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Hospitality Breeding Out in Puerto Rico

Team Rubicon has invested more than $4 million in Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria. We have hired local contractors to rebuild more than 400 roofs and a minimum of three houses by the end of 2018. But these numbers do not tell the whole story; the whole story can only be told by talking to the people’s whose lives have been changed by this investment, to homeowners, the local construction crews who are doing the work and the local Team Rubicon rebuild associate. The following article is part three in a three-part series that explores this investment from the people most affected.

Puerto Rican Jaime Rodriguez recalls the good that came out of Hurricane Maria’s devastation of his island home. “People joined like family. They stayed out of their houses” where they used to be insular units. “We had to improvise when we didn’t get the help we were expecting, we had to figure out how to eat and how to help each other. We prayed a lot and all got together.” He calls this “hospitality breeding out,” and he’s grateful some of that attitude has stayed while Puerto Rico rebuilds.

 

Hilda Vlachopoulou, TR’s Puerto Rico Rebuild Program Manager, pictured alongside Jaime Rodriguez.

 

Rodriguez is Team Rubicon’s Senior Rebuild Associate, and he came to the position through Kelly Staffing. “I was working for DebrisTech in a contract position but my background is in civil engineering and surveying. The agency called and I interviewed with TR’s Christopher Gaffney. TR hired me and I started the work in May,” he says.

He’s amazed at all of the places he’s been and all of the people he’s met since starting this job. “Puerto Rico is small,” he says, “but you can never see everything.” Rodriquez serves as a go-between for the families and the four local construction companies hired by TR to rebuild roofs. He works closely with Hilda Vlachopoulou, TR’s Puerto Rico Rebuild Program Manager. The teams he oversees build up to 18 roofs per week, and are slated to build over 400 roofs by the end of 2018.

 

 

Rodriguez loves his job and is grateful to be using his experience and skills to serve his fellow neighbors in this way. The homeowners and construction workers seem equally glad to be working with him. On the day we spoke, the carpenters climbed down off the roof of a house to greet him as they saw his white SUV emblazoned with the Team Rubicon logo drive up to the site. The homeowner, who had been watching the construction progress from her neighbor’s porch also approached and greeted him, offering him an ice-cold soft drink.

Rodriguez took the time to ask after the homeowner’s health and needs and to tour the progress with the lead carpenter. He even busted out a few dance moves with the carpenters when the contractor turned up the music that served as the soundtrack to their work.

While Rodriguez may be newer to disaster response work, he is happy to have found a role with Team Rubicon where he gets to “interact with a lot of people and to try to help out,” and to be a part of the solution in meeting families’ needs.

Jill L. Ferguson is an artist, consultant, entrepreneur and author of eight books, most recently of the book Creating a Freelance Career (Routledge, August 2018).