On Monday, March 19th, 2018 Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Alderman Proco Joe Moreno, Representative Luis V. Gutierrez, CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson and José López, to cut the ribbon on the new athletic facility at Roberto Clemente Community Academy. The field will support school sports, as well as recreational programming for the entire community. “Investments in world-class academic institutions like those at Clemente not only support the students of Chicago; they are investment in our residents and the future of our City,” said Mayor Emanuel. “These brand new athletic fields will help both students and west side residents to stay engaged and on track to a brighter future.” The fields at Clemente will be used primarily for softball and baseball; Clemente field now has spectator seating, improved lighting, underground drainage infrastructure and storm water management and other amenities. “I am thrilled that we can provide our residents and the hard-working students at Clemente with the high-quality athletic fields they deserve,” said Alderman Proco Joe Moreno, 1st Ward. “Ongoing community investments like these fields would not be possible without the commitment and determination from our local leaders and students.” Roberto Clemente Community Academy is now home to a 120,000 square foot competition-size synthetic turf field for baseball and softball, and a sodded turf for practice and recreational use. Additional updates include team dugout areas, a press box and dual scoreboard, and removable outfield fencing with foul poles, a ball stopper system and backstop; the $3.9 million investment was funded by the Capital Improvement Tax. “This athletic facility will help students at Clemente lead healthy, active lives while providing experiences that will instill the invaluable lesson of teamwork,” said Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Dr. Janice Jackson. Clemente has continued to make academic gains since 2011 and graduated its first wall-to-wall IB class in 2016. In 2012, Clemente was the third school to announce wall-to-wall IB programming, which was first at Back of the Yards and Nicholas Senn High School. Chicago is home to the largest network of IB schools in the nation, with 52 schools (22 high schools and 30 elementary schools) currently serving more than 26,000 students enrolled in IB coursework citywide. “Coupled with our strong academic programming, this high-quality athletic facility provides Clemente students with a well-rounded education in the Humboldt Park community,” said Roberto Clemente High School Principal Fernando Mojíca. “With the support of previous administrators and future-focused parents, Clemente is now a world-class neighborhood school with students graduating and going to college in record numbers.” Under Mayor Emanuel’s leadership, there have been significant ongoing investments to underdeveloped parts of the neighborhood. Among these investments is a $3.5 million facility for La Casa Norte, one of Chicago’s most innovative non-profits that can now serve more residents. Signioficant investments were made to develop affordable housing, and include Borinquen Bella L.P. North & Pulaski Senior Housing, Children’s Place Association LLC, Nelson Mandela Apartments, among others. These developments are in addition to the more than $8 million in Chicago Housing Authority investments to modernize, retrofit and update buildings across the neighborhood. “Chicago’s Puerto Rican community has an incredible friend in Mayor Emanuel, and I appreciate his support as we continue to invest in Humboldt Park and welcome families with open arms,” said Luis V. Gutierrez, US Representative, 4th District. “When tragedy struck Puerto Rico, we got to work right away in Chicago, and I am immensely proud of our continued efforts to help them rebuild and recover.” Humboldt Park, a community anchor, has seen more than $8 million in investments to support upgrades since 2011, including the construction of artificial turf athletic fields, improvements to the swimming pool and rehabbed field house.

José E. López, PRCC Executive Director states: “ The renovated Clemente Field, on one side, and the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture on the other side, now bookend ‘the magical urbanism’ taking place on Paseo Boricua.”

In his remarks during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the renovated baseball and softball field of Roberto Clemente Community Academy, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center’s Executive Director, Jose E. López, extolled the amazing achievements and developments of Paseo Boricua–the commercial and cultural Puerto Rican Strip along Division Street–since its creation 25 years ago. In this pedacito de patria, Chicago’s Puerto Rican Community has built what López described as a true reflection of ‘magical urbanism’ particularly informed by all the new developments this area encases, and which have been wholeheartedly supported by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He challenged those who have advanced the narrative “of the tale of two cities” to visit Paseo Boricua, and they may discover a third city emerging on this mile-long corridor. In this strip they will uncover how a deeply committed community has engaged the imagination of this Mayor, and how he has responded by wholeheartedly supporting these efforts which include the following: • the Nancy Franco Maldonado Arts Building – an $11,000,000, 24-unit building that will provide living and work spaces for community artists • an 84 unit “teachers” village apartment complex to be created in the shuttered Von Humboldt School building providing affordable housing for teachers in the community, and a critical space for action and reflection • an early childhood educational center, inaugurated on March 3, 2018, which will provide a quality educational experience for 150 children, 0 – 5 years, with wrap-around social emotional services in a dual language setting. The Consuelo Lee Corretjer/Nancy Franco Maldonado Parent Development Center will house this innovative program in an aesthetically pleasing, child focused space. In closing, López stated this is just the beginning. There is a lot more to come for this corridor. He then introduced CPS/CEO Dr. Janice Jackson whom he called “a young”, innovative educator who will shape a new urban education. He acknowledged her support of the Community as a Campus initiative which is now being implemented in Humboldt Park, and which has received a $250,000 grant from the Chicago Community Trust.



