Diana and her husband drove for miles trying to find cell service after Hurricane Maria hit. After hours of driving, she heard her phone “ding” for the first time in days. She looked at her husband, and they immediately pulled over to read all the messages sent by friends and family. Themselves and many other cars gathered around the one cell tower still functional in the town of Bayamón to get in touch with family to ensure their safety. When she was able to hear her sister’s voice for the first time in days, Diana broke down.
She has such a big heart, not only for her friends and family, but for the wetlands as well. When she and her coworkers visited the reserve after Maria, they axed their way through the mangled trees just to get in the entrance. The water level was so high and there were so many trees lost that Diana could not even identify where she was in the reserve that she worked in every single day. Her coworker, Luis, had no other option but to kayak his way through the wetland to assess the damage. The 100-year old black mangrove trees could not withstand the strength of the wind, so nearly all of the species was lost.
But, this island is not defined by its devastation, but by its resilience. Today, the wetlands are always filled with volunteers clearing land to plant baby mangroves and remove invasive species, making the reserve stronger than ever. “Everything hurts after working in the wetland, but I love that we are thinking about the goal of restoring the area, watching the trees grow, knowing it will help the community in such a big way.”
NECHAMA has been partnering with Caras Con Causa to help better protect communities affected by Maria and Irma ahead of future storms. The mangrove forests protect homes from storm surge, and help with desalination of groundwater. It’s part of our holistic approach to disaster recovery – fixing homes is important, but communities wont recover unless the larger systemic issues are addressed as well.
Diana, our staff and volunteers have loved working with you and learning from you these past couple months! Your dedication to our volunteers and to the reserve does not go unnoticed. Thank you for everything you do!