Red Cross restores family bonds in Puerto Rico

By IFRC

Hurricane Maria left millions of people without electricity, resulting in limited connectivity throughout Puerto Rico. Consequently, large swathes of people had no means of letting their family members know that they were alright or if they needed help.

As part of disaster response, the American Red Cross has been working to reunite families thanks to a portable satellite dish known as VSAT. This satellite program offers free WiFi so users can connect with their families by accessing social media. The satellite is part of the family reunification program known as Safe & Well which finds creative ways to reunite families after a disaster.

After Hurricane Maria hit, Fátima Haram, 66, and her husband Abdelrahman Salem, 72, were left without any means to communicate with the outside world. Both of Arabic nationality, they have been living in Puerto Rico for five years, and this was the first time they had lost communication with their loved ones.

Tears of joy spilled over when Fátima managed to communicate with her daughter, who lives in Europe. She connected to her using the free internet signal set up in La Revolución Plaza, Lares by the Safe & Well program of the American Red Cross.

Between hugs and tears, Fátima and Abdelrahman thanked the Red Cross for helping them establish long-distance communication and for the free internet service.

Red Cross Helps Connect Puerto Ricans to Loved Ones

Friends wonder what it’s like when my husband, Glen, and I deploy to disaster zones—at times living in what some consider to be hardship conditions. Here’s a little insight:

We fired up our generators in the plaza of a small town in Puerto Rico. When we first arrived the town looked deserted, but people came out of their houses as word spread that the Red Cross was setting up a communication station so people could call, text, and send email to their loved ones. Neighbors plugged their phones into Red Cross charging stations as hundreds waited to call family members for the first time since Hurricane Maria struck. Even though cell service and electricity were down on the island, our equipment enabled crowds of excited people to talk and text family members from the plaza to let them know they were safe.

For anyone without their own working phone, the Red Cross provided phones with prepaid Skype accounts so that no one was left out.

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