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Puerto Rico – One Family’s Story

Puerto Rico (The United States of America)
American Red Cross
Publication date
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Yet another earthquake hit Puerto Rico over the weekend, following a series of quakes and aftershocks that have rocked the island since late December. People in Puerto Rico are still traumatized by the more than 1,000 earthquakes which have hit the island and the American Red Cross is there, supporting people impacted by the ongoing tremors.

The emotional toll caused by the quakes is evident with thousands of people remaining in the government-run shelters or staying outside because of their fear that another tremor will hit, damaging more homes. The repeated quakes are traumatic, and many of the communities are still recovering from Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

Right now, donations to the American Red Cross are helping provide around the clock support to people affected by the recent earthquakes in Puerto Rico. With more than 260 trained disaster workers on the ground, the Red Cross is supporting people staying in government shelters, distributing items like blankets, water and hygiene kits, and offering health and mental health services. To further care for the health and wellbeing of those affected, Red Cross volunteers are visiting local communities and knocking on doors to provide emotional support, disaster spiritual care, and offer coping and safety information to help people get through this challenging time and prepare for future disasters.

The Red Cross has already:

  • Distributed more than 129,000 relief supplies

  • Provided more than 16,500 integrated disaster care services to provide health and mental health services, as well as comfort and spiritual care.

  • Served more than 720 households as people plan their next steps.

HOW YOU CAN HELP You can help people affected by the Puerto Rico Earthquakes by texting the word EARTHQUAKES to 90999 to make a $10 donation or indicating this disaster on the donation form on, and printing and mailing to your local Red Cross chapter. The Red Cross honors donor intent, and all designated funds will be used to support the affected communities in Puerto Rico through emergency relief, recovery and preparedness efforts.

Watch this video to learn more about the Red Cross response in Puerto Rico.


After the 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit Puerto Rico on January 7, thousands were displaced, and others were left without power or water for days. While most people relocated to shelters, the Galarza family decided to stick together and established a camp in front of their own home because they wouldn’t leave the patriarch of the family, Juan Galarza, behind.

On the morning of January 22, a team of American Red Cross and Mexican Red Cross staff and volunteers joined forces to do individual visits to community members in Guayanilla with physical and mental disabilities as part of the Red Cross Disability Integration program. The first stop was to visit Juan Galarza who needed a health checkup. Marco Franco, a paramedic from the Mexican Red Cross, checked Juan’s blood pressures and conducted other basic health checks.

While health services were provided to Juan and his wife Virginia, his grandson Hemsel showed up with his wife Maricarmen Torres and their three children. Later his cousin Maritza Feliciano showed up with her three kids and the house was filled with anecdotes about what happened to all of them during the major earthquake.

“We didn’t have enough time to come out of the house, but we remember that we had to curl up and cover our heads, so I yelled at the kids to do so”, said Maricarmen. “My kids are afraid to come into the house now, so that’s why we are staying here outside grandpa's house in tents.”

Immediately the Red Cross team comprised of two psychologists, one spiritual care and one paramedic started to take care of this family. They gathered everyone in the foyer and started to talk about how to be prepared for the aftershocks. They distributed a coloring book that narrates through images on how to prepare for local disasters. Between crayons, coloring books and teddy bears, the children were mesmerized.

Camila Rios Torres, age 5, and her brother Yadriel, age 10, were very attentive and shared the new course of action they will take now that they have all this knowledge. “I’m going to yell PREPARE really loud so everyone in my family can wake up”, said Yadriel. “I’m going to make sure everyone gets out safe” Everyone laughed because according to his mom, Yadriel is a heavy sleeper and he is the last one to always get up.

Camila got up and took a staffer by her hand and walked her to the front tent. She said, “Come see my new bedroom.” The little girl opened the tent and showed the staffer toys, books and her toy piano. Camila then started to play a melody on her piano. Her eyes were bright and she had a beautiful smile on her face. Rebuilding the Island will take more than bricks and cement, it will take a lot of love and tender care.

