Puerto Rico Earthquakes

Waterbury Prepared to Help Puerto Ricans Displaced by Earthquakes

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Widespread destruction, power outages and uncertainty. This is the aftermath of multiple earthquakes that have shaken Puerto Rico this month.

“People are you know, right now they’re sleeping outside because they don’t know when the next big one is going to come or if their ceiling is gonna collapse on them,” said Pedro Ocasio of Bridgeport.

Ocasio runs a Puerto Rican restaurant in Waterbury.  He said his customers are concerned and so is he. Like many of those who eat in his restaurant, Ocasio has family on the island. They are seeking relief by coming to Connecticut next week.

“They’re actually afraid,” he said. “They just want to come over here and stay here a little while and see if hopefully the ground stops shaking.”

As families like the Ocasios seek relief by visiting family in Connecticut, some school systems here are preparing to welcome students. In Hartford six new students have enrolled. In New Haven, three, all a direct result of the earthquakes. In Waterbury only one family has reached out so far, but the city is ready for more.

It’s going to affect Waterbury in a big way because many of our students and their families are from Puerto Rico,” says Waterbury Superintendent of Schools Dr. Verna D. Ruffin.

When Hurricane Maria, ravaged Puerto Rico in 2017, Waterbury took in over 300 students. While the demand has not been as great in this situation, Waterbury’s superintendent wants families to know they have options here.

“Families may be thinking, ‘where do we go from here because we’ve lost everything?’ We want them to know finding a place welcoming is not going to be hard for them,” explained Ruffin.

Waterbury’s School Intake Center is ready to help. Resources there are ready to provide a wide variety of essentials including book bags, school supplies and uniforms. Shynea Paris is a liaison to students in transition, who saw first-hand what families went thru after Maria.

“There’s a lot of trauma,” she said.  “All the stuff that they’ve experienced. They’re going thru a lot but we’re here to help.”

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