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Resilience and community planning in Puerto Rico’s recovery

The onslaught of various atmospheric events in Puerto Rico has imposed several setbacks on the path to reconstruction. This situation reinforces the need for our communities to strengthen their disaster response methods and become more resilient.  

During our Stay Open, Stay Safe session, we talked with Félix Aponte-González, our new colleague and Senior Program Officer for the Whole Community Resilience Planning Program (WCRP) about community planning as a tool for island recovery. 

With a background in geography and planning, and extensive experience in the public and private sectors, Aponte-González chooses to understand problems and and use the planning process as an organized way to generate solutions and build a better future. 

For this reason, he joins Foundation for Puerto Rico (FPR) and ensure his experience can strengthen the tools and resources that the nonprofit sector can offer our communities, so they can have a better capacity to resist, adapt and overcome climate-driven events, dangers or threats, in an effective and efficient manner. 

Providing communities with the necessary resources and support is crucial for them to maximize their opportunities. Through WCRP, FPR will provide tools, such as access to data, information and training, to support the creation of resilience plans, where communities can identify their needs and make decisions based on up-to-date information. The plans will contain specific actions to strengthen their sectors.  

The community perspective is one of the most important aspects of the program, since ” you work from the community with the support of other sectors to identify those solutions and create that future”, mentions Aponte-González. 

The participation of the community “ensures and guarantees that the result generated during the process is something that benefits them directly and that they can follow up on.” 

Despite being a primary source of information for understanding their needs, communities need accessible information about the resources available. Aponte-González mentions that, many times, community initiatives and organizations face obstacles that prevent them from continuing with their development, due to lack of knowledge, training, information and bureaucratic processes.  

Being able to identify potential obstacles contributes to community resilience. For example, in Bangladesh, coastal communities reinforced their coasts with mangrove forests to protect themselves from future tsunamis and typhoons. In the coastal city of Norfolk, VA, they began to study and analyze land use in relation to sea level rise to protect and conserve communities and resources in the face of climate change.  

In Puerto Rico, the development of micro-grids in Toro Negro and community aqueducts are examples of several spaces available to present actions and serve as an international model of resilience. It is through and with the community where strong impact will take place on the path to reconstruction in Puerto Rico. 

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