Most of our #UBLawResponds team felt the first earthquake. We were doing a short refresher on trauma-informed lawyering and service training in the AirBnB living room when there was a gentle shake. It was small enough that a few of our group even missed it – but then we had a shared discussion about what it must feel like to have these vibrations multiple times a day.
The University at Buffalo School of Law’s Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Clinic’s January 2020 team was preparing to go to the “front lines” of the #PuertoRico earthquake zone… so this small tremor firmly reminded us that the #PuertoRicoEarthquakes are real.
We felt the second tremor in the huge relief camp in Guánica, Puerto Rico. We were delivering supplies in our first trip to the city that we had seen in news reports for weeks. Those around us were unphased. They have been living with these constant earthquakes and aftershocks since December 28th. The relief camp has a lot of elderly and disabled residents and is running out of essential supplies. We promised to return with more.
We then travelled to the Guanica square to deliver the second half of our supplies to the local community volunteers. Damaged and collapsed buildings surrounded them as they worked.
Providing a few supplies felt insufficient. Talking about our work on larger “resilience planning” felt very out of place. People are living in fear, unsure of what next month will bring. Handing over adult diapers, baby food, and promises to write reports and work on long-term policy changes once we got back to Buffalo is all we can do. Yet they were grateful for the law students and students from UB’s Romance Languages and Literatures and Transnational Studies departments who were there to help with the deliveries, and will be working on useful documents and researched suggestions into the next semester. In fact, those local volunteers were so grateful that they served our team some soup after the delivery.
Yet the trauma-informed training we have had since the beginning of our #UBLawResponds work, from the experts UB School of Social Work The Institute on Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care, was spot on. Those of us on the #UBLawResponds team felt the kind of helplessness, guilt, sadness, and fear for others that past teams have felt. It is intense and humbling to be with people in deep need, experiencing major trauma.
We will go back with more supplies. We will observe, listen, and learn. We will connect with the local experts. We will research and write our report. We will work with The State University of New York in its ongoing Puerto Rico efforts, and the amazing international RISE network of collaborators to cultivate and support larger convergent and transformative efforts. #UBLawResponds will keep going.
You can help, too. Can you donate right away, to help us bring even more needed supplies? Here is the link.