In January 2018, when someone mentioned doing service-learning work in Puerto Rico, there was almost always a response of sympathy, enthusiasm for helpers, and hope for recovery from Hurricane Maria. One year later, although there are murmurs of support, many people have moved on to other disasters and crucial issues. In other words, #PuertoRico is no longer trending (except perhaps the upcoming Hamilton performance in Puerto Rico, with Lin Manuel Miranda reprising the lead).
Yet, the needs facing the people and ecosystems of Puerto Rico are still at near-ravaged levels. As one scholar put it last fall, “[o]ne year after Maria, nearly every pillar of Puerto Rican society remains devastated.” Likewise, a Rolling Stones article around the one-year anniversary observed “[t]he power is on and the roads are open, but if you look closely, the entire island is held together with duct tape and baling wire. Tens of thousands of people are still living under the blue tarps that were installed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency on houses that had their roofs blown off during the storm. Engineers are still discovering bridges that are in danger of collapsing, and every time it rains, new leaks are found in concrete foundations.” And so, #UBLawResponds-PR is readying itself for the next trip, this month, to continue our commitment to provide legal, policy, and humanitarian support for Puerto Rico.
Student attorneys from the University at Buffalo School of Law Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Legal Clinic and other experts are again devoting a substantial portion of their January this year to provide this service. We have also added a component providing legal support to displaced Puerto Ricans in Western NY for people who would otherwise be without access to justice.
In the coming weeks, you can come back her to read blog posts by our team. These posts will chronicle the story of our preparation for service, our study and service in Puerto Rico, and our focused, continuing efforts to provide further work upon our return. And you can help support these efforts at our fundraising site, allowing #UBLawResponds student attorneys to change lives, recommend policies, and proceed down a path that will better prepare them to be excellent, engaged lawyers.
Our motto is“Puerto Rico se levanta” – #UBLawResponds aligns with them. I hope the forthcoming posts by student attorneys and partners inspire you as much as they have inspired me. I also hope they help you align with those in Puerto Rico hoping not to be forgotten.