Group of women commit to feed hundreds amid hopelessness in forgotten Puerto Rican town

With help of solar power, a group of women take over kitchen duties

By Christian De La Rosa - Reporter

HUMACAO, Puerto Rico - Hurricane Marie plowed into the island of Puerto Rico about eight months ago. The Category 4 storm made landfall on the remote coastal communities of the Yabucoa valley shortly after 6 a.m.

The 155 miles per hour winds took roofs and walls and destroyed infrastructure in Humacao's Mariana neighborhood

Jonathan Aponte walks with a gas can up the road to his home in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, Sept. 26. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Maria Laboy is among the thousands who are still without electricity, but while she may not have power, she refuses to be powerless.

"We took charge, helping people," Laboy said about an effort with her neighbors to feed hundreds of people. "Sometimes we cook for five hundred people."

Evan Mandino, right, sits with neighbors on a couch outside of their destroyed homes as the sun sets in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, Sept. 26. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Laboy and her neighbors have the will to continue cooking every day, but they need donations. They don’t get paid to do this, and sometimes they even use their own money to buy ingredients.

Neighbors sit on a coach outside their destroyed homes as sun sets in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, Sept. 26. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert.

"If you don’t have the money, you just don’t pay and you help around like washing dishes," Laboy said. "It’s better than canned food."

Laboy and her neighbors received solar panels to power the stoves from Centros de Apoyo Mutuo, a non-governmental grassroots organization that partnered with Germany's Sonnen.

Nestor Serrano walks on the upstairs floor of his home, where the walls were blown off in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, Sept. 26. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

"You have to take the bull by the horns," Laboy said. "If you don’t do that, you are screwed. I’m sorry. I should not say that."

Laboy said they have a water well for drinking water and even started farming. She has no intentions of stopping.

 "If we were in the house we would be depressed, sick and who knows maybe even try to kill yourselves, because a lot of people are doing that," Laboy said. 

Laboy and her neighbors are accepting donations via Paypal. 

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