On Saturday, March 3, 2018, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center celebrated its annual open house 100×35+10 event honoring the 110 th birthday of the Center’s namesake (the national poet of Puerto Rico, Juan Antonio Cor- retjer), and the 45th year of the Center’s founding. During the past ten years, this cel- ebration has highlighted one of the Center’s programs. this year it was the inauguration of the new facility that will house the early educational programs of the Center (the Con- suelo Lee Corretjer/Nancy Franco Maldonado Child Parent Center) which multiply the number of chil- dren currently served, as well as the variety of educational services. This new facility, located at 1345 N. Rockwell, will ensure that all children served from 0 to 5, will receive a high quality educational experience with a total immersion in a dual language, dual cultural environment. The ribbon cutting ceremony was followed that day by a short Program that included welcoming remarks by Xochtil Ramirez, Program Director of the Consuelo Lee Corretjer Center; an emotion filled statement by Alderman Roberto Maldonado in which he noted the importance of this Center which will now bear his be- loved wife’s name -to his family and to the community (read remarks below); a synthesis of the educational founda- tions of murals which will adorn the space by artist Richard Santiago and the reading by Senator Iris Martinez of a Proclamation by the Illinois General Assembly acknowledging the contribu- tions of the PRCC’s Executive Director, José E. López (read Procla- mation below). This Proclamation was introduced by State Rep Cynthia Soto. Following the program, the more than 100 participants were invited to see the facility and enjoy a sumptuous Puerto Rican luncheon. Many of the attendees then proceed- ed on a walking tour to all the Puerto Rican Cultural Center’s programs throughout Paseo Boricua. The 100×35+10 event culminated with a fundraiser for El Rescate held at El Faro’s Restaurant and also celebrated the 6 year of its foundation. The fund- raiser included food, performance and a silent auction. ALDERMAN MALDONADO’S REMARKS Today we give new life to the former Alexander Von Humboldt Elementary School Annex, transforming this once vacant Chicago Public School building into a beautiful place of healthy growth and development for our youngest residents in the 26th Ward. Today this building will be reborn as the Consuelo Lee Corretjer Day Care Center and the Nancy Y. Franco-Maldonado Child Parent Center, giving a new dimen- sion to early childhood education in our community.José E. López, the Ex- ecutive Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and the leader on this initiative, worked with me in ac- quiring this 14,600 square foot annex from the Chicago Public Schools and the City of Chicago. We are proud to offer free or reduced-rate childcare services for up to 150 children from low income families and create up to 25 new jobs as a result of this 2-year effort. You may all be familiar with the famous Puerto Rican poet, educa- tor, and pianist Consuelo Lee Corret- jer whom this center is named in part for. What you may not know is that my late wife, Nancy Y. Franco-Mal- donado, was the heart, the soul, and the quiet force behind making the Child Parent Center a reality and her spirit is here with us today blessing all of the young children whose lives will be forever changed by this amazing place of learning. Nancy encouraged our own chil- dren – Rene, Robertito, and Raquel – to acquire skills and values that will help them become leaders, and she wanted to give this opportunity to all of the young children in this community. Thank you for your powerful advocacy and vision Nancy. You made this happen.

Dra. Ileana  Muñoz – Rectora de la Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Diseño de PR – Visita a Chicago Se le presenta donativo por $11,500 para la institución puertorriqueña

Dra. Ileana Muñoz – Rectora de la Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Diseño de PR – Visita a Chicago Se le presenta donativo por $11,500 para la institución puertorriqueña

El martes, 20 de marzo de 2018, se sostuvo un encuentro y almuerzo en el Restaurante Nellie’s para presentar las donaciones recaudados para la Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Diseños de Puerto Rico (EAPD), presentar la celebración de la Abolición de la Esclavitud del sábado, 24 de marzo en el Centro Cultural Segundo Ruiz Belvis y anuncio de la visita del Alcalde de Chicago y la Puerto Rican Agenda a Puerto Rico. Entre los presentes estuvieron los representantes de las siguientes organizaciones: The Puerto Rican Cultural Center Juan Antonio Corretjer (PRCC), Aspira, Inc. de Illinois, el National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture (NMPRAC), National Conference of Puerto Rican Women, el Puerto Rican Agenda y Urban Theater Company (UTC).

