This is an opinion editorial by Keiko Yoshino, a public policy attorney and lobbyist who advocates for blockchain-friendly laws in Puerto Rico, and the executive director of the Puerto Rico Blockchain Trade Association.
By September 18, Hurricane Fiona had poured over 30 inches of rain on Puerto Rico within 72 hours, almost as much rain as Seattle gets in an entire year.
Historic flooding. Islandwide power outages. This was all too familiar to Shirley McPhaul-Castro, who lived through Hurricane Maria.
“The most difficult thing about Maria was the weeks after,” McPhaul-Castro said. “Seeing empty shelves at the grocery stores, the long lines at the gas stations, not knowing when things on the island would go back to ‘normal.’ I’ve never felt more alone than the moment I realized that the news, social media, the world, had all just moved on. It felt like we were forgotten.”
McPhaul-Castro is the director of CryptoCurious, the education and community outreach program of the Puerto Rico Blockchain Trade Association (PRBTA). CryptoCurious runs workshops on Web 3 technology, including sessions focused on Bitcoin and wallet safety, in Spanish. Through education, it wants to make Bitcoin accessible to all of Puerto Rico.
And now, with the island facing a difficult recovery from Maria, CryptoCurious and all of PRBTA are working to leverage Bitcoin’s global community and seamless payments technology to help.
“While the electricity, water and internet all work in San Juan, it is not the case across the island,” McPhaul-Castro added. “Many people still need help, and we want them to know they’re not alone.”
Focusing The Bitcoin Community On Hurricane Relief
The PRBTA is a nonprofit that was turned into a temporary relief fund so it could immediately help communities impacted on the South and West sides of the island. It has raised more than $55,000 to date in donations through its relief fund and is accepting bitcoin.
For over four weeks, the PRBTA has been shopping for canned goods, bagging supplies, and distributing food and water to families still without power. To date, it has spent over $105,000 on supplies, impacted over 4,000 families and covered over 20 barrios with the help of over 240 volunteers.
Understanding the public skepticism of donations to nonprofits and out of an abundance of caution, the PRBTA also created a publicly-available spreadsheets that shows an itemized list of everything it has bought each day.
It wanted people to feel comfortable knowing that every sat, 100% of their donations, are going to food, water and medicine. Everyone working with this organization is a volunteer; there is no overhead. The PRBTA team has pivoted from its day jobs of conference planning and community education to focus on this relief effort.
For instance, two weeks ago, the PRBTA rented a 26-foot truck and drove across the island to take 1,000 bags of canned food, water and toiletries to Barrio Playa in Añasco. The team met up with Richard “Crazy Legs” Colón who was going door to door, and “Team Playa” coordinator Marilyn González, who organized recovery efforts for the community.
“Añasco had severe flooding, but now that the water has gone down they need to clean out their houses and replace everything from appliances to furniture,” said Crazy Legs.
Crazy Legs has been hosting numerous fundraisers and launched a Hurricane Fiona relief GoFundMe to bring attention and aid to Puerto Rico. He is a Bronx-born Puerto Rican dancer and educator, respected globally for his hip-hop and humanitarian contributions.
“I have been doing this since Maria, it’s just as devastating to see how people have lost everything, some for a second time,” he said.
The PRBTA joined forces with Puerto Ricans and non-natives who are committed to bringing aid, relief and solidarity to alleviate primary needs of those affected by Fiona. Hopefully, the Bitcoin community’s generous spirit will extend to these latest efforts.
Positive things can come from tragic situations. In this case, the PRBTA is breaking stereotypes and building partnerships through this relief effort.
If you want to help, you can donate at www.prblockchain.org/relief-fund.
This is a guest post by Keiko Yoshino. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.