Mending Puerto Rico: Rebuilding one year after Maria

Published: Sep. 20, 2018 at 9:34 PM EDT
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By: Ben Kaplan | WCTV Eyewitness News

September 20, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- One year ago, Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico. The Category 4 storm killed thousands, damaged tens of thousands of homes and left millions without power.

365 days later, help is still very much needed. Including in the city of Jayuya, which is in the central part of the island.

During the last year, WCTV has taken you there several times. After you donated things like water, and batteries in the beginning and then money and building supplies later on.

That help hasn't stopped.

And now, it's actually putting roofs back over people's heads.

Hope; No one sound defines it.

But, in Jayuya, right now, hope sounds a lot

"The last house we were doing, the lady said, ‘I didn't think someone was going to come and help me with the roof and you guys came and the foundation helped us and we are so thankful’. And, that to me, is the meaning of everything," said Gisela Rodriguez, one of the founders of the Giselle Marie Foundation.

We've introduced you to Gisela and her husband David Medina several times before. Both are both from Jayuya and have long lived in Tallahassee. And even from a thousand miles away, they keep tabs on the progress in their home town.

"I'm an IT guy, so I set up an electronic system, and it's very simple. I have them connected to the system and every time I upload an application, we get to see it here," David said.

The couple runs everything through their Giselle Marie Foundation, named after their 11 year old daughter.

Here’s how it works: Folks in need in Jayuya apply for aid to get a roof. Once the municipality actually goes to the house and verifies it's needed, the foundation's team in Puerto Rico gives it the stamp of approval.

”They go to Jayuya, and they physically go there and see every application. Because I want to make sure that every application that I get is a real family with a really need," David explained.

Everything is rebuilt with supplies and machinery either donated, or paid for by donations from here in the Big Bend.

WCTV was at a meeting in Jayuya in January where David and Gisela introduced their plans to help rebuild to the mayor.

Now, it's all coming to fruition.

"So, seeing is believing. Now that he sees the warehouse full of materials we have taken there, I think he's very encouraged," said David.

So far, they've completed 22 roofs.

"We're going to do over 150-200 houses,” David said.

“The whole entire island," Gisela added.

From destruction, to rehabilitation.

"It's unbelievable. I think we wake up in the morning and we look at each other and we go like this,“ Gisela said, motioning a shrug.

Hope has returned to Jayuya.

The Giselle Marie Foundation still has building supplies in Florida it’s trying to ship to Puerto Rico. If you’d like to find out more about how you can help,