HHI Water Partnership Helping Communities in Puerto Rico

From Left: Soraya Rodriguez (HHI), Ana Bracho (Water Mission), Legislative Rep. Rafael June Rivera, Marshall Ashley (HHI), Mark Baker (Water Mission), Judy Hastert (HHI), Kim Carroll (HHI), Armando Torres, Cesar Gomez (HHI)

Armando Torres, a 75-year-old great-grandfather, and Korean War veteran has lived in Puerto Rico his entire life, raising five children who have since given him 14 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren. The cheerful and devoted farmer grows papayas, potatoes and other vegetables in Barrio Paloma, a community of about 300 people nestled in Comerío in the central mountains.

Those living in this rural community used a well next to Armando’s property for the water they needed to live and grow their crops. The system wasn’t advanced, but as long as the community had power, their needs were met. Then Hurricane Maria hit the island.  The damage from the September 20, 2017, storm included the destruction of structures, houses, crops, roads and power systems, and it left many in need of medical care.

Help was slow to reach Comerío and other mountain communities in the interior of the island because of treacherous travel and lack of preexisting infrastructure. However, Heart to Heart International’s mission of reaching just such communities led them on a trek into the mountains, and on October 3, 2017, a team of medical responders reached Comerío and began seeing patients in homes, shelters and retirement centers.

HHI medical teams left the island when they were no longer needed, but HHI was determined to continue helping these mountainous communities. In the summer of 2018, HHI, partnered with Water Mission to bring solar power to the original pump and well next to Armando’s property in Barrio Paloma.

The mayor of Comerío generously donated a generator to run the pump in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, but it was not a viable long-term solution. With solar power, the well will produce potable water for the community regardless of whether the power grid is operational. This solution is reliable and sustainable.

Mark Baker from Water Mission explaining the installation of the solar-powered water system.

Clean water is vital for good health and a renewable food system, and through the work of Heart to Heart International and Water Mission, the Barrio Paloma community continue rebuilding even more resilient than before. For Armando, and his whole community, this means healthier lives for generations to come.

HHI and Water Mission have worked together since 2014, addressing critical needs following major disasters, including the Ebola crisis in Liberia, the Nepal earthquake, and Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. In addition to the system in Barrio Paloma, HHI and Water Mission will be partnering together for three additional sustainable water systems in the mountains of Puerto Rico.