Además del inicio y formalización de enlaces entre la EAPD e instituciones de Chicago que promueven las artes y la educación de la misma, se le presentó a la Rectora varias donaciones para ayudar a reconstruir la planta física de la Universidad; entre ellas una donación de $10,000 que recaudó UTC junto a sus aliados comunitarios en el teatro, una donación de $1,000 del NMPRAC a través de sus esfuerzo de recaudación en el museo y otra donación personal de $500 por Fernando Grillo. Rican Renaissance, dirigido por el artista en residencia del PRCC, Richard “Tiago” Santiago, lograron recaudar $3,500 para EAPD y fue entregado por el Congresista Luis V. Gutiérrez y Santiago en una visita a la institución a finales del año 2017; con una entrega total de $15,000 de parte de la comunidad de Chicago a la institución antes mencionada.

Durante la reunión del martes, Santiago compartió lo siguiente:

“Hoy marca el paso del Huracán María, seis meses desde que el archipiélago de Puerto Rico sufrió un azote devastador por este fenómeno natural. Desde entonces, he trabajado arduamente junto al Puerto Rican Agenda acá en Chicago para ayudar a restaurar la Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Diseño de PR (EAPD). Esta Universidad, no solo es una institución autónoma y académica de las artes en nuestra isla, pero también es la única institución con las acreditaciones de estándares más altas en su clase; incluso, algunas instituciones de las artes en Estados Unidos no tienen estas acreditaciones.

Considero la EAPD la institución de las artes más importante en todo Puerto Rico. Dado a que casi todos los artistas más reconocidos e importantes de las artes plásticas en la isla tienen un enlace directo con la Universidad. Algunos son miembros del equipo fundador de la institución hace decadas, algunos fueron profesores en la Universidad , algunos ex-alumnos y todas las personas que están envueltos en las artes plásticas del país están ligados a la Universidad. Además, estoy más que seguro, que sin la EAPD, los museos más importantes de la nación puertorriqueña no estarían a capacidad y la calidad del arte en ellos estaría a falta de el lustre que caracteriza el arte de cientos de artistas graduados de la institución académica.

EAPD fue devastado por Huracán María. Pero hoy, estamos aquí, en Chicago, parados juntos a la Dra. Ileana Muñoz, Rectora de la Universidad, no solo para ofrecer algo de alivio y apoyo, pero también para juntos trazar un camino con la diáspora para el futuro cercano. Juntos nos comprometemos a salvar la Escuela de Artes Plásticas de Puerto Rico y trabajar para el beneficio del patrimonio cultural de la isla.”


Durante la estadía de la Rectora, se sostuvieron también reuniones y visitas con Billy Ocásio, Director Ejecutivo del National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (NMPRAC) y Juan Ochoa, Director Ejecutivo y Artístico de ChiArts, junto a representantes del Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC). Este junte se dio con el propósito de profundizar más las conversaciones ya iniciadas entre la Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Diseño de Puerto Rico y la comunidad de instituciones en Chicago como parte de la campaña de las “3R’s Puerto Rico: Rescue, Relief, Rebuild” de Puerto Rican Agenda.




Members of the Puerto Rican Agenda – Cristina Pacione-Zayas, Co-Chair of the Puerto Rican Agenda, Fernando Grillo, Chair of the Board of Directors for Aspira, Inc. of Illinois and Juan Calederón, Chief Operations Officer of The Puerto Rican Cultural Center – traveled to Puerto Rico with a Chicago delegation including, Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to meet with the mayors of San Juan, Comerío, and Loíza on March 23rd and 24th, 2018. They will deliver 5,200 lbs of supplies collected by the Puerto Rican Agenda and $43k in cash to San Juan, Comerío y Loiza. Solar lamps and panels will be distrib- uted to community groups in the towns of Moca and Huma- cao, as well as critical medical supplies to the HIMA San Pablo Hospital in Cupey, which services several towns across the island. The Agenda will present $4,000 each to schools in Comerío and Loíza as a youth-to-youth fund- raising initiative with Chicago-based children sending funds to the children of Puerto Rico. This visit builds upon the Agenda’s continued mobilization of resources through its 3 R’s Campaign: “Rescue, Relief, and Rebuild” resulting in $250,000 distributed in micro-grants to 30 towns. The Chicago Community Trust recognized the Agenda’s effective strategy and recently awarded $100,000 for the purpose of distributing micro-grants on the island, supporting evacuee resettlement in Chicago, and advocating for policy change related to the Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rican Agenda of Chicago was the first organization of the Puerto Rican diaspora to land an airplane filled with cargo on the island, and to have that same plane return with 300 people stranded at the Luis Muñoz Marín Airport in Puerto Rico. Six months later, the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria are still felt in Puerto Rico. Many towns continue to experience challenges with limited electricity and drinkable water. Through the “Rescue, Relief, and Rebuild Campaign”, the Puerto Rican Agenda will adopt two of the poorest towns on the island and of the most devastated towns post-hurricanes – Comerío and Loíza – to concentrate efforts on rebuilding initiatives directed by Puerto Ricans on the island.

