Maegan and Haniel Santiago and parnets Russ and Priscilla Reid during an easier time in the Santiago’s lives. Photo contributed

Shuswap residents step up for family in Puerto Rico

Mara Landing caretakers grateful for fundraising effort for their kids

A month has passed since Hurricane Maria wreaked devastation on Puerto Rico, thrusting the U.S. territory into an ongoing state of emergency.

Since then, thousands have left the crippled U.S. island of roughly 3.4 million people for the mainland. Haniel and Maegan Santiago, however, are holding out, helping family members and hoping that things will improve.

Maegan is the daughter of Russ and Priscilla Reid of Sicamous. The two are caretakers for the Mara Landing condominium complex. Familiar with the Reid’s, their family in Puerto Rico and the troubles that have continued there since Maria, Mara Landing resident Peter Moxness decided to see about helping out.

RELATED: Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico after slamming Dominica

“I approached the rest of our strata council and said, ‘Are you guys all game, can we proceed?’” said Moxness. Soon after, a fundraising page was set up on gofundme, encouraging other Mara Landing property owners to lend a hand.

“They presently have food and water, their home was not destroyed, but all their employment income has stopped, and their money is running low,” states a letter to Mara Landing owners on the GoFundMe page. “Personal safety, basic infrastructure, and delays in restoring both are the current issue. Because Russ and Priscilla are employed by us, perhaps there is something that we can do!”

As of Monday afternoon, 31 people had donated more than $3,000 to the Santiagos. Russ said this generosity has given Maegan and Haniel something Puerto Ricans aren’t currently accustomed to receiving from the U.S. – hope.

“In the midst of all that’s going on, particularly with the Puerto Rican people – they’ve always felt they’re second-class American citizens – and the non-response of mainland America has reflected that that’s the truth…,” said Reid. “My children, who are fluent in both Spanish and English that live in Puerto Rico, they feel like no one cares. So when someone does something like a gofundme account, what it does is it gives them hope… somebody cares, that things could get better and that they’re going to be able to manage.”

Reid said Maegan, 30, moved to Puerto Rico six years ago. She and her husband, Haniel, 33, were both in the later stages of their post-secondary degrees when the island was impacted by back-to-back hurricanes. First there was Irma, which grazed the island but caused damage none the less. Then there was Maria, which resulted in 49 confirmed deaths, as well as mass devastation of homes and infrastructure, including the island’s power grid which remains inoperable.

Reid said Maegan is in her final year of a civil engineering degree, while Haniel has a year-and-a-half to go for a degree in architecture. They’re hoping the school they attend will be back in operation instead of facing the challenges of trying to continue their education on the mainland.

“When you’re a student, especially in your fourth year, you’re in the end of it and those courses are only offered at certain times,” said Reid. “For them to try to move back to the mainland and try to re-establish is crazy.”

Also, Reid said Maegan and Haniel are keeping busy helping other family members who live on the island whose lives were also turned upside down by the hurricanes.

“So this go-fundme account is basically helping them try to stay on the island as long as they can and if the school doesn’t open in the next four weeks, then they have to seriously consider what their future will hold,” said Reid.

Also grateful for the gofundme effort, Reid is dismayed by the U.S. response so far to provide aid to Puerto Rico.

“One of the sad things about the island is – they’re American citizens. To go to the grocery store, there’s no milk, there’s no eggs, there’s no meat, there’s no fresh produce. Nothing. Because there’s not power to keep things cool…,” said Reid, who describes Puerto Ricans as people who don’t complain, work very hard and are resourceful with very little.

“I think if the American government decided to say, ‘We’re out, you’re on your own,’ they would say, ‘Good, sign the papers and leave.’ Because they’re so limited with what they can and can’t do relative to bringing products to the island. It’s hard to believe but minimum wage in Puerto Rico is $7.25 an hour,” said Reid, adding 45 per cent of Puerto Ricans live below the poverty line. “We’re acutely aware of the relationship Puerto Rico has had and continues to have with mainland America. So much of it depends on their president and this president (Donald Trump) is – unique at best would be a polite way of putting it.”

The Mara Landing gofundme account is open to anyone, and Moxness and Reid welcome any help others might be willing and able to provide.


@SalmonArm
lachlan@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Grant could help ease road rebuild cost

Would help pay for sidewalk, bike lane

Terrace Library, Misty River Books adapt amid COVID-19 to keep readers reading

Library also unrolling online programs to keep kids occupied

Preventable accidents may impede Search and Rescue capacity during pandemic

TSAR vice president urges outdoor enthusiasts to pause risky activities

Rio Tinto donates masks to Kitimat RCMP officers

Providing safety glasses as well

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

Trudeau announces 75% wage subsidy for small businesses amid COVID-19

This is up from the previously announced 10 per cent wage subsidy

World update, 9:30 p.m. March 27: Positive news in Korea as U.S. hits 100,000 cases

The United States now has the most coronavirus cases of any country in the world

VIDEO: Penguins roam empty halls of Vancouver Aquarium

COVID-19 has forced the Vancouver Aquarium to close access to guests – leaving room for its residents

Kids get back to learning in B.C., online

Ministry of Education rolls out new tool for school

67 more B.C. COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Vancouver region

Positive tests found in Surrey, Langley long-term care facilities

‘Now is not the time to bag that peak’: BCSAR manager discourages risky outdoor adventures

Call volumes are not going down, even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists

Food Banks BC already seeing surge in demand due to COVID-19 pandemic

Executive director Laura Lansink said they expect applications will keep increasing

Nanaimo couple caught aboard cruise ship with four dead and COVID-19 present

Four ‘older guests’ have died on Holland America’s Zaandam; cruise line confirms two COVID-19 cases

Frontline workers receiving COVID-19 isolation exemptions prompt concerns

Provincial Health Authority staff exempt from self-isolation upon return from international travel

Most Read