With paintbrushes in hand, residents of the Ciales municipality are trying to dab color – and hope – back into their community blown drab by Hurricane Maria.
They paint in the daylight. There isn’t electricity to run lights at night. Basic necessities like food and water are still not getting through. Leaves have still not grown back. But the people of this town in Puerto Rico’s mountains show growing resolve as their vibrant mural takes shape across the walls and floor of an old gymnasium.
“The mural was a symbol for hope for the community,” explains Casey Harrity, Save the Children’s team leader in Puerto Rico. “It is a chance for everyone to take part in the rebuilding, to be agents of change themselves.”
The children especially took to the project and the idea that they could make things better. Their brush strokes and tiny handprints reflect their commitment to the work and the message.
“So many kids have had this energy awoken in them that has been dormant,” says Jenith, a local resident. “a lot of desire to keep moving forward.”
Events like this aim to strengthen the hearts of Puerto Ricans, whose resiliency is being tested by the slow recovery. Hundreds of thousands still do not have power, and those with electricity face blackouts. Rain still soaks the thousands who wait for government-issued tarps to temporarily replace the roofs blown away five months ago.
But blue and green tarps dotting the landscape are not inspiring colors of hope. Instead, buckets of paint, brought by charities like Save the Children and Apartial, are helping communities create murals that spread encouragement.
In Punta Santiago, for example, on the southeast coast of Puerto Rico, a new mural shows the vibrant foliage that has yet to return to the countryside. The Spanish phrase written on the skyline translates to “there is no leaf that dies without another that is born.”