In the wake of Hurricane Maria, many people around Connecticut have been collecting supplies to help the relief effort in Puerto Rico. But it’s difficult to get those supplies to where they need to be, particularly to the more remote areas of the territory.
One team currently visiting Connecticut is working to do just that.
Captain Sequoia Sun is taking account of the supplies he has loaded so far onto his 56-foot ketch.
“Well, on deck here we have used sails, dacron sails. They’re good as tarps, as temporary roof coverings --on homes that have lost their roofs,” he said recently at a dock in Stonington. “This is all boxes of medical supplies that were donated, that we’re taking down to Puerto Rico, and some to Haiti as well. And there will be more stuff -- we’re not full yet.”
This one-boat relief effort will sail down the East Coast over the next few weeks, gathering more donations as it goes, before sailing on to Puerto Rico.
Sun said he’s been in contact with the Mayor of Vieques, a small Puerto Rican island, to ask what to bring.
“The things that they need and want are insect repellant and ice -- so we want to raise money to buy an ice-maker -- generators, they need lights that are solar powered or battery powered, they need radios, tools and screws and nails to rebuild their houses, they need tarps and tents and things for temporary shelter.”
Stonington resident Guylaine "Sky" Nicol has sailed on two previous humanitarian missions to Haiti with the captain. She said many of her friends wanted to donate, along with large organizations like Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London.
“Oh, the response has been wonderful," she said. "Everybody feels they want to do something, but they don’t know exactly what to do. So when you tell them, I have this plan, and this is where I’m going and do you want to participate, people always say yes.”
While the scale of the problem in Puerto Rico might seem overwhelming, Sun says he’s looking to have a very particular impact.
“We go to the small outlying islands and coastal villages that aren’t really reached by big ships and airplanes," he said. "Most of the large NGO and governmental agencies, whether it’s FEMA or Red Cross or whoever it is, they go to the big population centers, where the most people are. But that leaves the little people, in the little villages on the small islands, saying where’s our help? So that’s where we go.”
The ketch is currently moored in Essex and collecting more donations before sailing on.
This story is part of “The Island Next Door,” WNPR’s reporting project about Puerto Rico and Connecticut after Hurricane Maria.