DRI Certified Professional Reports on Resilience Efforts from Grant Recipients in Puerto Rico

The DRI Foundation is proud to support organizations working to strengthen resilience after disasters – especially when such an opportunity has been recognized by a Certified Professional. That is the case for our recent donation to ViequesLove, which promotes preparedness in Vieques, an island of Puerto Rico. 

After the damage done by Hurricane Fiona in Sept. 2022, Yaritza Rodriguez, CBCP, Risk Manager for Amgen, Ltd. requested a grant on behalf of the organization, which had formed in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017. It collaborates with community groups and local government to build resilience and sustainability for Vieques.

In December 2022, Rodriguez had the opportunity to visit Vieques and learn more about the various projects that the organization has put in place because of lessons learned from disasters that have impacted the island. She provided the DRI Foundation with her experience:

“Upon arrival I met with Kelly Thompson, Founder/Director of Marketing and Donor Relations, who coordinated my visit. In the visit I was able to meet with ViequesLove team and visit the various projects: Asset Mapping, COVID Pandemic Response and Preparedness & Representation.

“My first visit was to the COVID test area were Dayanara Cruz, Community Engagement Manager explained to me how they were able to put the testing and contact tracing process in place for Vieques, where it later was continued by the municipality.  Also, they supported emergency response teams in vaccination efforts obtaining 90% vaccination in the island.

Later I met with Paul Lutton, Vice President, who works directly with the Asset Mapping Project. The project plays a crucial role on preparedness, emergency and recovery efforts by:

  • Identifying critical needs
  • Locating and tracking critical resources (including equipment, supplies, & service providers)
  • Acquiring contact information from suppliers, responders, business and equipment owners, and
  • Continuously analyzing and managing the sufficiency of the resources against the needs of the island.

“Currently, they are developing the online Asset Mapping system to survey and map critical emergency related resources of NGOs, churches, agencies, schools, businesses, and key individuals (on or off of the island) to better analyze, visualize, locate, and manage, assets on a geographical information system (GIS) to prepare for the next crisis. I was able to see how it has been developed and lessons learned were shared with me from the various situations encounter to achieve this. Later, we toured the pilot areas identified through the Assets Mapping project, where I was able to see live what was presented to me in the initial grant application.

“ViequesLove has made efforts that include advocacy for hardening island infrastructure, and organizational capacity building to strengthen the community’s self-reliance. HAM radios and satellite antennas have been included thus, enhancing communication during disaster events. HAM training has been offered to staff, along with KP4 certifications. These capabilities are tested on a regular basis with a pre-defined process that includes emergency response government staff engagement.

“After that we had a meeting where I met Carmen Lopez Cotto, Chief Administrative Officer.  During the meeting, we discussed topics on current organization efforts to continue building a more resilient community in Vieques by continue partnership with emergency response agencies, government officials and business continuity subject matter experts. The organization wants to continue educating the population so that preparedness efforts continue. I offered to support a workshop on business continuity for small business located in Vieques.

“At the end of my visit, I met Mark Martin Bras, Founder, Director of Disaster Preparedness & Response. He plays an important role in protecting and preserving the ecological environment of Vieques as well as educating the youth through his daily work and Manta programs at Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust. He has helped redefine light pollution standards for Puerto Rico and is working to preserve and study the BioBay.

“Mark shared with me lessons learned from Hurricane Maria. Immediately after the storm, he started organizing a team on Vieques and connecting it to the off-island team. He dedicated almost a year volunteering in relief efforts, as a liaison and translator for Tesla and a crucial team member of the group advocating for better power solutions on the island. This led to him co-founding ViequesLove as community organizer and coordinator.

“It was evident to me that the organization founded after Hurricane Maria in 2017 has made great progress that has paid off on their recently response to Hurricane Fiona in 2022. During Fiona, Vieques was left in the dark and the main communication system was the Emergency Radio Network. ViequesLove funded the radio network that now connects the island not only to north to south but by HAM radio to all the world.

“During my visit my 18-year-old daughter accompanied me. She expressed to me that it was a great learning experience and increased her interest in the topic of resilience.

“I thank the DRI Foundation for providing me an opportunity to support this effort and the beautiful island of Vieques, Puerto Rico.”

The DRI Foundation is proud to provide support and vital financial assistance to such non-profit organizations, to aid their missions in communities where they are needed. For more information on requesting assistance, click here.