Helping Hands Rebuild Lifelong Home
A Ministry of Saws and Hammers Responds To Trujillo Alto Community Torn By Maria
Gregoria Delgado Aponte sits on a chair in her living room as she recalls watching Hurricane Maria wreak havoc on her Trujillo Alto home as the force of the winds ripped planks of wood from its side.
“I said, ‘My God, do not let anything happen to me,’” Gregoria recalls, remembering how the sun had not yet risen behind the hills when the hurricane began pummeling the island with the harshest winds and rains it had seen in 85 years. “‘If you want to take them [planks of wood], take them away. But do not let anything happen to me.’”
Today, a blue tarp lays crumpled up outside her home. That tarp was the only roof it had for the past 11 months.
She is surrounded by the sound of saws and hammers as three workers rebuild her lifelong home.
“You do not know what I’ve suffered,” Gregoria says. “I’m still suffering because I’m not at home.”
Since the hurricane, she has been living with her son. She had spent the morning that Maria struck alone until her son sought her out at 5 a.m. and got her to go with him.
Aponte received money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to replace the furniture she lost, but a new roof was out of the question. Her home was built by her father and this meant she had no property title to prove ownership. This documentation is a FEMA requirement that she could not meet, so her home remained covered with a blue tarp for almost a year.
The workers standing on the ladders propped up against Gregoria’s new red roof are not from FEMA. They are volunteers from the Ministry of Rapid Response, an organization from the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The organization has been dedicated to helping those with needs stemming from the consequences that came from Hurricane Maria.
“If there is a need, you can count on us,” says Pedro Lopez Ramos, a church minister who has helped rebuild more than 30 houses on the island.
Along with construction help, the group distributes furniture and appliances. On some weekends, they bring doctors, barbers and washing machines to areas that are still in need.
They have been working on Gregoria’s home for over two weeks. When they finish, they will visit the next person on their list. A year after Maria, the list still has more than 50 names.
“There are many people alone,” Pedro says, “and not only the aspect of the reconstruction of the houses, but with the reconstruction of their mind.”
Pedro thinks there are still more than 100 houses with blue tarps that need roofs replaced.
“The help has not reached those people,” Pedro says. “We are trying to extend a hand to people who really need it.”
Gregoria takes a cloth to the spigot outside of her windowless home. She dampens it before bringing it back inside and handing it to one of the workers. He uses it to wipe away the grout that covers his hands. They smile at each other, exchanging words that give off the feeling of a long-term friendship and a feeling that two strangers now share because a tragedy has brought them together.
“Thank God I was able to rebuild,” Gregoria says. “This house was given to me by God.”