MIAMI – Even on the best of days, things can go awry on Vieques, the island off Puerto Rico’s eastern coast. Water and power supplies can be cut, groceries may or may not be available, but people just help each other get by. So when a natural disaster the likes of Hurricane Maria happens, everyone pulls together the way they’re used to doing.
“Vieques is almost an indescribable place for most people. If you haven’t been there, if you haven’t lived there, it’s hard to understand it,” says Stephen Mueller, a Principal of the aid group ViequesLove who called the island home for three years. “There is something about the island, the community, the people there that’s just very different than what most of us have experienced.”
Since ViequesLove was formed the night that Maria struck Puerto Rico, it’s been juggling all manner of requests for assistance.
“We’ve gotten a lot of very interesting asks,” Mueller says in this interview with Beet.TV. “The most recent one that we did is we successfully got two radiators down there specific to the generators for water sanitation,” a route that stretched from Atlanta to Miami to the Puerto Rico mainland to Vieques.
“We’ve been lucky that we’ve been able to use private planes to get things down there,” Mueller adds. “There are a lot of moving pieces. It takes a lot of organization and creativity.”
Having been a resident and owned a business on Vieques, Mueller is well versed in the day in and day out milieu.
“Something as simple as going to the postal box requires about 30 minutes of your time, because inevitably you’re going to meet plenty of people that you know, and you all stop and chat, ask how their day’s going. It’s this huge sense of community and involvement.
“For the three years that we lived there, it was probably one of the best times of our lives and probably one of the few places that have truly felt like home.”
As of Nov. 6, ViequesLove had raised $873,696 from 7,084 donors via its GoFundMe website.
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.