Last month, Hurricane Maria ripped through Karenina Angleró’s home in Puerto Rico. However, she received some assistance from a local queer couple who welcomed her into their home. Now, she is helping out Allison Harris and Raquel Salas Rivera with their project to help LGBT Puerto Ricans impacted by the hurricane.
“I’m helping these two out as a way to pay it forward for all of the things they have done for me and it’s very rewarding. I love it,” Angleró said.
Harris and Salas Rivera, who live in Philadelphia, launched a YouCaring fundraiser, “Emergency Relief Fund for LGBTQ Boricuas,” earlier this month. The couple hoped to raise at least $5,000 but the donations doubled that a few days later. As of presstime, the fund had generated almost $12,000.
Harris, 38, said she initially felt “excitement and gratitude” when she saw the large amount of donations. However, that did not mean the work was over.
“The secondary emotion [I felt] after that was, ‘Oh, we have so much work. We need this much money because there is that much work to do,’” Harris said.
Salas Rivera, a Puerto Rico native, said they did not hear from their family for about a week and called that time period “terrible.” While Salas Rivera's family members survived, the 31-year-old noted the statistics they read about the hurricane.
“There were some real tragic numbers in terms of people who died directly and also the suicide rate has gone up a lot because of the desperation,” Salas Rivera said. “It’s still so psychologically traumatic for people on a daily basis.”
As of presstime, 53 are reported dead and a large percentage of the population is living without drinking water and electricity. With these funds, the couple is purchasing plane tickets for evacuees. Additionally, they plan to fund hormone therapy, new IDs for transgender survivors and HIV/AIDS medications. The couple said they are relying on the Puerto Rican Transgender Taskforce to identify LGBT survivors.
“The work of saving lives is not the work of me and Allison,” Salas Rivera said. “It is the work of all of the people who have been involved in this. From the smallest donation to the Trans Taskforce, all of the people who are involved are collectively being responsible for the lives of others and that is really beautiful.”
“I want to express gratitude to the way the community has stepped up — very impressive,” Harris said.