Send Relief Sets Up Classrooms After Puerto Rico Earthquakes

After the recent spate of earthquakes hit Puerto Rico, schools were unable to open due to concerns about the structural integrity. One teacher started teaching classes outdoors, and eventually, hundreds of kids started showing up. A volunteer team with Send Relief came alongside the “pop up classrooms” and played games with the kids during breaks. Photo by Jennifer Govea

When the most recent earthquakes started rumbling in Puerto Rico in December of 2019, it unnerved residents who were still anxious from Hurricane María, which pummeled the island two and a half years ago.

Then, when the 6.4 earthquake struck on January 7, 2020, people were visibly shaken.

“The whole island has PTSD,” said retired Army sergeant and local resident Gilberto “Bam Bam” Rodríguez. “They have an overwhelming sense of helplessness.”

The entire island’s day-to-day operations were severely affected, but Puerto Rico’s school system took a particularly hard hit.

Parents did not want to send their children back to school. They were nervous that the buildings were not safe since local officials had not been able to exhaustively inspect their structural integrity.

As a result, children have been out of school for over a month.

While teachers, parents and students wait for the schools to be examined and reopened, principal Carmen Rodríguez, no relation to Gilberto, decided to take action by teaching wherever she could. Enter the idea of “pop-up classrooms.”

Rodríguez’s house in Ponce was damaged, so she began sleeping in Las Delicias Park down the street. That’s where she decided she didn’t need to be inside a school to teach her students.

People drove by the park and saw her outdoor classes. Word also spread through social media, and student attendance boomed. What started out with a few students from one school learning under a tree blossomed into 338 students from a dozen area schools.

With little resources and support, Rodríguez had been desperate for help of all kinds. There were only nine volunteer teachers and a handful of parents to volunteer with the pop-up classrooms. So, she was grateful when Send Relief volunteers from Kentucky and Texas showed up the week of January 21 to play with the children in between their structured activities.

Jane Hopper, a Send Relief volunteer from Kentucky, saw firsthand how the presence of volunteers in the pop-up classrooms aided teachers.

“We were able to love on the children and distract them from the stress of the situation,” Hopper said.

On a balmy Thursday afternoon with temperatures in the low 80s, Alexis Rodríguez, no relation to Gilberto or Carmen, sat under one of three pop-up canopies designed to shield fourth grade students from the sun — among them, his 9-year-old son, Haziel.

With little resources and support, Rodríguez had been desperate for help of all kinds. There were only nine volunteer teachers and a handful of parents to volunteer with the pop-up classrooms. So, she was grateful when Send Relief volunteers from Kentucky and Texas showed up the week of January 21 to play with the children in between their structured activities.

Jane Hopper, a Send Relief volunteer from Kentucky, saw firsthand how the presence of volunteers in the pop-up classrooms aided teachers.

“We were able to love on the children and distract them from the stress of the situation,” Hopper said.

On a balmy Thursday afternoon with temperatures in the low 80s, Alexis Rodríguez, no relation to Gilberto or Carmen, sat under one of three pop-up canopies designed to shield fourth grade students from the sun — among them, his 9-year-old son, Haziel.

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Source: Baptist Press