PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A Carnegie Mellon student has made an extraordinary effort to bring relief to Puerto Rico, where thousands still don’t have running water and more than half the island still has no power almost two months after Hurricane Maria.
It looked like a Steeler victory party, but Revel + Roost restaurant downtown was packed for a fundraiser for Puerto Rico, which is still reeling from hurricane damage.
“When Hurricane Maria first hit, everyone, knowing I was Puerto Rican, asked me, ‘Where can I donate?’ and I didn’t know the answer,” Rosana Guernica said.
So Guernica came up with an answer. She began raising money to charter private planes to fly to her home of Puerto Rico, taking supplies there and bringing back patients still in need of medical care.
“I’m talking to my friend who tells me her baby niece doesn’t have any water to mix their food with, and I’m talking to my other friend whose aunt died from dehydration,” she said.
This Saturday will be Guernica’s fourth trip to Puerto Rico, and each time, the effort gets bigger and bigger.
“It’s a 150-passenger plane, and 130 of them are going to be patients,” Guernica said. “The other 20 is going to be volunteers and physicians for the safety of the patients.”
Guernica and her supporters want to make sure Puerto Rico isn’t forgotten. The remnants of Hurricane Maria are everywhere. People are still without water and power, and there is a huge need for medical supplies for people like Ron Alvarado’s mother.
“My mother is 79 years old. She’s got Stage 4 cancer. She’s on oxygen,” he said. “She was without power for days. I couldn’t reach her.”
Alvarado was able to reach his mother and bring her to safety. She is now with family in Florida, getting her treatments again, but Alvarado isn’t sure any of this would have been possible without Guernica.
“Between Rosana and the Pirates, they saved my mother’s life,” he said.
Guernica has been able to do her mission work and maintain her status as a student at CMU. Many of her loyal volunteers are students, too. They understand more than most that time is of the essence.
“I’ll say, ‘Hey, I can’t go to class today because I have a flight to Puerto Rico to evacuate some patients. Can I turn the assignment in this next day?’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah, absolutely,’” Guernica said.
When the private plane leaves on Saturday, it will be filled with medical supplies. Guernica says she’s prepared to do this for as long as is needed.