The AAUW year began, as always, with a beach party in August. We reconnected with members and established new friends.
As we prepared for our first general meeting in September, Hurricane Irma approached. The meeting was postponed until October. Then the unthinkable happened! Hurricane Maria hit the island! Our meeting, our lives, our homes, our island were changed overnight. Many members sought refuge off the island. We used our email and website to connect with everyone who had access to the internet, to find out where people were and how they came through the storm. All the responses of our members were published “blog” fashion on our website. (Right here in fact!)
The AAUW National office staff in Washington, D.C. wanted to do something for Puerto Rico and we connected them with Casa Julia de Burgos, (a shelter for women subjected to domestic abuse) in San Juan. They designated Casa Julia as their holiday charity, sending four large boxes of relief supplies and money. The gratitude and pride felt by local members delivering the aid was overwhelming. The generosity of the AAUW National staff truly made a difference in Puerto Rico.
As electrical power was slowly being restored to members in San Juan, we decided to plan a December Holiday Party. Many of our members were returning to their homes. The party, held during daylight hours, provided a time to reflect, share, and define our new normal. Despite the difficult times, we raised money for girls in PR.
Membership published the branch directory, finding new avenues in order to have them available by the Party. Receiving the directory is always a highlight for many members as it connects the branch.
Hogares Rafaela Ybarra, a home for abused girls in San Juan, was the recipient of our holiday fundraising. That relationship led to two additional community service activities, a pizza and craft party and a STEM project about electrical circuits. It was amazing to see the girls making circuit boards and illuminating colored light bulbs. The girls, as well as our AAUW members, learned a timely lesson about electricity!
February’s general meeting about employment law as it related to the “Me Too Movement” was inspiring as we reviewed the effect of sexual harassment on our lives. The new venue at the Conservatory of Music was wonderful.
Our March luncheon celebrated the accomplishments of two women in PR. Our luncheon venue also served as a fundraiser for our branch.
The May program recognized the need to celebrate relief workers. Realizing our island is still in recovery, Project Mariposa shared their techniques to reduce the stress on community relief workers.
As services in our island improved, AAUW interest groups began in earnest. The Book Group continued with its monthly meetings and the Movie Group with the weekly movie; Gourmet hosted a party and distributed the menu book, initiating the dinners; Great Decisions organized and held eight interesting sessions on foreign policy.
The NCCSWL committee awarded branch scholarships to three young Puerto Rican women to attend the 3-day leadership conference (AAUW National Conference of Collegiate Women Student Leaders) in Washington, DC. Again, despite Maria, we maintained our now 6-year streak with NCCWSL attendees. Do not miss the chance to meet these amazing young women at our September meeting!
The AAUW Puerto Board worked diligently to promote the branch and its activities during the year despite the limited communication services. The group continues to plan for the next year and beyond, as it looks forward to another great year. I encourage you all to join our extremely dedicated leaders on the branch board. I, especially, praise and thank them for their commitment. Working with them is a honor.
As the review of this last year notes, AAUW branch celebrated our 45th year in a very unique and memorable fashion. Every member has had a role in making our branch great and despite our own personal hardships. None of our achievements this past year would have been possible without you, our great members. AAUW Puerto Rico thanks all of you for a wonderful year. We have a lot to celebrate. Now, let’s look forward to next year.
AAUW San Juan Branch