Las Marías, where 26.1% of the 8,599 residents are 60 years of age or older, is one of the municipalities where this population group needs the most services, and the Plenitud PR organization develops initiatives to attend to it.
Plenitud PR was born , in 2010, as an entity dedicated to education and offering services with a focus on sustainability, explains Paula Paoli Garrido, coordinator of the entity. It is based on a farm in Las Marías, where they provide training in organic farming and bioconstruction (building houses with superadobe (bags filled with sandy soils, mogolla or quarry rejection), among others. The objective is that people meet their basic needs in a sustainable way.
"We empower communities and schools (before quarantine) in Las Marías, Maricao and Añasco. We bring them weekly workshops and take them to the farm" adds Paula, who, together with her husband, she has the farm rented.
As they visit the communities, in the midst of the closure caused by the pandemic of the coronavirus they identified older adults who lived alone and who needed assistance to feed themselves, either because they did not have enough resources to buy or because they did not want to go to the supermarket frequently so as not to expose themselves. Deliver fresh and cooked food to about 40 older adults. Beginning April 1, they began taking a daily tour to distribute prepared food; now they bring them cooked food twice a week. The organization also received donations and took them shopping, in addition to giving them fresh produce grown on the property.
“We realized that there are people in their 80s and 90s who eat from a can because they cannot cook and we are trying to bring them a basket (with fresh products) ", reveals Paula.
To continue contributing to this initiative, Plenitud PR has just started the fundraising campaign" With the Heart in the Hand ", through which people can contribute the amount of money they want through the entity's portal and social networks (plenitudpr.org and @plenitudpr).
"They appreciate food, but when you go, what they want is that little bit that we share with them" says Paula, referring to the problem of loneliness that afflicts so many older adults.
“Another thing we are doing is bringing them music and that also makes them happy. We are trying to identify the needs and look for donations to meet them, "he adds.
In Las Marías there is only one activity center for older adults that, like all the others, remains closed, although it continues to distribute food to about 30 people, it indicates Eleonor González Torres, “community impact analyst” of Plenitud PR.
In Las Marías, “we have a list of 30 bedridden people and more than 70 elderly people receive help from the hospice, according to the activity center that gave us the list "Reveals Eleonor to demonstrate the great need for support that the older adults of the municipality have.
" Also, we are delivering masks. We got seven seamstresses, we gave them the materials and they were sewing masks on a voluntary basis. We have delivered almost 500 masks in Las Marías and San Sebastián "he adds.
The initiatives for food distribution and masks have a volunteer component because, like the seamstresses, Plenitud PR has other people who offer their time and effort to offer services to those who need it.
Farmer and musician
This is the case of Hipólito Martínez Ramos, 67, who came to the organization to learn new agricultural techniques and finished volunteering, offering lectures and workshops in schools.
A native of San Germán and a resident of Lares about 30 years ago, Hipólito has always been a lover of land and agriculture. As a young man, he emigrated to the United States, but when he returned to Puerto Rico and started working in Lares, he bought a six-cord farm in that town, “but it was not what I wanted because it was coffee and bananas and I was he wanted it to be a piece of land to grow vegetables, "he explains.
Therefore, he sold the farm and bought a 1,130-meter piece of land, where he grows carrots, broccoli, grapes, peaches, rambutan, pitahaya, pomegranate and carambola, among other fruits and vegetables.
"It is not only sowing it, it is giving it the care they truly deserve," says Hipólito, who came to Plenitud PR to take agriculture classes.
"I started seeing them on Facebook and I made a request to them because I wanted to know what they were doing and I wanted to be there too and learn with them. I think I was the oldest of the group, the others were from the University. The oldest was me, "he points out, and later indicated that it was a satisfaction when he could also teach techniques to the young people in the group.
" Later the opportunity appeared to teach children and students what they had learned and they gave me the opportunity to go to school. We were three. I loved. I felt so and so good because I felt that I was contributing my knowledge to the group ", he describes about the classes that they started offering in schools in the Anones de Las Marías neighborhood last year.
" Now I registered to take a class in grafting on fruit trees ”at the Escuela Vocacional Agrícola Soller, in Camuy, where he has taken many other courses to continue developing his skills in that area.
The classes he has taken, including those of first responders in emergencies and search and rescue in caves are part of an active routine maintained by Hipólito, who is also a musician and plays with the group Sabor Boricua, who only play Christmas music, between October and January.
"I am always busy," he assured. Hipólito, who is also a fan of singing in karaokes.