Assessing the impact of hurricanes on Puerto Rico’s forests

Assessing the impact of hurricanes on Puerto Rico’s forests

Building on methods they used to assess the impact of hurricanes such as Katrina, Gustav, and Rita on forests and tree mortality, scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have produced a rapid mapping of the disturbance intensity across Puerto Rico’s forests with the help of Google Earth Engine.

Battered by two intensely powerful storms with sustained wind gusts of more than 150 miles per hour last year – first by Hurricane Irma and then by Hurricane Maria – Puerto Rico suffered widespread and catastrophic damage to its urban infrastructure. Using satellite images combined with image processing techniques, a team led by Jeffrey Chambers, an expert in forest biogeography, found extensive ecological damage as well.

The researchers assessed the damage by looking at changes in the surface reflectance of both visible and invisible light. While the human eye can discern colors in the visible spectrum, by also measuring the spectral response of the surface in reflective infrared light a far more precise picture is provided of impacts to forest vegetation.

“We look for a change in the spectral signature from before and after the storm,” said Chambers, a scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Area as well as an associate professor of geography at UC Berkeley. “When the sunlight bounces off green vegetation it looks one way, and when it’s bouncing off vegetation where the leaves are all stripped off or  have toppled it’s very different. We find dramatic changes in the spectral signature of the forests associated with damage, tree mortality, uprooted trees, stripped leaves, and canopies.”

A preprint of their study, “Hurricane Maria Impacts on Puerto Rican Forests,” has been published online. “Mapping disturbance impacts and publishing results can take years,” said Yanlei Feng, a UC Berkeley graduate student in geography who is the study’s first author. “This new approach employing the Google Earth Engine platform enables the delivery of data products that are more timely; for use in hazard assessments, for example.”

The researchers estimate that 23 to 31 million trees may have been killed or severely damaged by Hurricane Maria but note that field investigations are required to attain more accurate estimates. A similar analysis they conducted after Hurricane Katrina estimated that 320 million trees died or were severely damaged in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Why study tropical forests?

Forests cover about 54 percent of Puerto Rico, and they are the only tropical forests in the United States outside of Hawaii. However, unlike Hawaii, which has few native tree species, Puerto Rico’s forests are much more diverse, with hundreds of species.

Berkeley Lab has been studying Puerto Rico’s forests for several years as part of the Department of Energy’s Next Generation Ecosystem Experiments-Tropics (NGEE-Tropics) initiative, a multi-institutional project launched in 2015 and led by Berkeley Lab. “One of our goals is to demonstrate that  are important to the U.S.,” Chambers said.

Studying and understanding forest disturbances is important for many reasons, including natural resource management, watershed protection and impacts on soil erosion, and examining the direct effects of tree-falls on the energy distribution grid. Tropical forests are especially important because, even though they cover only 7 percent of the Earth’s surface, they contain the largest vegetation carbon stocks, and are also important carbon sinks.

As part of NGEE-Tropics, Berkeley Lab has been studying the forests in Puerto Rico as a pilot study site to help improve modeling of the Earth system. “Fluxes of water, energy, carbon, and the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients are all highest in the tropics,” Chambers said. “So if you want to build an accurate Earth system model, you’ve got to get the tropics right.”

Advanced image processing

The Berkeley Lab researchers looked at images from Landsat 8, a satellite that takes detailed images of the entire Earth every 16 days, comparing images from before and after the hurricanes and eliminating effects due to clouds and shadows.

