Shortly after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Laura Cancel found herself at a volunteer meeting at Amazon, where she works in the regulatory and litigation department.
Everyone at the meeting was trying to figure out how to send supplies to people on the island. When someone mentioned she had used Amazon’s wish list feature to keep track of items her family needed, Cancel had an idea.
“I started thinking about that and I said, wouldn’t it be great to create a wish list for the entire island?” Cancel said.
Soon, Cancel began working with engineers to build Amazon wish lists where donors can buy individual items for a specific region of the island.
It’s one of several initiatives coordinated by Puerto Rico We Care, a group of businesses and volunteers in the Pacific Northwest that are working together to bring relief to victims of Hurricane Maria.
Puerto Rico We Care provides essentials to Puerto Ricans with the help of companies like Amazon and Microsoft. Supplies bought through the Amazon wish lists made under Cancel's direction are distributed to churches across the island in all 78 municipalities.
It has been one month since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico. But islanders are still struggling to access water, food and electricity. The hurricane caused $85 billion in damage and destroyed tens of thousands of homes, according to the Associated Press.
According to Ricardo Garcia, the chairman of the board of directors at Puerto Rico We Care, the organization is an effort to make relief efforts more efficient and organized.
“We all came together and thought instead of different groups of companies working individually, we decided to come together,” Garcia said. “Together we are stronger as an organization.”
Garcia is also the Program Manager for Warehouse Solutions at Costco Wholesale. A week after the hurricane, Puerto Rico We Care raised funds to buy food and water for islanders. Now they’re working to fill a shipping container donated by Costco that can hold 40,000 lbs. of supplies.
“Not only are they allowing us to use the container,” Garcia said. “But they are actually going to move the cargo from Washington all the way to Jacksonville, Florida, and then from Jacksonville, Florida, to move it all way to Puerto Rico, to the port.”
The space in the shipping container is reserved for supplies collected by the Puerto Rican Association of Washington State, La Isla Relief Fund and Seattle Children’s Hospital. Some extra space is reserved for additional donations.