Members of the Boy Scouts of America living in Puerto Rico — including nearly 11,000 members across 300 Scout units — have been severely impacted by Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island as a Category 4 hurricane on Sept. 20.
The damaged Guajataca Dam, at risk of failing completely, is next to the Guajataka Scout Reservation. While the camp is above the dam and would likely remain safe and dry if the dam fails, there is great concern that the camp was already damaged in the storm. And, of course, there is worry that the rushing water would cause further damage to residents.
The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico was drenched with feet of rain and battered with 150 mph winds. It could be months before power is fully restored for Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents and even longer before everyone has clean drinking water.
While we keep all of our fellow Americans living in Puerto Rico in our minds, many in the Scouting community have asked how the Concilio de Puerto Rico de los Boy Scouts of America — or Puerto Rico Council, BSA — fared in the storm.
Information is limited, but we have heard from Maria Molinelli, the council’s Scout executive. She has been sending updates to a number of Scout officials, including John Mosby, director of the Northeast Region, of which Puerto Rico is a member.
Left: The BSA council office in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Right: Guajataka Scout Reservation. Both photos are from well before Hurricane Maria hit.
What we know so far
Thankfully, Molinelli says BSA staffers at the council office in Puerto Rico are physically OK. Emotionally, the storm has left them frazzled.
The council office in Guaynabo, just south of the capital of San Juan, was damaged in the storm. There’s physical and water damage, and both air conditioning units were lost. Power is still off, and cell service is poor.
As was the case immediately after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, it is too soon to understand the full impact of Hurricane Maria on our Scouting brethren.
Of concern as well is the beautiful Guajataka Scout Reservation. I have not yet heard of its current status. This Scout camp is where Scouts get some of their first exposure to the Scouting movement and where Scouters built lifelong memories at a Wood Badge course I blogged about in 2013.
Once more is known about the situation in Puerto Rico, including specific information on what the council needs in terms of financial support or volunteer labor, I will share it here.
Rob Hofmann, Area 2 Director in the Southern Region, has been coordinating all relief for hurricane disasters. He has been quite busy this year and will pass along updates as he can.
What you can do right now
The BSA has established an Emergency Assistance Fund to help our Scouting brothers and sisters in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico and beyond. You can contribute to that fund here.
The BSA has also created this special disaster relief page that outlines all the ways you can help. It will be updated as more information becomes available.