April 24, 2018 By Alex Smith, Yash Padhye and Allye Clayton
Pelegrin Vargas was already back in Fort Wayne for classes when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, his home, on Sept. 20, 2017.
“It was devastating,” Vargas said. “It was destruction. It was very hard to see, especially through a phone because I couldn’t talk to anyone.”
The hurricane hit the island at 6:15 a.m., and devastation followed: Power on the entire island was lost; some cities lost 90 percent of their structures, and communication was cut off completely.
“I was one of the fortunate,” Vargas said. “I got to hear from my parents around three or four in the afternoon, so it wasn’t that much time. There were people that didn’t hear from (family) in four days.”
To contribute to a number of relief efforts by organizations and celebrities alike, Vargas organized a fundraiser in the Hilliard Gates Sports Center at the women’s volleyball matches on Oct. 6 and 8. The men’s and women’s volleyball teams collected money together at those matches, raising $400.
While Vargas was happy with the amount of money raised by his Fort Wayne community, he said there’s still “a lot of money that’s left to rebuild the island to what it was before.”
Head Coach Ryan Perrotte said ordinarily it’s special for an individual to give back to his community, and even more so under the circumstances in Puerto Rico
“It’s an unbelievable sign of humanity and civility by (Vargas) to lead the charge in terms of raising funds for relief efforts on the island,” Perrotte said. “He has obviously a lot on his mind and responsibility as a DI athlete here at IPFW, and on top of that, stepping out and taking on responsibility to give back to his country speaks volumes of the kind of character that (Vargas) has.”
More than six months later, there are still several problems in Puerto Rico, like trying to repair housing and more secluded regions still in need of power. But most of the island has power again. Roads are repaired, and much of the debris has been cleared.
“That’s something I admire from all of my island — their resilience,” Vargas said. “We’ll learn from it, and we’ll prepare better for it.”
Puerto Rico is still rebuilding and in need of help. Foundations like The American Red Cross and Oxfam continue to take donations to aid relief efforts. Visit this link from PBS Newshour to see more organizations making contributions.