Data is collected by Landsat 8 as images of 30-square meter pixels. The researchers quantified the spectral signature of each forested pixel before and after the storms to determine the change in the fraction of the surface that is considered non-photosynthetic vegetation. They found that the damage was not evenly spread across the island’s forests.

“The intensity of the spectral shift varied a lot across the island,” Chambers said. “Now we want to better understand why some forests were more vulnerable than others, and what factors controlled the differences in how forests were impacted. Was it the species, was it the slope, was it the aspect – whether you’re on the windward or lee side as the storm is rotating counterclockwise? The soil type and rooting depth are also important factors.”

For example, cypress and tupelo trees in Louisiana weathered Hurricane Katrina just fine. “The oak trees right next door all went down,” Chambers said. “Cypress trees have buttressing and rooting structures which confer resistance to wind.”

Carbon source or carbon sink?

Forests remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by photosynthesis. When storms, fires, or other disturbances kill a great number of trees, the dead biomass is decomposed by fungi, insects, and the like, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. When tree mortality is especially high, a  can go from being a carbon sink to a carbon source.

But Chambers points out that it can take decades for a tree to decompose and emit all its carbon. “All forests are disturbed every year at some background rate; carbon cycle changes occur if this background rate increases as storms become more frequent or intense,” he said. And Puerto Rico has experienced devastating hurricanes before, including the 1928 San Felipe Segundo hurricane, which was even stronger than Maria, as well as hurricanes Georges in 1998 and Hugo in 1989.

Another recent NGEE-Tropics study found Puerto Rico’s subtropical dry forests will remain resilient to hurricanes. However, if  frequency increases significantly, forests will not have enough time to regenerate. “If the return frequency of a disturbance increases, you can get long-term decline in total carbon storage,” Chambers said.

Explore further: The effect of hurricanes on Puerto Rico’s dry forests

More information: Yanlei Feng et al. Rapid remote sensing assessment of impacts from Hurricane Maria on forests of Puerto Rico, PeerJ (2018). DOI: 10.7287/peerj.preprints.26597v1

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-03-impact-hurricanes-puerto-rico-forests.html#jCp

Hurricane Maria Hit Women in Puerto Rico the Hardest. And They’re the Ones Building It Back.

Hurricane Maria Hit Women in Puerto Rico the Hardest. And They’re the Ones Building It Back.

Hurricane Maria Hit Women in Puerto Rico the Hardest. And They’re the Ones Building It Back.

By Justine Calma, Grist

11 March 18

fter Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, Adi Martínez-Román’s morning routine went something like this: Wake up at 5 a.m., secure a water cistern on her roof to prevent it from leaking, fill her generator with gasoline and turn it on to power her refrigerator, get ready for work, turn the generator off to conserve gas. (Her fridge would have enough juice to keep food cold through the afternoon.) Then she could finally head to her job providing others affected by the storm with legal services. After work came the hunt to get more gasoline to power the generator.

Martínez-Román considers herself lucky to have had a generator and a cistern. She was also fortunate that power was restored to her home by Thanksgiving, before much of the rest of the island. But even now she says the smell of gasoline triggers strong feelings about what she and other women have endured since the hurricane.

When superstorms make landfall, they often exacerbate existing inequities. Women typically pay a higher price during a storm and in its aftermath, with their lives and then with their labor. As Puerto Rico recovers from Hurricane Maria, women like Martínez-Román are doing double duty — leading community efforts to rebuild while managing households with fewer resources. As they do this, months without electricity to power modern conveniences like washing machines has led to bleeding hands and aching backs for women cleaning clothes by hand. Limited lighting at night makes public places feel less safe, and women say contractors brought in to repair the island’s infrastructure have sexually harassed them.

This week’s nor’easters dealt Puerto Rico a follow-up blow to Maria, as 30-foot swells — the largest waves the island has seen in more than a decade — led to a new round of evacuations on Monday. This comes after the Treasury Department delayed its latest disaster relief loan to the territory, which it’d already slashed in half.

In her role as the executive director of Fundación Fondo de Acceso a la Justicia in San Juan, a nonprofit that provides legal assistance to low-income families, Martínez-Román has found that that the extra burden placed on women after the storm has translated into leadership.

“The reality is that when you go to communities, mostly it is women as leaders and as community organizers,” Martínez-Román says. This is even more evident In Puerto Rico’s rural areas, where older matriarchs have stayed behind as family members have migrated to city centers or other parts of the U.S. for jobs. Over 300,000 people have migrated to Florida alone since Hurricane Maria.

