UPDATED: Framingham Group Launches Relief Effort to Help Puerto Rico Schools

FRAMINGHAM – As parents in Framingham try to get their kids to drink more water each day, in Puerto Rico, six months after hurricane Maria, many school kids are still trying to find any water that is safe to drink.

And because of that a group from Framingham has launched a new relief charity, aimed at providing safe drinking water to students in disaster-stricken areas, specifically in the Caribbean.

The Framingham-based Caribbean Schools Disaster Relief Foundation program is based on a unique “schoolkids helping schoolkids” element, whereby students send water, water purification supplies and personal messages of hope and inspiration to affected school children in the Caribbean.

At Caribbean Schools Disaster Relief Foundation, the focus is on three principles – “Water is Life, Education Empowers and Children are our Future,” said its Founder Rick McKenna,

Another unique aspect of the Foundation’s program is its inter-active approach, whereby relief supply shipments are mapped by GPS tracking devices.

Schools, students and their families are able to track the supplies from an affiliated-Foundation warehouse in Framingham, all the way to the target schools in the disaster-affected islands.

Joining Nobscot resident and founder Mckenna in this humanitarian effort are District 9 City Councilor Edgardo Torres, former School Committee Chair Heather Connolly, ZBA member and PTO organizer Joe Norton. Sylvia Ruiz, Margie Ann Rosario, Daniel Morales and Rob Seta round off the management and operations team. State Rep Jack Lewis, Hemenway Elementary Principal Liz Simon and Walsh Middle School’s Pat Johnson and James Bergeron head up the advisory board.

The pilot program for the newly-formed group will focus on a number of schools in Puerto Rico.

On September 20, 2017, the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria, a powerful Category 4 storm that also impacted several islands in the Caribbean. It was the strongest storm to make landfall in Puerto Rico in 85 years. It came ashore just south of Yabucoa Harbor at 6:15 a.m. with sustained winds of 155 mph, knocking out power to the entire island.

Six months later . . . tens of thousands of people are still without power and running water. Many schools are on part-time generator power and school children rely on outside sources for safe drinking water.

More than 6,500 Framingham elementary and middle school students will be offered the opportunity to join in this relief effort.

A voluntary student donation of one dollar will send a bottle of drinking water, along with an attached personal written/drawn message of hope and inspiration to a student in Puerto Rico.

All Framingham elementary and middle schools are invited to participate, with Hemenway and Walsh being the base operation schools here in Framingham.

Recently, several Walsh Middle School peer leaders started working with the Foundation. They include Jay Atal, Diego Castrillo-Vilches, Colin Davan, Nicole Ramirez, Jenna Smith, and Griffin Yarmaloff

Executive Director McKenna said the group is focused, not only on helping students if the affected regions, but also on introducing elementary and middle school students to the realm of humanitarian relief efforts – with a hands-on approach. McKenna and his team hope to eventually extend the program to school districts nationally, and begin an extensive database and school research platform for the entire Caribbean island region.

During the first week in May, Caribbean Schools Disaster Relief Foundation will be sending a team of volunteers to San Juan, along with water donated by Nestles Water North America, bottle tag messages from Framingham students, and other water relief-associated items.

Participating schools and volunteers will have the opportunity to track in real-time, the relief cargo — from warehouse to shipping port, cargo ship to San Juan port, to target schools in Puerto Rico — as our team distributes supplies to the affected areas. This will provide a geo-tracking lesson for the students, said McKenna. Cargo tracking devices have been supplied by supply chain logistics company Sensitech, out of Beverly, Massachusetts.

A recycle/reuse and self-sustainability program will be added to the program for the Puerto Rico schools.

The Foundation is also looking for residents to make donations. Click here to donate.

Donations may be made through the organization’s website at ThirstResponder.org

Other schools are also encouraged to join the program. Visit the website to sign up.

People can follow on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ThirstResponder.org/ — which will have a live feed from Puerto Rico during the operation.

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Photos by Susan Petroni/Petroni Media Company ©2018. All Rights Reserved.

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: editor@FraminghamSource.com Phone: 508-315-7176

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