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Spokane native spends 3 weeks volunteering in Puerto Rico

SPOKANE, Wash. - It's been over a month since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, but the majority of people living on the island are still without power, and many don't have access to running water. 

That's why they're in need of supplies, and volunteers to help get them to the people that need them most. 

Spokane native Devin Biviano has a passion for exploring the world, and helping others in the process. 

“I think it's my nubmer one passion is trying to one, experience the world for myself and two learn lessons that I can then bring back to my own community,” he said. 

When the hurricane left Puerto Rico in ruins, Devin acted fast. 

“So we got down there on the ground as soon as possible, as soon as the aiport opened up. So we got there about 6 days after the storm,” Biviano explained. “The Red Cross immediately went into action mode with trying to find out where people needed the help the most.”

Working 12 hour days, Biviano and his team from the Red Cross loaded up box trucks every morning with bottled water, canned goods, tarps, hand sanitizer, and other supplies we might take for granted.

They spent hours driving in between villages, passing downed power lines destroyed homes along the way. Everywhere they went, hundreds of people were waiting for their help. 
 
“I couldn't believe how patient they were. Not only with their situation, but waiting in line for hours and hours,” said Biviano. 

Each person, picking up much needed supplies for their families at home.

“A woman who showed up in line and my friend was holding a bag of fruit, and she started crying cause she saw the fruit, and he started crying cause she was crying about the fruit. It was quite touching.”

People came, not only for themselves, but to help make sure their neighbors got what they needed, too. 

Biviano said, “they would show up and say 'I lost the roof of my house, but I'm still able to help today.' It was really really quite remarkable.” 

The exhausting work the voluteers were doing was made a little easier by the bright spirits and smiling faces of the people they were helping. 

“Every single day when you thought 'Oh I can't do this any more,' you'd get out there, and you'd start unloading the truck and meeting the people, and that energy, that adrenaline just kicks right back in. Especially when you saw them, and all they'd been through, helping out,” Biviano explained. 

Life in Puerto Rico will never be quite the same as it was before. And the road to their new normal, is a long one. 

“Because those are just the very first steps of getting some electricity back, getting some water back.” 

Devin says, being a part of that recovery is a role we all should play. Because think about it this way; what if it were us? 

“This idea of setting the standard really high for how we respond to these types of disasters for their sake, but also for our own sake,” said Biviano. “Because if the tables were turned, and we were on the other end of it, what would we want? “

Maybe you can't give three weeks of your time like Devin, but there are lots of other ways to support the recovery effort in Puerto Rico. If you'd like to see how you can help, visit here


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