Relief and Response Updates: Archives

Updates from the New York Annual Conference

Puerto Rico Earthquake Response: January 27, 2020

Some 2,000 earthquakes have hit Puerto Rico since December 28—predominantly in the southwest municipalities, but also in other parts of the island. The strongest was a 6.4 in early January but multiple aftershocks continue daily, including a 5.0 two days ago. 

More than 500 homes have been destroyed and many others structures (including schools, apartment complexes and public buildings) were damaged, according to recent reports. In addition, more than 8,000 people are currently living in municipal or “pop-up” shelter camps. Residents have lost homes or sustained damage, while others are simply afraid to remain in concrete structures.  

In mid-January, Tom Vencuss, New York Annual Conference (NYAC) Director of Missions and Disaster Response, traveled to Puerto Rico as part of a small United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Early Assessment Team. The group with leaders from the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico (MCPR), and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) personnel. They also visited hard-hit areas, met with survivors and had discussions with Rehaciendo Comunidades con Esperanza (ReHace), the social response arm of MCPR, to plan a response. 

Response organizations on island include FEMA, the National Guard, Emergency Management, Puerto Rico Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster and other agencies. In mid-January a federal declaration was issued making Puerto Rico eligible for federal disaster response aid.   

The MCPR, through ReHace, has been a partner in this response effort from the outset. Due in part to its current Maria response effort, and the Church’s presence throughout the island, ReHace has established 15 distribution sites for the reception and disbursements of emergency supplies. 

Brigades of “Hope and Love” have been oriented and sent to areas to provide spiritual and emotional care. On January 18 more than 80 persons took part in a psychological first aid training coordinated by church. Many are currently disaster case managers. Working with UMCOR, ReHace will establish and monitor a call-in center at the PRVOAD. All are mindful of the urgent need to find suitable housing for displaced persons as the hurricane season begins June 1.  

No goods or supplies are needed or requested at this time. The situation is also not appropriate for volunteer teams. All volunteers will continue to be deployed to Maria-affected communities. 

The NYAC Missions office continues to be the point for all mainland-based volunteer teams deploying to Puerto Rico as part of the Maria recovery effort.  


Puerto Rico Earthquake Response: January 8, 2020

The Missions office of the New York Annual Conference (NYAC) has been in almost constant contact with the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico, Rehace leadership and United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) regarding the earthquakes.

Tymera Jackson, Mainland Volunteer Coordinator, has been in dialogue with the volunteer teams that register and deploy through our office, providing them the most recent information we have received.

The situation in Puerto Rico continues to be monitored and assessments are beginning through the existing network of Disaster Case Managers and Project Managers.  

At this point, as almost all volunteer response work is currently taking place in areas not directly affected by the earthquake, Rehace remains ready to receive and deploy volunteer teams. A decision to travel is at the discretion of the volunteer team. Understandably, some have elected to reschedule.

A small group from the mainland, under the auspices of the UMCOR will be traveling to Puerto Rico next week to meet with leadership, visit affected areas, and discuss future response plans. Tom and Wendy Vencuss, from the New York Annual Conference, will be part of this group.

Tom Vencuss is the NYAC Director of Missions and Disaster Response and has been serving as an UMCOR consultant to Puerto Rico. Wendy has served in the ministry of Disaster Emotional and Spiritual Care.

Updates will continue to be provided as they become available.