To date the Red Cross has already provided more than 3,200 integrated care contacts to provide health and mental health services, as well as comfort and spiritual care. These services are now crucial in the recovery process for Puerto Rico.

To reach out for free 24/7 counseling or support, contact the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs’ to 66746.

EARTHQUAKE SAFETY You can find valuable information on how to be safe before, during and after an earthquake here.

RECONNECT WITH LOVED ONES The Red Cross has two easy ways to help people reconnect. The Red Cross Emergency App features an “I’m Safe” button that allows users to post a message to their social accounts to let friends and family know that they are out of harm’s way. The Red Cross also offers the Safe and Well website,, which is a private and more secure option. It allows people to list their own status by customizing a message for their loved ones or selecting pre-scripted messages.

CORPORATIONS HELP The generous donations from members of the Red Cross Annual Disaster Giving Program (ADGP) and the Disaster Responder Program enable the American Red Cross to prepare communities for disasters big and small, respond whenever and wherever disasters occur and help families during the recovery process.

ADGP $1 Million members are: Amazon; American Airlines; Anheuser-Busch Foundation; Anthem Foundation; Bank of America; Caterpillar Foundation; Costco Wholesale; Delta Air Lines; Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation; FedEx; The Home Depot Foundation; Latter-day Saint Charities; Lilly Endowment Inc.; Lowe's Companies, Inc.; Mazda North American Operations; Microsoft Corp.; Nationwide Foundation; State Farm; VSP Global; Walmart and the Walmart Foundation; The Walt Disney Company; and Wells Fargo.

ADGP $500,000 members are: Altria Group; Aon; Capital One; Cisco Foundation; Citi Foundation; The Clorox Company; CSX; Darden Foundation; Delta Dental Community Care Foundation; Discover; Edison International; Energy Transfer/Sunoco Foundation; Fidelity Charitable Trustees’ Initiative; Ford Motor Company; Fox Corporation; General Motors; Grainger; HCA Healthcare; Humble Bundle; IBM Corporation; International Paper; The J.M. Smucker Company; Johnson Controls Foundation; The Kroger Co. Foundation; LHC Group; Merck Foundation; Mondelēz International Foundation; New Balance Foundation; PepsiCo Foundation; Procter & Gamble; PwC Charitable Foundation; San Manuel Band of Mission Indians; Sands Cares; Southwest Airlines; The Starbucks Foundation; Target; The TJX Companies, Inc.; Toyota; United Airlines; UPS; The USAA Foundation, Inc.; and The Wawa Foundation.

Disaster Responder Program members are: 7-Eleven Cares Foundation; Adobe; American Express; Assurant; AstraZeneca; AT&T; AvalonBay Communities, Inc.; Avangrid Foundation; The Ball Foundation; Barclays; BMW of North America; CarMax; Choice Hotels International; The Coca-Cola Company; The Coca-Cola Foundation; Consumer Cellular; Cox Enterprises; DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation; Dominion Energy; Duke Energy; Duke Realty; Equitable; Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation; Harbor Freight Tools Foundation, LLC; Hewlett Packard Enterprise Foundation; HP Foundation; Ingersoll Rand Foundation; John Deere Foundation; The Kraft Heinz Company Foundation; Lenovo; Liberty Mutual Insurance; Mastercard; Medtronic Foundation; Neiman Marcus Group; Northrop Grumman Corporation; Northwestern Mutual and the Northwestern Mutual Foundation; Old Dominion Freight Line; The Pfizer Foundation; Prudential Financial; Rodan + Fields Prescription for Change Foundation; Ryder System, Inc.; Security Finance’s Lending Hand Foundation; Southeastern Grocers Home of BI-LO Harveys Winn Dixie; Tata Consultancy Services; TD Ameritrade; U-Haul International; United Technologies Corporation; U.S. Bank; and Visa.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

American Red Cross: All American Red Cross disaster assistance is provided at no cost, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. The Red Cross also supplies nearly half of the nation's lifesaving blood. This, too, is made possible by generous voluntary donations. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. To donate blood, please call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE (1-800-448-3543), or contact your local Red Cross to find out about upcoming blood drives. © Copyright, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.