Maegan and Haniel Santiago and parnets Russ and Priscilla Reid during an easier time in the Santiago’s lives.                                Photo contributed

Maegan and Haniel Santiago and parnets Russ and Priscilla Reid during an easier time in the Santiago’s lives. Photo contributed

Shuswap residents step up for family in Puerto Rico

Mara Landing caretakers grateful for fundraising effort for their kids

A month has passed since Hurricane Maria wreaked devastation on Puerto Rico, thrusting the U.S. territory into an ongoing state of emergency.

Since then, thousands have left the crippled U.S. island of roughly 3.4 million people for the mainland. Haniel and Maegan Santiago, however, are holding out, helping family members and hoping that things will improve.

Maegan is the daughter of Russ and Priscilla Reid of Sicamous. The two are caretakers for the Mara Landing condominium complex. Familiar with the Reid’s, their family in Puerto Rico and the troubles that have continued there since Maria, Mara Landing resident Peter Moxness decided to see about helping out.

RELATED: Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico after slamming Dominica

“I approached the rest of our strata council and said, ‘Are you guys all game, can we proceed?’” said Moxness. Soon after, a fundraising page was set up on gofundme, encouraging other Mara Landing property owners to lend a hand.

“They presently have food and water, their home was not destroyed, but all their employment income has stopped, and their money is running low,” states a letter to Mara Landing owners on the GoFundMe page. “Personal safety, basic infrastructure, and delays in restoring both are the current issue. Because Russ and Priscilla are employed by us, perhaps there is something that we can do!”

As of Monday afternoon, 31 people had donated more than $3,000 to the Santiagos. Russ said this generosity has given Maegan and Haniel something Puerto Ricans aren’t currently accustomed to receiving from the U.S. – hope.

“In the midst of all that’s going on, particularly with the Puerto Rican people – they’ve always felt they’re second-class American citizens – and the non-response of mainland America has reflected that that’s the truth…,” said Reid. “My children, who are fluent in both Spanish and English that live in Puerto Rico, they feel like no one cares. So when someone does something like a gofundme account, what it does is it gives them hope… somebody cares, that things could get better and that they’re going to be able to manage.”

Reid said Maegan, 30, moved to Puerto Rico six years ago. She and her husband, Haniel, 33, were both in the later stages of their post-secondary degrees when the island was impacted by back-to-back hurricanes. First there was Irma, which grazed the island but caused damage none the less. Then there was Maria, which resulted in 49 confirmed deaths, as well as mass devastation of homes and infrastructure, including the island’s power grid which remains inoperable.

Reid said Maegan is in her final year of a civil engineering degree, while Haniel has a year-and-a-half to go for a degree in architecture. They’re hoping the school they attend will be back in operation instead of facing the challenges of trying to continue their education on the mainland.

“When you’re a student, especially in your fourth year, you’re in the end of it and those courses are only offered at certain times,” said Reid. “For them to try to move back to the mainland and try to re-establish is crazy.”

Also, Reid said Maegan and Haniel are keeping busy helping other family members who live on the island whose lives were also turned upside down by the hurricanes.

“So this go-fundme account is basically helping them try to stay on the island as long as they can and if the school doesn’t open in the next four weeks, then they have to seriously consider what their future will hold,” said Reid.

Also grateful for the gofundme effort, Reid is dismayed by the U.S. response so far to provide aid to Puerto Rico.

“One of the sad things about the island is – they’re American citizens. To go to the grocery store, there’s no milk, there’s no eggs, there’s no meat, there’s no fresh produce. Nothing. Because there’s not power to keep things cool…,” said Reid, who describes Puerto Ricans as people who don’t complain, work very hard and are resourceful with very little.

“I think if the American government decided to say, ‘We’re out, you’re on your own,’ they would say, ‘Good, sign the papers and leave.’ Because they’re so limited with what they can and can’t do relative to bringing products to the island. It’s hard to believe but minimum wage in Puerto Rico is $7.25 an hour,” said Reid, adding 45 per cent of Puerto Ricans live below the poverty line. “We’re acutely aware of the relationship Puerto Rico has had and continues to have with mainland America. So much of it depends on their president and this president (Donald Trump) is – unique at best would be a polite way of putting it.”

The Mara Landing gofundme account is open to anyone, and Moxness and Reid welcome any help others might be willing and able to provide.


@SalmonArm
lachlan@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death of North Saanich likely first in B.C. for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Located at 9750 West Saanich Rd., this North Saanich mansion is on the market for $10.25 million. (Realtor.ca photo)
Located at 9750 West Saanich Rd., this North Saanich mansion is on the market for $8.65 million. (Realtor.ca photo)
The five most expensive homes for sale in Greater Victoria

A roundup of luxury estates currently on the market

The Greater Victoria School District and two retired teachers are named as defendants in a lawsuit alleging that a student was sexually abused in the early 2000s. (Pixabay photo)
Former Saanich student files sexual abuse lawsuit against school district, retired teachers

Lawsuit claims student was groomed, abused by retired teacher

(Black Press Media file photo)
Mechanical issues blamed for Saanich car fire

‘Nothing untoward’ suspected, no injuries reported, firefighter says

Sidney's Beacon Wharf
Pontoon company piqued at prospect of public-private partnership around Sidney wharf

Seagate approached to submit proposeal for public-private partnership

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
Nanaimo transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

Black Press file photo
Investigation at remote burned-out Vancouver Island cabin reveals human remains

Identity of victim not released, believed to be the owner of an SUV vehicle found parked nearby

Angela Waldick is the new team photographer for the Nanaimo NightOwls. (Nanaimo NightOwls photo)
Half-blind photographer will help new Island baseball team look picture-perfect

Nanaimo NightOwls say legally blind team photographer is making history

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Dog owners, from left, Marlyn Briggs with Nayla, Marjory Sutherland with Effie and Mick, and Christina Godbolt with Conon walk their pets frequently at the Chemainus Ball Park but are growing increasingly concerned about drugs being found discarded in the area. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Puppy rushed to emergency 3 times after ingesting drugs in Chemainus public spaces

Dog owners walking in Chemainus parks urged to take caution

Most Read