Puerto Ricans continue to struggle more than four months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, with nearly half a million people still living without basic electricity.
It’s a situation that is so dire that it sparked 15-year-old Salvador Gomez Colon of San Juan to take action. Colon launched a crowdfunding effort just days after the hurricane hit, setting out to raise $100,000 so that he could offer portable lamps and hand-operated washing machines for those hit the hardest, CNN Money reported.
Colon told Time Magazine that he, too, was scared after the hurricane hit, as his family started rationing food. But he quickly found himself thinking deeper about the crisis and what he could do to help others.
“I asked myself, ‘How could I give people hope?'” he said.
Colon quickly found an answer to that question, launching his C+Feel = Hope initiative, which raised $36,000 in the first four days, alone, and has now brought in more than $126,000. Overall, 1,400 solar lamps have been distributed to 840 homes since November; another 1,600 lamps will soon go out as well.
Additionally, Colon has secured 300 portable washing machines with the money that has come in; some of those have also recently started reaching those in need. A partial description of the initiative reads:
Too many Puerto Ricans without power, life has become harder than ever. To them the sunlight coming up in the morning is an instant sign of hope, but as soon as the 100 degrees Fahrenheit+ heat rises, this hope quickly dims away. Days are long, but nights have become longer, as people can do nothing but wait for the next ray of light to peek through the horizon in the morning. People have become deprived of the basic resources of light. In a basic emotional human state, light allows people to feel hope and see possibility, so those without light feel despair and extreme loneliness. Light provides a safe environment, both physically and emotionally. Hope that better days will come, is slowly dimming away for the hundreds of thousand of people in Puerto Rico affected by this massive crisis.
Colon, who distributes the lamps on the weekends, said that the devastation is truly tragic, describing his disbelief that people on the island could still be without power so long after the hurricane hit.
“There is so much need. People are still shoveling debris around their homes. With no power, the elderly are struggling with the heat” he told CNN Money. “It’s very crazy to think that there are still people without power. Four months without power is an extremely traumatizing experience.”
“My family supports me, my teachers support me,” he told CNN Money. “The world can always benefit from a positive mission. So I have to take this to the end.”