In 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck Puerto Rico, causing extensive damage and intensifying environmental and infrastructural challenges that have long impacted the U.S. territory. Work alongside residents, conservationists, and young Puerto Ricans to restore the island’s ecosystems and rebuild rural communities and farms; and learn how innovative relief programs are changing the way organizations provide aid in the wake of natural disasters.
Our journey begins in the centuries-old port city of San Juan, a mosaic of Spanish, African, and indigenous Taino influences. Immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture, and get introduced to organizations that are rebuilding the island’s infrastructure in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Travel to El Yunque National Forest and hike to a pristine waterfall while learning about how this rainforest was affected by the hurricane. Take a salsa or bomba class back in San Juan, or spend an afternoon paddleboarding at a nearby lake.
Venture to Adjuntas, a community in Puerto Rico’s rural interior with limited access to aid. Learn about grassroots initiatives launched by young Puerto Ricans to expand agriculture and improve education in this impoverished area, and lend a hand restoring a local farm. Spend the afternoons hiking in the surrounding mountains or taking a dip in hidden swimming holes.
Travel west to the small town of Rincón and work with marine conservationists on beach clean-ups and water testing. Reflect on the meaningful work you have accomplished so far, and interview residents at the local farmer’s market to gain new perspectives on Puerto Rico. Relax on the pristine beaches of Rincón in the afternoon, and take a surfing lesson or go snorkeling in the sea.
Head to the coastal town of Manatí and meet with representatives from the World Central Kitchen, founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, who traveled to Puerto Rico immediately after Hurricane Maria hit. Andrés rallied local chefs and set up a sophisticated network of emergency kitchens and supply chains, serving more than three million meals in the months following the storm. Learn how the group has since shifted its mission, empowering residents to develop their own agricultural capabilities and become more sustainable. Volunteer at a local farm funded by World Central Kitchen, and help plant native trees to restore the island’s ecosystem. We'll spend our final night in Manatí before returning home the next day.