MIAMI – What took the federal government more than five days—to begin assembling aid for hurricane-ravaged Vieques—started the night of the storm among concerned citizens. That’s when Brittany Roush and Kelly Thompson, Editor and Publisher of Vieques Insider Magazine, started the group ViequesLove.
It was done “with the intent of raising thirty thousand or forty thousand dollars,” says Roush, who is Principal at ViequesLove. As of Nov. 6, the group had raised $873,696 from 7,084 donors via its GoFundMe website.
In this interview with Beet.TV, Roush recounts how it was clear from the start that the island’s infrastructure would be ravaged and that residents would be displaced in large numbers. But the day after ViequesLove was created, there was no word of government aid coming to the island.
“I think that in all of our original discussions that had never even been a remote possibility,” Roush says. “The worst-case scenario would be five days. That’s what it was with Katrina and that was the worst FEMA response to date.”
As the fifth day approached, it became apparent that nothing was happening.
“So we spoke with a few people, all via Facebook, and found out that Robert Becker was going down to the island pretty much any way he could get down there,” Roush says, referencing the veteran Democratic political campaign manager.
Efforts to find a boat to ferry Becker to Vieques came up short due to port conditions. “So we immediately shifted to finding a plane. And we found a plane. And we found a pilot who was willing to take this on. To our knowledge, we were only the second group to have gotten a plane onto the ground on Vieques after the storm.”
It all came together “because people worked together. I think that speaks very much to the kind of people that move to Vieques or live on Vieques and the way that they just are,” says Roush.
She’s now sure what the future holds for ViequesLove. “But we know that for as long as we have the support of the community and we have the funding, we want to be there to serve the people of Vieques,” she adds. “That might be schools, it might be rebuilding projects. We don’t know. We’re going to continue to take it day by day for now.”
Stand With Puerto, The Industry Steps Up
This video reports on the pressing issues facing Puerto Rico and the organizations that are having an impact. It is part of a media industry initiative titled Stand With Puerto Rico. It is organized by Beet.TV and Omnicom Media Group along with founding partners AT&T AdWorks and Teads. Please find additional videos from the series here. The series was recorded in Miami at the Festival of Media/LATAM on October 30.