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President’s Letter: October 9, 2017

Let’s just say that these past two weeks have been tough for us all.  We watched in anticipation as a storm ripped through the Caribbean, destroying everything in its wake, taking aim at our families and friends in Puerto Rico.  While we waited for the worst there, the news of an unanticipated tragedy blindsided us.  The earth shook in central Mexico, laying waste to entire areas in the third largest nation in the Americas. It was difficult not to be shocked by the images of teetering skyscrapers in Mexico City and collapsed churches in Puebla. 

But if the destruction in Mexico left us shocked, the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria has left us at a loss for words. Puerto Rico has been decimated by this storm.  Houses have been washed away.  The island’s electrical grid has been crippled.  Highways have been damaged beyond repair. Communication remains extremely impossible. More than two weeks after the hurricane made landfall, entire communities are still isolated.  It’s clear that nothing will ever be the same on the island.

In the face of so much heartbreak and loss, we knew our response needed to be both swift and decisive. In the case of Mexico, we immediately seeded a relief fund with a $100,000 contribution to help those who lost their homes in the earthquake build new residences. We are grateful that those initial dollars are being matched and expanding thanks to the support of Mexican philanthropists, Fundacion Azteca America, and the generosity of so many of you. 

The problems facing Puerto Rico are, sadly, more complicated and have demanded an even deeper, more far-reaching response from us and our community. Here’s how we are making a difference. Two days after the storm hit Puerto Rico, we chartered a plane and worked with the Office of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to send 22 first responders to the island to help with immediate relief efforts. We have invested one million dollars to purchase food, water and other basic essentials for our people on the island. We have also worked with our community, government and private sector partners to coordinate seven relief aid flights – transporting tens of thousands of additional emergency supplies to Puerto Rico. Working with our staff, and a team of suppliers, local officials, and community leaders on the island, we have been able to make sure that our aid gets to some of the hardest hit locations in Puerto Rico. Partnerships with key officials and institutions on the island and in the U.S. mainland have also allowed us to elevate and more efficiently address ongoing needs. Beyond the extensive and ongoing relief we’re providing now, we have also seeded an initial $2.5M Fund to support grassroots nonprofits on the island with the goal of strengthening the support and social services infrastructure available to our families and communities in Puerto Rico. In every way possible, we are committed to be a significant part of Puerto Rico’s recovery and renewal.

Natural disasters have a way of exposing the deep inequalities that exist in a society.  We saw that after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.  But it is also true that these are the moments when we see some of the best of the human spirit.  We see values like solidarity and service, compassion and caring. These are the values that guide our work. We know they guide you as well. 

Please continue to support our efforts by giving what you can for our people in Puerto Rico and Mexico. 

In solidarity, siempre