Nearly three weeks after Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria, two nurse members of SEIU Healthcare PA have traveled to the thick of the hurricane’s horrific damage to help in the island’s effort to rebuild.
Wendy Snyder, an orthopedic nurse from Heritage Valley Beaver, and Justin Jacobeen, an RN from Hershey Medical Center, are among 200 first responders and volunteers who recently left the U.S. mainland for the island under a union-led relief effort.
Neither Snyder or Jacobeen hesitated to say “yes” when called upon. They’ll spend two weeks in Puerto Rico on the volunteer project. For Snyder, it’s about giving back because she has received.
“God has been very good to me and I’ve wanted to find a way to give back for a long time but didn’t feel I could leave my kids when they were little,” Snyder said. “Now that they’re grown I was thrilled to be able to answer my union’s call for volunteers to help in Puerto Rico.”
As for Jacobeen, who says he went into nursing to make an impact, he is also in Puerto Rico because he is able to be there.
“We have power, Internet, phones, drive to work and sit in the air conditioning,” he said. “Our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico don’t have anything. Infrastructure destroyed. We have an opportunity to give them some of what we have. I don’t think it’s right to sit here when people need help.”
Both nurses credit their coworkers for helping in the relief effort as well. Snyder says her HVB colleagues pitched in by sending supplies including medical goods, toys, books, and clothing. Jacobeen says his coworkers at Hershey Medical Center are picking up his shifts while he is gone.
“I’m the body that’s going down, but my coworkers are stepping up, too,” he added. “Because we’re a unit and a team.”
Snyder, Jacobeen, and other volunteers are working long hours as part of the mission to help rebuild Puerto Rico. It’s a long road ahead. Communication remains spotty on the island and there are still significant power outages. There is also a lack of access to clean drinking water and it has been difficult for response teams to get aid and supplies to those in need amid the destroyed infrastructure left behind by Hurricane Maria.
But for Snyder and Jacobeen, being flexible and ready to help when called is all a part of being a nurse.
“It’s our duty to help those when we can,” said Snyder. “Especially since we’re fortunate enough to be able to provide that help.”
Snyder, Jacobeen, and the other volunteers return to the mainland on October 18.