Challenges are met with Innovation
Hurricanes, earthquakes, pandemicâ€¦ The last three years have shown the resilience of Puerto Ricans to overcome what comes their way. The challenges were also a catalyst that helped the Envision Center Centros Sor Isolina FerrÃ© to innovate and fulfill the community's needs in shelters and through virtual platforms.
In January, various earthquakes devastated communities in the southern part of the island. The EnVision Center immediately offered its psychosocial support programs to the shelters and to 13 HUD public housing developments, providing workshops and counseling on stress management in disaster situations, CPR and first aid classes. They also offered "Expressing Emotions through Art" workshops for children and their families, and sessions on how to manage medical conditions and finances in emergency conditions.
Through a partnership with the Hispanic Federation, the EnVision Center also provided first aid supplies, adult and infant diapers, solar lamps, wheelchairs, and supplies for bed-ridden individuals. The emotional and mental support was well received by those in the shelters who were uncertain as to when they could return to their homes or if these were structurally sound, while the ground beneath continued to tremble with 2-4 magnitude earthquakes daily. Social workers volunteering at a public housing development in GuÃ¡nica, one of the worst-hit towns, indicated that beyond material aid, anxious residents were expectant of the emotional support to fill their saddest, scariest days with happiness and hope.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the shutdown of businesses, schools, and most services to control the spread of the virus, Centros Sor Isolina FerrÃ© were busy implementing their virtual school program to ensure their students could continue their education. "We had already started designing the online platform as a project to integrate technology," said Maria de Lourdes LÃ³pez, Education Director for the EnVision Center. "When the COVID-19 crisis surged, we transitioned to virtual work."
The Centros Sor Isolina FerrÃ© serve their 230 students through an integrated platform that allows for face-to-face interactions between students and teachers. Social workers and counseling staff also monitor the students' psychological wellbeing by conducting online sessions and providing phone support. For many students with difficult home situations the school staff serves as their support network, a source of stability as they face this new reality.