In the rural locale of Mariana, known for the island’s annual breadfruit festival, Christine Nieves started a community kitchen with the help of elders — all women. Six months after the storm, Mariana, like roughly 12 percent of the island, still does not have electricity. Nieves is ecstatic that her organization, Proyecto Apoyo Mutuo Mariana (Project for Mutual Aid Mariana), recently received a donation of eight solar-powered washing machines (another woman in Connecticut donated the money to purchase them). They will make a tremendous difference for the women who volunteer in the project’s kitchen and help with the other social services they now provide.

Even in rural areas like Mariana, most families have access to a washing machine. But Nieves and others say the power outages turned the clock back, forcing women to take on arduous domestic duties that modern conveniences had eased. Nieves recalls one grandmother apologizing for not being able to help with the meals because her hands were raw from scrubbing clothes. Now, she and others can use the machines in exchange for their time and labor.

Christiana Smyrilli, a civil engineering Phd student at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., recently conducted a study in Puerto Rico on how water and sanitation issues might affect women and men differently. She found that the impact was greater on women because of their household responsibilities. Due to the delayed response in getting clean water to affected residents, men often were responsible for carrying water home from natural water sources or water tanks. But the work of cooking and cleaning and managing limited water supplies fell on women. And the stress of rationing took an emotional toll.

“To me it seemed the women had the physical burden, as well as more mental and psychological burden,” Smyrilli says.

The additional domestic work can make it more difficult for women to recover economically. Spending more time on chores and childcare (due to closed schools), means women have less time open to seek outside employment.

And the stress facing Puerto Rico’s women post-hurricane went beyond home life. The process of getting the territory’s power back has been tortured, and the U.S. has had a series of missteps with companies it has contracted with to provide aid and repair the power grid. The territory has seen an influx of people coming in to rebuild — and despite good intentions, problems have arisen.

“All of a sudden we had tons and tons and tons of men in our communities with big trucks that were really loud,” Nieves recalls. “They were nice when you talked to them, but there was also this weird undertone of ‘Are we going to get some while we are in Puerto Rico?’”

Nieves says she and her friends have encountered instances of sexual harassment, such as male contractors asking how “easy” Puerto Rican women are.

Sexual misconduct, of course, isn’t limited to contractors. After a natural disaster, threats to women’s safety can come from others in the affected population, and even from the aid community. A recent investigation into senior staff with the humanitarian organization OxFam showed workers purchasing sex from women after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. OxFam and others in the aid community have denounced the actions.

Grist spoke with OxFam’s program coordinator in Puerto Rico, Martha Thompson, about what the organization is doing to ensure the same behavior doesn’t happen in Puerto Rico. Thompson says the group is increasing its transparency, and it’s working with Cambridge’s Christiana Smyrilli to better understand the burdens women have faced so far during the recovery.

“We want to make sure people in our team have gone through the sexual-harassment training,” Thompson says.

Thompson is particularly worried about how prolonged blackouts can make women and children more vulnerable to sexual assault and domestic violence. “If you don’t have public lighting anywhere, you don’t have lighting in houses,” she explains. “Of course sexual assault is going to go up.”

When women have been displaced, separated from loved ones, and are taking shelter in crowded spaces where tensions are high, the risk of sexual violence heightens. In addition, the breakdown of infrastructure in a storm’s wake makes it more difficult for women to report violence or seek help.

After women came forward with reports of sexual assault in evacuation shelters in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center partnered with several other U.S. organizations to set up a relief fund for victims. The fund is designed to help put safety nets back in place for survivors by providing aid to victims, repairing rape crisis centers, and helping their affected staff get back to work.

With last year’s unprecedented hurricane season, the fund — which had about $30,000 — was nearly depleted between Harvey, Irma, and Maria. “In the two to three months of those hurricanes, we spent more than had been spent in the entire history of the relief fund,” says Laura Palumbo, the center’s communications director.

After Hurricane Harvey, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center had to quickly raise money in order to provide just $5,000 each to its partners in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. And with the threat of a higher frequency of stronger storms in the future, thanks to climate change, a critical source of relief for women in disaster zones is being stretched far beyond its means.

“We would have never expected that after hearing from so many individuals and programs in Texas in critical need that we would then instantaneously have Hurricane Maria,” Palumbo says. “We’re now faced with this unfortunate situation of being at square one with raising funds for future disasters.

“That’s always a difficult position because you never know when a disaster will strike.”

Original article on https://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/48904-hurricane-maria-hit-women-in-puerto-rico-the-hardest-and-theyre-the-ones-building-it-back