Humanitarian services and volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have responded to help those affected by the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Fiona throughout the Caribbean region in September.
The Church reported Thursday, Sept. 22, in a news release that projects totaling $475,000 will provide aid to about 65,000 families on the French island of Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
The humanitarian aid will provide food, water, hygiene items and other emergency supplies, as well as human assistance, through Helping Hands volunteers, who will clean, remove debris and distribute supplies.
The Church plans to continue to send additional relief and assistance, as well as assistance and emotional support, said Josue D. Vanderhorst, the Church’s manager of welfare and self-reliance for the Caribbean Area.
“Our Heavenly Father remembers His children and answers their prayers, no matter how difficult the situation, so we hope, in a way, to be part of that answer, providing what is necessary to those who need it most and in the shortest possible time,” Vanderhorst said. “As Christians, we are sensitive and supportive of the pain of others, so the least we can do is be there and humbly respond with what we have within our reach; extending a hand as the Savior Jesus Christ would have.”
The worst may not be over as forecasts from the U.S. National Hurricane Center call for the rains will continue and possible additional flooding.
As governments declare a state of emergency in the region to generate federal funds for relief work, the Church is working with charitable partners to provide aid in various locations.
Hurricane Fiona claimed lives, displaced more than 12,000, caused flooding and landslides, and interrupted services in the Dominican Republic.
Latter-day Saints and missionaries in the region are safe, according to the news release, and most Church buildings have minor damage but are in good condition.
The Church has partnered with the Rotary Club of the Dominican Republic to donate $50,000 to help those affected in the eastern and northeastern regions of the country. The funds will help provide food, clothing and medicine for people who lost their homes.
More than 1 million people reportedly remain without electricity after the hurricane caused extensive flooding in both urban and rural areas of Puerto Rico. As many as 800,000 are without clean water, and about 1,000 families are without homes.
One local leader reported that some areas have had 30 inches of rain and are still receiving more. This has resulted in mudslides, overflowing rivers, washed-away roads and at least one bridge washed away.
The Church is collaborating with the World Food Program, Project HOPE and the Red Cross to provide humanitarian aid for Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, the news release said.
The French territory of Guadeloupe is also under water across much of the island. Missionaries and Church members have joined community efforts by assisting residents, distributing water and cleaning supplies and cleaning homes and affected sites.
Emergency plans and self-reliance
The Church reports that 350 Latter-day Saint families in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic have benefitted from emergency preparation and the self-reliance program.
Local leaders in both locations have members who experienced great loss but feel gratitude and hope for the support they receive.
“In a general way, I could see how the hurricane caused a lot of damage in the community, but I feel grateful for the opportunity to serve in the work of the Lord and to help my sisters and brothers to see that this is nothing more than a test,” said one branch president in the Dominican Republic. “The important thing is to move forward and persevere because we are not alone.”