Miami University helps American Red Cross relief by mapping Puerto Rico from afar

Posted at 12:35 AM, Sep 30, 2017

OXFORD, Ohio -- Two thousand miles from Puerto Rico, Miami University students and Oxford residents sat down Friday afternoon to help the American Red Cross provide aid to the hurricane-damaged island.

One of the most significant struggles faced by Puerto Rican relief efforts is not the availability of supplies but the physical struggle to reach areas outside of San Juan. PBS correspondent Johnny Yang described it Wednesday as a "do-it-yourself recovery with a patchwork of desperate fixes."

Using digital mapping software to help the American Red Cross learn what the island's roads and cities looked like before Maria hit can help them navigate it in its current condition.

"What they really want is accurate maps, accurate knowledge, accurate information in order to help staff clinics, to help deliver medical services," Jessica McCarty-Kern, assistant professor of geography, said.

Another assistant professor, Joanna Camacho, said she attended Friday because 85 percent of her family was in Puerto Rico.

"It looks pretty grim right now," she said. "I'm mostly worried about their longterm. They prepared for the storm, but it seems none of them really grasped the intensity of the storm beforehand."

Damon Scott, who has Puerto Rican in-laws, spearheaded the effort. 

"It's a real national crisis," he said. "There are 3.5 million Americans (in Puerto Rico.)"

If you would like to donate to Puerto Rican hurricane victims, you can do so online through the Hispanic Federation or American Red Cross.