- 204 - Puerto Rico - Giving Back Lisa Woodruff 53:30
I am delighted to welcome Dr. Carmen Landrau to this week’s podcast episode. Carmen is a cardiologist, a professional speaker, a mom of 3 kids, and is from Puerto Rico. How Carmen balances work and home life is fascinating and her method of getting help to those in need in Puerto Rico is amazing. Those of you who listen regularly will know that I become obsessed when there is a natural disaster so I was thrilled to have Carmen on the show.
Carmen and I met in California at a conference for entrepreneurs. With the help of her coach, she has developed a keynote speech helping professional women get to the next step in their careers and life. Women are multi-everything. We are busy being wives, mothers, daughters, friends, and career women. We all have the same problem and, if we want to have it all, we need to figure out how to do that. Our way of thinking is different to men and the expectations are different. Carmen helps women figure it out.
The link to Puerto Rico
I brought up my desperation about Puerto Rico to Carmen when we met in California. It was then that I learned Carmen’s family lives in Puerto Rico and that she has given to the cause in a very tangible way. I just knew I wanted to share her story with you.
Carmen and I agree that nobody will save you in life. As women, we need to get more bold with our solutions and not wait to be asked to fix something.
Carmen’s mom, sister, and extended family are still in Puerto Rico. They are one of the lucky few that have power, water, and food while 90% or so of the island still does not, nearly two months since the hurricane.
I was incredibly naive and ignorant about Puerto Rico. I thought it was tiny like St. John Island and figured we could just move the people off the island. It is a significant population (they would have 5 electoral college votes if they were a state) and they don’t want to leave. At the time we recorded the podcast episode, the official death toll was 50. However, the true statistic is more like 500 as people are dying from “natural causes” brought on by the lack of resources.
Carmen is part of an amazing movement helping the people of Puerto Rico
Carmen worked around the system and got medical supplies there. It all started on a Facebook group set up by a doctor in Florida who is also from Puerto Rico. Initially, it was set up for female Puerto Rican doctors to see how they could help. It has evolved to include both sexes and other professions who want to help. Word of mouth from those within the group meant that a day or so later the Baton Rouge Emergency Aid Coalition (BREAC) got in touch. They are a group of volunteer medical professionals who have stocks of medication that they have collected from other shelters used in previous natural disasters. The equipment and medication can be used elsewhere, as long as they are obtained by licensed professionals in order to maintain chain of custody.
But how to get them to Puerto Rico? Amazingly, through word of mouth and social media, people offered their planes to transport it, including United Airlines. Nine planes have gone out from Houston, 20 or 30 more nationwide. All of this happened because of volunteers and people making donations. It is almost too simple… doctors in Puerto Rico send out requests to doctors in Houston, then they source it and send it. Doctors in Puerto Rico then meet the plane and distribute it to those in need. No politics or red tape makes for a smooth and efficient system.
The aftermath and legacy
Carmen believes that when you find yourself in the aftermath of something like a natural disaster, or something else unexpected, you need to act and get over it or your whole life goes downhill. She acknowledges that people are still trying to figure out what happened and how to cope, but that’s why she is doing this. She is from Puerto Rico so she has a clear motive, but she is amazed by how many others want to help. When she asks why they do it, nobody has a specific answer. It is just the genuine goodness of their heart. That brings with it so much meaning and it is more appreciated than anything.
Carmen knows it will take years to mend the damage done in Puerto Rico, but hang in there. Puerto Ricans know what they are doing and can fix this with you. They have survived this and the sky is the limit, keep Moving forward. See this as an opportunity to re-invent yourself and try to make the best of it.
There are many obstacles to helping in Puerto Rico, not least that it is an island nation. When the power goes out in Florida, there are trucks flooding in from other states to get things up and running. That cannot be done in this case. It is commendable that if you put a woman at the helm, things happen. When somebody is hurting, we go in there and fix it.
The impact of this will be around for years, just as it will be in Texas and California and all those other sites of recent disasters. We are getting so used to the tragedy. It almost becomes a recurring news item with the lead up to it being more fully covered than the devastation and the impact itself. That is when they need us most and we need to know that they need us. Thank goodness for social media… it can be really useful. People affected can ask for exactly what they require.
There is an opportunity for business owners to help
There is an opportunity for business owners to help each other here. If only the effort big business put into the Olympics in Rio was put into helping Puerto Rico, right? They don’t apply that to charity and they most likely won’t, but smaller businesses can step up. We can also use newer technologies and update the island. We do not need to try to rebuild exactly what was there. It can be seen as a blank canvas, full of opportunities for those who seek them and take advantage of this situation to improve lives.
Big business should pause for thought, too. They spend so much of their money on advertising, but the world is evolving and we don’t watch TV anymore. When will they realize they would do better to find a problem, like the situation in Puerto Rico, and solve it? We, as the public, would see and appreciate that. Surely there can be no better form of advertising.
So, what can you do?
Get out there and ask the questions. Figure out what people need and provide it if you can. Look at your resources and connect differently. Use that to help people.
It is the day after Thanksgiving here in the United States and that significance is not lost on Carmen. There is always a reason behind what happens in our lives and perhaps the reason she and I met was so I could offer this help. What goes around, comes around. So if you can help, you should. It may be you one day.
Related to this, I plan to set up an initiative for 2018. As we are decluttering, think about what makes us uniquely us and how we can impact the community around us. When we did the fundraiser for Houston, it was fun and we were able to surprise people. That feels good. (We are over $8,000 – THANK YOU so much to all who have contributed!)
On the podcast, Carmen encourages everyone to go to the website www.BREAC225.org. There are ways that you can donate to fundraisers and so many links to stories like Carmen’s. They also have a cool way of doing things so you don’t have to wonder how to help – they have an Amazon Wishlist!
If you would like to find out more about Carmen, click here.
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