Shine Bright Puerto Rico!

Help Support OHorizons’ Ongoing Relief Efforts in Puerto Rico. 

A month after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the island remains in crisis. Millions remain without power, access to clean drinking water, refrigeration, and other essential resources. The situation is particularly dire in remote and rural communities, many of which have been cut off from the rest of the island by bridge collapses or the destruction of other vital infrastructure.

The humanitarian emergency in Puerto Rico strikes particularly close to our hearts at OHorizons. Our founder and senior project manager are Puerto Rican residents with extensive ties to the community. In this trying time, they are turning their attention to helping their fellow citizens.  All of us at OHorizons are following their lead, and embarking on a massive relief effort that is saving lives by putting our global experience of implementing practical, scalable, and locally empowering solutions into practice in Puerto Rico.  While San Juan and other large cities are receiving the majority of  attention from other relief efforts, we are aiming to help across 34 rural municipalities we have identified as underserved and at risk.

We hope you will join us by supporting our relief initiative, ¡Brilla Fuerte Puerto Rico! – which translates to “Shine Bright Puerto Rico!”

We chose this name as a message of empowerment to the resilient Puerto Rican people, whom we are happy to be working with - to restore access to clean water, power, and a brighter future.


Why We’re Different:

The fact that two senior OHorizons leaders are long-time Puerto Rico residents gives us a major advantage in our mission. We have deep roots, with connections to many prominent local individuals and businesses. We have access to heavy machinery, including forklifts, hydraulics, and even a helicopter – which federal agencies have recently borrowed for critical missions. We are using local drivers and a fleet of 500 bread trucks to deliver much-needed supplies.

This ‘home-field advantage’ gave us a leg up in the distribution of our immediate relief package, which included basic non-perishable nourishing foods and liquids, lanterns, generators, work gloves, and satellite phones. These goods were distributed the last week of September in Humacao, where the hurricane made landfall.  After sending immediate relief, we decided we could do more and started identifying local, cost-efficient, and sustainable relief interventions.

Our work is predicated on the concept of ‘Low-Tech, High-Thinking.’ Far too many relief efforts have to be administered or deployed by technical experts. These solutions are costly, but more importantly, they do not encourage ownership by the communities they intend to help.  Our solutions, on the other hand, both power and empower. Using cost-efficient technologies that are simple but not simplistic, we are able to provide accessible solutions that integrate into the lives of end-users and that meet needs without disrupting daily living patterns. Our mission is to provide user-centered solutions that focus on sustainable empowerment through capacity building.

What We're Doing:

From our local connections in Puerto Rico, we have repeatedly heard that the resources needed most urgently are electricity, access to clean drinking water, and refrigeration. Accordingly, we are providing several low-tech, high-thinking solutions that meet these needs. These include:

  • Small and portable inflatable solar lights.
  • Solar battery systems with three lights and cell phone charging for families.
  • Membrane water filters that remove over 99.999% of bacteria and protozoa that cause water-borne illness.
  • Portable generators ideal for emergency situations.
  • Solar powered refrigeration to help ensure that hospitals are able to keep medicines and vaccines refrigerated without electricity, in addition to preserving food.
Children show off the illuminating power of the portable inflatable solar lights we're distributing. 

Children show off the illuminating power of the portable inflatable solar lights we're distributing. 

These solutions, distributed by our on-the-ground team, are urgently needed as Puerto Rico combats one of the worst humanitarian crises in U.S. history. We’ve identified Rio Grande as the first municipality we’re going to help.

“Two of our neighborhoods were totally destroyed and flooded, with more than 800 homes gone.  The flood waters are now becoming contaminated, spreading illness and disease. People are getting sick. The probability of getting power and clean water restored to these neighborhoods is remote. We desperately need energy and water solutions. I am also concerned for 25 bed-ridden patients on respirators, we need small generators to keep the respirators running.” -Angel ‘Bori’ Gonzalez, mayor of Rio Grande.

“Two of our neighborhoods were totally destroyed and flooded, with more than 800 homes gone.  The flood waters are now becoming contaminated, spreading illness and disease. People are getting sick. The probability of getting power and clean water restored to these neighborhoods is remote. We desperately need energy and water solutions. I am also concerned for 25 bed-ridden patients on respirators, we need small generators to keep the respirators running.” -Angel ‘Bori’ Gonzalez, mayor of Rio Grande.

Conditions are similar all over the island, with rural communities often suffering the most and receiving the least and last help. Puerto Rico is facing an increasing environmental disaster, as half of its sewage treatment facilities have yet to come back online due to damage and power outages. This further exacerbates an already dire water emergency.  Desperate times breed ingenuity and resilience, however. The New York Times recently told the tale of two men from Charco Abajo, a remote mountain village of approximately 120 residents in the Utuado municipality, who rigged up a pulley system for supplies after their town was cut off by a bridge collapse.  Others throughout the island are devising resourceful strategies like hooking respirators and other essential devices up to car batteries to help the infirm. Everywhere, stories abound of citizens banding together to help one another in this difficult time.

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“We Puerto Ricans are fighters and hard workers,” said one woman quoted in the Times article.

At OHorizons, we believe the most powerful engines of development are the recipient communities themselves. Our overall mission is to provide empowering solutions that communities can take ownership of, solutions that are both easy to integrate and sustainable. Building on our experience providing clean water solutions in Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and South America, we are using our on-the-ground connections and resources to provide these solutions in Puerto Rico - supporting rural and underserved communities that often feel left out and forgotten as the majority of relief efforts focus on large population centers.

But we cannot reach our goal of assisting people across 34 of the most at-risk municipalities, without your help:

  • $25 will provide access to clean water for 100 people, a cost of 25 cents per person
  • $50 will provide four shareable inflatable solar lights
  • $75 will provide a solar home lightning and charging system

We know the lay of the land in Puerto Rico and we have the technology and the development philosophy to power and empower the island’s citizens in their transition from crisis to recovery. We hope you will help support this effort, so the lights of Puerto Rico can shine bright once again.

¡Brilla Fuerte Puerto Rico!