Rural Puerto Rico is mountainous with roads that wind through tropical terrain. These switchbacks are narrow at times and in many parts contain deep potholes. Residents in these areas face isolation and difficulty meeting everyday needs.
Brothers Luis and Hector Vargas live at the top of a mountain in a region known as Mameyes de Jayuya. Luis and his wife have five daughters and one son. Before Hurricane Maria, Luis did bodywork on cars, and his son worked as a mechanic. Their repair garage was destroyed by the storm, and the son now works a job in town only one day a week. They need a new roof over their home and have no sustainable income to fund it.
Hector lives within walking distance of Luis, where he takes care of their brother Juan. When Juan was only five months old, he contracted meningitis. This disease became worse and permanently damaged his brain. At age 15, Juan fell and was never able to walk again. By the time Hector was a teenager, he was strong enough to carry Juan around.
Hector had contractors construct a concrete house, but its foundation is unsafe, so it must be knocked down and restarted. For now, Hector has a tarp over his one-room home.
A ways down the road live Humberto and Teti Colon. Humberto has kidney problems and relies on a wheelchair. Their porch stairs are steep, and they have no ramp. While we visited their home, Humberto was in the hospital because he fell and injured himself. They haven’t had electricity since the hurricane back in September 2017. Teti gets ice once a day to keep her husband’s medicine cold and gas every two days to run their appliances. She works inconsistent hours at a fabric store, so she struggles to pay for their needs.
The Puerto Rican government has agreed to send someone to patch their roof, but in reality, it needs to be completely replaced. The government hasn’t given them a date to which someone will come help.
Luis Sardina, an elder at the Bayamón Church of Christ, is working toward getting the Vargas’ and Colons sustainable help. He and his church continue to stretch out their arms to people who are hurting.
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