Our Strategic Vision

Schoolwide Response to Relief for Puerto Rico and Resources to Help Other Affected Areas

Over the past month, our community has seen widespread human and natural devastation at a consistency unknown in our time. Since Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas, our country (as well as our world) has not seen a respite.

Natural disasters in the US, the Caribbean, and Mexico have affected millions of people. As the full scope of the damage and the depth of the challenge to restore the livelihoods of those impacted by the disasters become fully known, we sadly foresee many of the situations facing our fellow human beings becoming worse.

Our country’s evident inability to prepare for, control, and combat climate change, as well as its history of slow and uncoordinated relief efforts in many of the areas most affected by natural disasters, have motivated the BFS learning community to coordinate across our five Divisions to organize opportunities for community members to participate in disaster relief efforts.

In line with our approach to service learning and civic engagement at BFS, we believe in tangible and active participation amongst our community members to provide both immediate and sustained support to those affected.

In reality, after a natural disaster, the immediate need amongst communities affected includes both monetary aid to rebuild and the donation of specific necessary supplies to meet immediate human needs.

The areas that have been most seriously impacted recently include Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, Barbuda, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St Maarten/St. Martin, Mexico City and their surrounding immediate areas. In light of the urgency and severity of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, we are following the lead of our Puerto Rican families in the BFS community to prioritize support for the people of Puerto Rico. Links to support efforts for other affected areas can be found at the end of this email.

Students gathering donated items to be sent to Puerto Rico for emergency relief

Through the combined effort of families, faculty, and students we are partnering with Teens4PR, a group of NYC-based Puerto Rican mothers and students who have created a platform to help students in schools support Puerto Rico relief efforts.

The following three organizations have been selected to receive our monetary support due to their presence throughout the island and their significant impact on the ground:

Para la NaturalezaBoys and Girls Club of Puerto Rico, and Centros Sor Isolina Ferré. Funds will be raised through targeted bake sales in both the Middle and Upper School in the coming weeks.

More immediately, with regard to specific necessary supplies, six donation boxes will be set up in the Lawrence Street building for families to donate this week. Fourteen donations boxes will be created, decorated, and placed by Preschool and Lower School students throughout the Pearl Street building, two at each elevator.

Through the support of the PAT, our donations of supplies will then be delivered to NYS drop-off locations throughout the NYC area in accordance with Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort – Puerto Rico. The closest drop-off location is at the Shirley A. Chisholm State Office Building at 55 Hanson Place in Brooklyn. If you would like a full list of drop-off locations by borough please click here. Please note that all items must be unopened and in their original packaging.

You might have some of these items at home to donate, or you might want to go with your family to choose something to donate. The most essential items which must be collected are the following:

  • Baby Supplies: Diapers, Baby Wipes
  • Cases of Water
  • Batteries, Flashlights, Portable Lanterns
  • Feminine Hygiene Products

If you believe you can offer more, please see this more extensive list of donation items suggested by the Government of Puerto Rico. Please note that these items must be donated through BFS as they are not currently being accepted through Governor Cuomo’s Recovery Effort.

  • Baby Formula
  • Non-Perishable Food (Dry, Canned, or Powdered), such as rice, beans, powdered milk, cereal, nuts
  • First Aid Supplies: Rubbing alcohol, gauze, bandages, aspirin
  • Candles, Portable Cell Phone Chargers, Garbage Bags
  • Soap, Wipes, Hand Sanitizer, Deodorant, Shampoo
  • Clean, Summer Clothing and sweaters of all sizes
  • Towels, sheets, blankets
  • Sunscreen, lotion, mosquito repellant

Members of the PAT Service Learning Committee will coordinate a table in the Pearl Street Lobby beginning this week offering resources on how to go beyond our specific efforts at BFS in order to help meet the needs of all affected areas of recent natural disasters. In addition, the tables will distribute current information about, and historical context for, the current state of affected areas.

For example, with regard to the current Puerto Rico context, one way of offering sustained support is to call your Senators and congressional representatives, and ask that the Jones Act be rescinded for longer than a 10 day period. The Jones Act states that every product that enters or leaves Puerto Rico must be carried on a United States flagged ship. A foreign flagged vessel may enter Puerto Rico, but only after paying taxes, customs, and import fees that almost always double the price of the products onboard. This is true for all relief supplies currently being sent to the island. Should you wish to take action on this issue, you can begin by signing the following petition.

Student-led Collections will be organized in the coming months to educate our students on the relationship between climate change and natural disasters in the US, the Caribbean, and Mexico as well as the ties between relief efforts in Puerto Rico and the country’s current debt crisis.

Finally, a Forum will be held during afterschool hours, open to all families. The purpose is to provide parents with the information shared at the aforementioned Collections as well as a to provide a space for discussion and reflection by those BFS families with family members directly affected by the recent natural disasters. BFS families who have loved ones affected by the disaster and those who already are working with relief organizations are encouraged to get in touch with Noel Quiñones, BFS Associate Director of Service Learning and Civic Engagement. (

As we hold those in our community with loved ones affected by this disaster in the light, we thank you for supporting this important school-wide effort. Together we can have a huge impact and make an enormous difference.

As mentioned above, please find below a list of organizations that are supporting recovery efforts in both Mexico, Houston, Florida, and the Caribbean:


Direct Relief: This humanitarian aid organization has staff in Mexico City and is helping facilitate the delivery of medical supplies.

GlobalGiving: This crowdfunding organization offers immediate relief to survivors in the form of food, shelter, water and medicine. It also works on longer-term rebuilding projects.

Operation USA: Another group that delivers medicine and medical supplies.

Topos: Professional, non-profit rescue group that was formed after the 1985 earthquake. Its members are currently mobilizing to find survivors. You can send them money through PayPal at donativos@brigada-rescate-topos-org.


Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund – Mayor Sylvester Turner established this fund through the Greater Houston Community Foundation to provide tax-deductible flood relief donations for those affected by the historic flooding.

Baker Ripley, a local non-profit that has been helping low-income Houstonians for 110 years, since its founding in 1907. Baker Ripley is taking donations for long-term disaster relief, and is currently operating the shelter at NRG Park.

Communities in Schools – Houston, an agency serving to provide direct social services to students and connect students with available community resources in the greater Houston area


GlobalGiving distributes Irma donations to vetted local groups, as well as bigger organizations.


BAW Relief Fund, a Section 501 (c ) 3 non-profit organization formed to operate as a charitable service to benefit individuals and families determined to be victims of publicly declared disasters and those in need of assistance.

NOTE: This message was prepared by the BFS Division Heads Group (Larry Weiss, Seth Phillips, Sidney Bridges, Glen Pinder, Jackie Condie, Maura Eden, Sara Soll) and Noel Quinoñes of the BFS Office of Service Learning and Civic Engagement.