Delegation from Philadelphia makes #Big Push for Puerto Rico

By Betsey Piette
December 24, 2017

A delegation from Philadelphia that included members of the International Action Center, Philadelphia REAL Justice and Workers World Party traveled to Puerto Rico in a work brigade in early November following hurricanes Irma and María.  As a result of generous donations from the Calvary United Methodist Church in West Philadelphia, they were able to bring 18 solar-powered lights and USB charger kits to distribute to families in mountainous regions which lacked access to electricity.

However, support from the church did not stop there.  Inspired by the work of the IAC’s delegation, the congregation raised funds to send more solar kits to Puerto Rico.  The IAC has offices at the Calvary Center for Culture and Community, which is housed at the CUMC.

The congregation turned their annual holiday concert on Dec. 17 into a benefit to provide more solar kits and other supplies for community organizations in Puerto Rico. Almost three months after the powerful storms hit, electricity, water and other necessities are still scarce because of the U.S. government’s refusal to supply adequate aid.

The event featured the big band sound of Big Push.  A number of other performers joined in CUMC’s neighbor-to-neighbor action for Puerto Rico. They included Jesse Roemer and EZUZ, the improv-fusion band Interminable and legendary Philly funk band Breakwater.  Vocalists Aaron Lewis, Zara Sims and Theresa Marsh performed, along with the Calvary Choir.  Nine-year-old Asaf Berrios, an amazing steel drum player, and his father Raúl, who had recently arrived from Puerto Rico, gave a special performance.

Joe Piette and Mike Wilson, members of the IAC delegation, described their brigade’s work and what they witnessed in Puerto Rico.  They urged the audience to continue their support.   Students and faculty from the Workshop School in Philadelphia also participated by selling items that students had produced.  They donated their proceeds toward the purchase of a solar kit.

The evening ended with all the performers and audience members joining in a carol singalong. Donations to support this fundraising effort can be made at Write “Puerto Rico” in the “Comments” section on the donation page.


Community organizations in Puerto Rico are welcoming direct donations.  They include the following groups.

Taller Salud deals with women’s health. See and contact by phone at 787-876-3440.

Viequense en Rescate Inc.:  This group supports the Vieques Island community. See

Contact Elba Oquendo at 787-640-8372.

Centro para el Desarrollo Político Educativo y Cultural (Comedores Sociales de Puerto Rico/community kitchens):  This awesome group feeds University of Puerto Rico students who otherwise would go hungry to their classrooms.  See, where you can donate via PayPal. Email

FMPR Puerto Rico Teacher’s Federation: They organize against the privatization of public education and set up work brigades to clear roads and bring water, food and supplies to people who have not received any help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the government:

Educamos: This teachers’ union is battling privatization of public education. Contact Eva Ayala, president.

Casa Pueblo — This is a grassroots community organization which promotes self-sufficiency and ecological energy sources, including solar lights. Located in Adjuntas, and in existence for 36 years, it is  one of the oldest ecological organizations in Puerto Rico.

Alianza Pro Desarrollo Económico de Ceiba (Aprodec):  This is a newer ecological, self-sufficiency and self-sustainable organization located in the eastern part of Puerto Rico. After struggling to get a community space in the vast territory where the U.S. Navy is located, they finally got a building to house their organization. Their aim is to develop this area, which was devastated by the presence of the U.S. Navy. See for information.  Or call 787-354-6188.

Photos: Joseph Piette