, affecting all of the island’s nearly 700,000 children. The catastrophic storm killed an estimated 2,975 people, left island residents without power for months, and caused more than $90 billion in damage.
As the national leader of protecting children in emergencies, Save the Children has helped nearly 250,000 children and adults through its Hurricane María recovery programs in Puerto Rico. It worked to meet children and families’ immediate needs right after the storm, has ensured children across the island were able to return to safe learning environments where they could play, learn and develop, and has been providing kids the support they need to cope and build resilience in the wake of the storm.
“Save the Children is proud of what we’ve accomplished for the children of Puerto Rico since Hurricane María wreaked havoc on the island. We’ve collaborated with the hardest-hit communities to do whatever it takes to help children and families most affected recover,” said Jeanne-Aimee De Marrais, Save the Children’s senior director for U.S. Emergencies. “When we build and grow the resilience of children, communities flourish.”
Save the Children was on the ground in Puerto Rico within 96 hours of Hurricane María making landfall. It led nearly 200 emergency aid distributions in the weeks and months after the storm, providing parents the essential items they needed to care for their children – including water, hygiene supplies and materials to repair their homes.
Save the Children has also helped nearly 90 Early Head Start, Head Start and child care centers stay open in the aftermath of the storm, and supported 120 child care staff members through the certification process so their centers were not at risk of closing.
“Communities cannot begin to recover after disaster until child care and preschools are back up and running,” said Teruca Subira, Save the Children’s Hurricane María recovery team lead. “That’s why Save the Children has been working with communities and partners to make sure kids and families across the island have access to safe, quality early education in the aftermath of Hurricane María. The well-being of children in Puerto Rico – both today and in the future – is dependent on their access to quality early learning programs.”
In areas where schools were closed, Save the Children established more than 15 activity centers where children could continue learning. In addition, it provided new learning materials and afterschool programming for more than 3,000 children, and, with the American Red Cross, co-funded summer programs for more than 2,500 children, helping make up for lost time in the classroom.
Save the Children’s social and emotional recovery programs, including Journey of Hope and Shelter from the Storm, are helping thousands of children, parents and caregivers in Puerto Rico understand and cope with the stress, fear, loss and trauma that can come in the wake of a disaster like Hurricane María. To date, these critical programs have served more than 6,500 children and adults, and Save the Children has trained more than 800 adults to help continue to deliver these programs to empower communities and benefit more children and families.
“Disasters can steal children’s sense of security, affect their health, behavior and ability to learn, and fracture their relationships for years – so it’s critical that they have the opportunity to process their feelings after traumatic events like Hurricane María,” said De Marrais. “Save the Children, with the help of community partners, has been committed to supporting the emotional wellbeing of the children of Puerto Rico for the long-term.”
Emergency preparedness and resilience building has also been key to Save the Children’s recovery strategy in Puerto Rico. Through school partnerships, Save the Children has helped 12 schools in some of the island’s most impacted areas become equipped for future disasters – helping them assess disaster risks and secure needed emergency supplies. This includes partnering with the Puerto Rican Department of Education and the Rocky Mountain Institute to install solar-powered micro-grids at these 12 schools, so learning can continue during future power failures. Save the Children has also taught preparedness and resilience skills to more than 14,000 children through our Prep Rally program.
Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. Since our founding 100 years ago, we’ve changed the lives of more than 1 billion children. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming their lives and the future we share. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
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