By Natalia A. Bonilla-Berrios
PUERTO RICO — In two hours, we made $3.3 million dollars.
For the first time in the history of Puerto Rico, the government created a benefit radio-telethon to bring aid and hope to the 8 million people in the Haiti capital of Porto Principe (Port-au-Prince ) after an earthquake of 7.0 shook the poorest country of Latin America on January 12.
In “Abracemos a Haiti” (Let Us Embrace Haiti), the goal of raising $500,000 was achieved in less than an hour. On Friday 22, music artists, news reporters and volunteers united their voices and talents to reach the population of 4 million whose responses surpassed any expectations.
“We have demonstrated that we have an immense heart”, said Governor Luis FortuÃ±o after announcing the final sum of $3,332,705, dollars that will be sent to the International Fund of the American Red Cross.
Carmen Canino, executive director of the Puerto Rico Red Cross, told the press that all the money will be used to buy medicine and food and water supplies for the victims.
With the death toll rising towards 100,000, international aid is still coming slow to the rescue. News correspondents from all three major channels on the Island — Univision, WAPA and Telemundo — described the scene in Porto Principe as a “living hell.”
But the truth few dare to reveal is that before the tremor, Haiti was forgotten.
While the UN Headquarters provided human relief support and was an authority presence, more than the government of President RenÃ© Preval, Haitians have relied mostly on international aid to arrive.
What needs to be done in Haiti forms the foundation of every prosperous nation: Education. Instead of building them houses, like Habitat for Humanity will; or providing them food supplies, like most countries are doing — Brazil sent 14 tons of drinking water and groceries in the first two days–; the effort should be invested in teaching them how to do things.
Also, giving them the tools to develop agriculture, supplying them grains to grow a sustainable economy; constructing schools and hospitals with them so that when another natural disaster occurs they can rise above the tragedy and help them rebuild their neighbors’ health and moral well-being instead of waiting for the world to come to the rescue.
The Puerto Rican Engineers and Surveyors College has announced that they will send a group of experts to review the land and make recommendations for future structures according to Puerto Rican construction codes and other countries. This proves that aid, monetary or humanitarian, can outshine the primary goal of offering immediate relief by gathering the population to become part of the greater good, by making millions believe progress is possible.
Haitians, with the help of Puerto Rico and the international community, have been given the chance to prove once again — after freedom from Imperial influences — just how strong they are as a people, and how they will soar like many of the survivors’ stories have shown.
Learn more about Natalia
Natalia A. Bonilla Berrios is a junior at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) majoring in Journalism and minoring in Political Science, International Relations. Natalia has a 3.90 GPA.
She was the former president of the UPR student chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, a member of the National Society of Collegiates and Scholars and was selected for the ‘Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges’ program, during her freshman year.
In addition, she has worked as an intern reporter for DiÃ¡logo Digital, Puerto Rican Center of Investigative Journalism, served as a staff writer for ParÃ©ntesis newspaper, and as a volunteer reporter for IDentidad magazine.
Bonilla has served as student representative for the Freedom of the Press Center of Puerto Rico and has been selected as one of the UWIRE’s Top 100 Student Journalists of 2009.
She was selected for the Student Camp at Unity 2008, the quadrennial Journalists of Color Convention and also, as a volunteer for the 2009 International Year of Astronomy.