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The Island Next Door

A team of Connecticut veterans and volunteers -- self-described as the Puerto Rican "water dogs" -- pumps water from a river in Salinas, Puerto Rico through a mobile filtration and purification system for residents there to drink.
Credit Ryan Caron King / WNPR

As Puerto Rico recovers from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, WNPR is committed to telling the stories of residents with ties to Connecticut. We've sent a reporting team - news director Jeff Cohen, and digital reporter Ryan Caron King - to the island to meet people who are delivering aid and reconnecting with loved ones.  Listen for reports on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Where We Live and NEXT.

If you have loved ones in Puerto Rico and want to share your story, please email us at news@wnpr.org. You can also join a Facebook group WNPR in Puerto Rico After Maria. 

Coverage of Hurricane Maria from WNPR, the New England News Collaborative, and NPR:

Children in the mountain town of Orocovis returned to school two weeks ago after a two-month pause following Hurricane Maria. The school doesn't have electricity, so it lets out at 12:30 pm.
Ryan Caron King / WNPR

The Puerto Rican effort to advance from response to recovery after Hurricane Maria continues. For some, water and electricity are still elusive. And that makes it hard to get back to normal — especially for children.

Frankie Graziano / WNPR

In October, WNPR told the story of an Avon-based writer and how she was raising money for plane tickets to help Puerto Rican evacuees. A New Britain native heard it. And then, she reached out to Carrie Firestone for help.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

As well as providing an opportunity to mark the holidays, Saturday’s “Esparanza de Parranda” in Hartford highlighted an important need for those displaced by Hurricane Maria.

Merely Torres-Garcia has been living in a hotel room in Hartford, Conn., with her husband and two kids after losing part of her house in Puerto Rico to Hurricane Maria. She said spending the Christmas season in the northeastern cold has been hard for her family. But on Saturday night, in the noisy atrium of Hartford City Hall, it felt a little bit like Christmas on the island.

"My kids are happy. We feel like home in here right now," she said.

After the storm blew out her windows, Maria Enid Rodriguez lost water, Internet, power and her entire home office. Her company offered her a one-way ticket to be with family in New Britain, Conn. Rodriguez refused. She said that it was a round trip ticket or nothing. She wanted to come back.

"I went to New Britain for 10 days," she said, through her tears. "Not for me. For them. For my daughters. They have to see me, that I was okay."

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Merely Torres-Garcia sat in the second-floor conference room at a downtown Hartford Red Roof Inn, and she was bundled up -- wearing two shirts, a zip-up hoodie, a jacket, and gloves. She also had on a pair of Air Jordans which she said is something she wouldn’t wear in Puerto Rico.

A jittery group of middle-schoolers is about to start the first day of classes since September, when Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico and totally disrupted the island's school system.

The vast majority of the island's public schools — more than 98 percent — are open for at least part of the day, according to Puerto Rico's Department of Education.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Alejandro La Luz Rivera pulled the keys from his pocket, unlocked the heavy gate, and walked slowly up the outdoor stairs leading to what used to be a rooftop patio. Before Maria, this was the 90-year-old's favorite place to be. Now, without electricity, it's not as quiet up here — he doesn't have a generator, but his neighbors do. And the patio is gone, destroyed by the hurricane and its winds.

Frankie Graziano / WNPR

Pedro Juan Garcia Figueroa came up to Bridgeport from Puerto Rico on November 17. He wanted to thank the city for the nearly 200,000 pounds worth of supplies it collected during an event on October 1 -- a telethon organized by CTBPT United for PR.

Ken Cedeno / International Medical Corps

People displaced by the disaster in Puerto Rico face multiple problems - finding housing, getting kids settled in schools, adjusting to a new climate. And all of those can be intensified if they’re also dealing with health issues.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Marlene Hernandez shuffled through winter coats with her cousin Kaliel Diaz at a hurricane relief center in Hartford. Diaz arrived from Puerto Rico with three other family members just days before.

Decaseconds / Creative Commons

Trinity College in Hartford will take in five new students from the island at no cost for the next semester. It’s part of an overall program aimed at supporting the Puerto Rican relief effort.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

There will be a unity march for Puerto Rico on Sunday in Washington D.C.

Ana Valentin-Jackson is on the national committee for this event and is mobilizing Connecticut residents to get to the nation’s capital.

These days, Puerto Rico's monumental power restoration effort involves helicopters dropping 100-foot towers into the mountains and a "big dance" of crews, equipment and expertise from several agencies and companies. But progress has been slow and that dance has been a complicated and tedious one on the island, which is experiencing the largest outage in U.S. history.

And sometimes it's one light forward, two lights back.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

When we met Dr. Bolivar Arboleda Osorio in the city of Caguas a few weeks back, he talked about his experience treating patients in the aftermath of the storm -- first came the trauma victims, then came the chronic and severe cases that were becoming emergencies as time dragged on and the lights stayed off. Electronic records were stuck in the cloud. Patients, not able to call for an appointment, just showed up.

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