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Former Marine and Chester resident Ray Guasp is not a couch potato.
Recently, Guasp has barely had time to sit down much at all in his Chester home. He dropped back into his Connecticut hometown for less than 48 hours recently to pick up water-purifying supplies for the hurricane-ravaged U.S. territory, Puerto Rico—and then he was back on a plane to San Juan.
When Hurricane Maria blew into Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 3.4 million people were left without electricity. While metropolitan areas like San Juan have begun to have some semblance of normalcy restored, the outlying areas are still struggling with very basic needs. Guasp estimates that more than two million people in the rural parts of Puerto Rico are without power or access to clean water.
That is where Guasp and his team of volunteers come in. A self-assembled group, the volunteers call themselves the Waterdogs and their goal is to deliver water purification systems and other life-saving supplies to the villages. The original volunteers were all prior or active duty members of the military, but that team of six is growing and Guasp is hoping to see the team expand to 16 in the next few weeks. The team members have been footing the bill for their own flights to the Caribbean island, while raising money to purchase the water purification equipment they are bringing to Puerto Rico.
“Getting supplies to where they are most needed has been a logistical nightmare in Puerto Rico,” Guasp said. “Things are not getting to where they need to be in a reasonable amount of time. There aren’t enough trucks or drivers. It’s a cash society because banks are closed and ATMs don’t work unless there is a generator.”
Guasp recommended that people hold off on sending care packages for the time being, because much of that which has been sent is being held by FEMA in the port.
Guasp calls himself a “mule” because when he flies into San Juan, he carries the water purification systems and supplies in himself—shipping them could lead to them being held in the port. Checking that many bags on a commercial flight gets expensive, however, so Guasp has set up a GoFundMe page to get donations. So far, the team has raised more than $26,000, about one-quarter of the way to its goal.
The water purification systems run into thousands of dollars and so far they have gotten seven of the $7,500 units into Puerto Rico.
The Waterdogs’ Veterans 4 Puerto Rico fundraising page states, “If you chose to donate, 100 percent of the donations will go to relief efforts for those impacted by the hurricane. We will ensure that all donations are used for providing supplies and medications directly to the families in need and help in the facilitation of the aquamira.com divvy system.”
Guasp said that every little bit helps.
The bigger goal, he explained, is raising awareness of the situation in Puerto Rico.
“The aftermath of this hurricane has made way for a relief effort that will be measured not in months but in years,” he said.
To see Guasp and his team in action, just turn to his page on Facebook (www.facebook.com/rguasp) where he gives updates and posts photos. He explained that he made his page open because he wants people to be able to see what he is seeing.
To donate, visit the Veterans 4 Puerto Rico page at https://veterans4.org/.