Students in Puerto Rico were supposed to return to school in early January after winter break, but after hundreds of earthquakes and aftershocks rocked the island, dozens of schools, buildings, homes and businesses were reduced to piles of cement blocks and rubble.
The series of tremors, which started December 28 and reached a fever pitch with a massive 6.4 quake January 7th, has left more than 8,000 Puerto Ricans displaced from their homes. Sleeping in tents, in parks, or even on the streets, they are afraid to go back into what remains of their houses or apartment buildings, afraid the next quake will bury them inside. Many Puerto Ricans had not yet recovered from the trauma of Hurricane Maria of 2017.
“As educators, we think of the children first,” says Mary Ann Rivera, a special education paraeducator from Illinois. Back in 2017, as she watched television coverage of Hurricane Maria destroy her childhood neighborhood in Puerto Rico, she was overcome with grief and a desire to act.