WASHINGTON—More than 24 American Federation of Teachers nurses, health professionals and public employees from across the country boarded a plane to Puerto Rico today to provide direct care and assist with relief efforts. They are part of a volunteer delegation of more than 300 union electricians, equipment engineers and other workers on a flight donated by United Airlines.
The AFT represents 40,000 educators in Puerto Rico, members of the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (AMPR), and has been engaged in providing aid and support since the hurricane hit, including providing direct financial assistance to members and AMPR, providing and coordinating the distribution of supplies, and getting schools opened as community centers.
“These nurses and health professionals represent who we are as a union—caring and springing into action to help people when needed,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “To the people of Puerto Rico, tu lucha es mi lucha; your fight is our fight. We will be with you every step of the way to ensure our members and the people of Puerto Rico are cared for, the island is rebuilt, and public schools are reopened.”
Llamara Padro-Milano is a 40-year veteran nurse and one of the AFT members headed to Puerto Rico today. She works at the State University of New York’s Upstate University Hospital at the Community Campus in Syracuse.
“I did not hesitate to volunteer for this humanitarian mission,” said Padro-Milano. “I was born in Puerto Rico, my family is there, and they suffered through the worst of it. Thank God they are OK. This is my opportunity to give back to the people and the island I love with the hands and heart of a nurse.”
The AFT delegation includes nurses and health professionals from Arizona, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Vermont and will be providing direct care at hospitals and clinics for two weeks.
Beyond our delegation of nurses and health professionals, the AFT has been working to provide relief and support to our members and the people of Puerto Rico since the hurricane hit, including:
- Texting and calling members to ensure their safety, identify the support they need and provide support to help them;
- Providing direct financial assistance to members and our affiliate through the AFT Disaster Relief Fund;
- Working closely with first responders sent to Puerto Rico by New York City and New York state. As part of that partnership, we have set up the union’s headquarters in San Juan as a relief distribution center and are coordinating on logistics for getting the supplies being sent by AFT affiliates consolidated at the union offices so they can be distributed to the public. The AFT is working with our affiliate to set up additional distribution centers across the island to help distribute aid to the public and provide logistical support for teachers as they return to their school buildings;
- Working out an agreement between the AFT, AMPR and the Department of Education to allow teachers to do their work supporting the AFT’s / AMPR’s relief efforts at schools and distribution and relief centers;
- Providing resources on Share My Lesson;
- Working with AMPR and Puerto Rico’s superintendent of education to help reopen schools, which are centers of stability and safety in communities throughout the island. Twenty-two schools will now open as community centers to help nurture people and get supplies out; and
- Gathering, funding, and preparing health and safety materials to ship to Puerto Rico to ensure that students and staff are safe when they enter school buildings.
Today’s flight departed Newark Liberty International Airport at 11 a.m. Eastern time and arrived at San Juan Luis Munoz Marin International Airport at approximately 2:45 p.m. Eastern time. The flight also transported more than 30,000 pounds of emergency relief supplies.