This is the story of how, our sister company’s ACT-1, San Juan office came together in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, as told by Giselle, their Branch Manager:
On Monday, September 18th, a Hurricane watch was confirmed for Puerto Rico AGAIN. We are used to these watches and warnings, but little did we know this time it would change everything.
Waking Up to a Different World
We worked that Monday, and on Tuesday, we decided to close the offices so that everyone could prepare their homes for Hurricane Maria, which was scheduled to hit the island that Wednesday as a Category 5 Hurricane. We all said goodbye, printed all of our employees’ and clients’ phone numbers, wished everyone to be safe, and away we went.
Hurricane Maria impacted the island right on schedule and went right through the middle of Puerto Rico, flattening our beautiful island and leaving us in the dark. You hear stories of what this type of phenomenon can do, but to live through it is something inexplicable. We stepped out of our homes on Thursday to another reality, one that we were not prepared for – many things we took for granted were gone. We had NO COMMUNICATION. We could not reach family members or co-workers, we were completely cut off. Everyone was dealing with their own struggle to communicate, and it took days to get a hold of everyone on the team. I was able to drive a few miles out and get a hold of our Regional Vice President, to tell him I was safe, but couldn’t reach my family for five days. No one had phone service and roads were blocked.
Getting Back On Our Feet
Our Area Manager, was able to get to the office three days after the hurricane and confirm that our office was the ONLY ONE in the building that did not suffer any damages… we are definitely blessed. We visited a client in Las Piedras, where we had the privilege of helping in the distribution of ice and generators. Many of our temporary associates lost their homes, some completely, some the roof… others lost their belongings due to flooding. Some have children and family members that need medical care and don’t have generators. Many sad stories. But our clients have seen who we are present and ready to help.
During the week following the hurricane, we were thinking of how we were going to get payroll processed. That’s when we started using our word: RESILIENCE.
Everything – and Everyone – Matters
Puerto Rico will rise again, and our office will rise right with it by supporting our neighbors – whether employers or job seekers – every step of the way. Our goal is to be the biggest and the best [staffing company] on the island, and this is the best time to prove it. We knew we had to get the office up and running. Everyone was on board, and a task was assigned to each team member holding all of us accountable. I have a WONDERFUL team that has great ownership and is always ready to go the extra mile. Everyone came together and helped; we had people talking to the phone company, clients, and the internet provider, among others. The office opened the week after… when almost everyone was still closed. The very next day we started making a plan:
- We would visit all our current clients .They need to know we have their back.
- We posted on all social media that we are open.
- We sent out radio announcements to help our talent get paid (since most of the island still does not have internet).
Thriving Against Adversity
I need to say that the results have been amazing. Keep in mind that we were working with a generator as only 10% of the island had power. It is still hard to reach some of our talent. Many towns still have no communication. We use all methods we can: mass mails, phone, email, radio, and word of mouth.
In our homes none of us have electrical power, and most of us don’t have water service. Gas was impossible to find, and supermarkets barely had food, but everyone said yes and tried to make it work. It is still very hard, but we come in every morning and talk about it openly. We ask for help. If you need water, we help each other get it, if you need a generator we help each other find it… everyone helps everyone.
I have learned so much throughout this process. I learned that not only can I can TRUST my team, but together we have the courage to thrive against adversity. We are the makers of our future, we will not let this keep us down. Everyone helps, everyone is accountable, and we help each other.