“It’s much worse than was reported.”
Those are the words of Orlando Bravo, a managing partner of Thoma Bravo, who, along with his foundation, touched down in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, on Saturday, Sept. 30.
Bravo said the area looked like a disaster zone. “Everything looks grey and brown from all the trees completely cut in half and the houses destroyed,” Bravo told Buyouts.
It’s been 12 days since Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico, blasting the island with high winds and heavy floods. There is still little electricity or running water, Bravo said. Food for Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million inhabitants has run out and communication is a big problem. Most of Puerto Rico doesn’t have working cellphone service, a major obstacle when trying to deliver needed items to people who are starving. “If they had better communication, we could just get things there quicker,” Bravo said.
The private equity executive, known for his software investments, met on Saturday with some local mayors. They came to personally greet him at Aguadilla airport. The mayors were very disappointed and confused by the lack of centralized governmental aid, Bravo said. When he asked the mayors what they needed most, they answered: “Food and water.”
Bravo’s trip to Aguadilla was a “targeted mission” to bring immediate and specific supplies, he said. On Saturday, the Bravo Family Foundation delivered IVs to a local hospital, water-purification systems so people could drink out of the rivers, satellite phones so people could communicate, as well as food and other supplies. (The foundation has already transported supplies to the island, including 800 pounds of water, food, diapers and baby formula.)
The Aguadilla airport was once a military base; it can host planes of any type, Bravo said. There were other organizations there providing aid, he said. He didn’t, however, see any other planes delivering supplies, except one that was rescuing animals. “For me, the place is on the brink,” Bravo said. “Organized governmental aid needs to reach these types of municipalities in Puerto Rico.”
Bravo, who is from Puerto Rico and has extended family there, plans to return to the island in November, while his foundation will go back there this week. The Bravo Family Foundation has also pledged $10 million to Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts, which will focus on small towns and villages on the island’s West Coast.
Bravo’s foundation has received “thousands of emails” from people requesting help and others wanting to help. The foundation is currently building out its infrastructure, with plans for a call center. “The foundation is working literally 24-7,” Bravo said.
Action Item: To help, contact the Bravo Family Foundation here.
Local residents wait in line during a water distribution in Bayamon following damage caused by Hurricane Maria in Carolina, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 30, 2017 Photo courtesy Reuters/Alvin Baez