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In Puerto Rico, a foundation changes course to rebuild after Maria

Alumnus-led Foundation for Puerto Rico focuses exclusively on recovery.

By Rebecca Linke  |  September 27, 2017

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Homes in Puerto Rico lay in ruins Sept. 23, three days after Hurricane Maria hit the island.

Why It Matters

When disaster hits, organizations can pivot to help in meaningful ways. In Puerto Rico, Jon Borschow’s Foundation for Puerto Rico changed course to help the island in its time of greatest need.

When MIT alumnus Jon Borschow founded the Foundation for Puerto Rico in 2011, he wanted to help Puerto Rico reach its social and economic potential. A large part of this involved promoting an economy driven by tourism and business travel, supporting innovation, and driving talent to the island.

The nonprofit organization started a number of initiatives to help it meet its goals. It led a cohort of the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program, seeking to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship in Puerto Rico. That work resulted in the improvement and development of startup accelerator programs like Parallel 18 and Guayacan Venture Accelerator. “REAP has seen considerable success in bringing different sectors of the economy into alignment of our vision of economic development in Puerto Rico,” Borschow, SB ’72, said.

But since the country was ravaged by Hurricane Maria Sept. 20, the Foundation for Puerto Rico’s purpose changed overnight. “The foundation has completely diverted all efforts to relief, assistance, and trying to coordinate, communicate, and liaise between U.S.-based organizations that are trying to help and Puerto Rico,” Borschow said.

The foundation has also opened its doors of its Colaboratorio, a shared workspace, to other organizations that are working towards the same goal of helping Puerto Rico. Since the U.S. territory is still almost entirely without power, the Foundation for Puerto Rico’s office offers a variety of charities and other relief efforts a space that has power, lights, and internet access.

“The amazing thing is that Puerto Ricans are an incredibly resilient and positive people,” said Alex Borschow, SB ’06, MBA ’14, Jon Borschow’s son. “They are going out in brigades to clear streets, help their neighbors, and feed and shelter each other.”

As Puerto Rico starts the process of rebuilding, Jon Borschow said he wants to be ensure the island is prepared for future natural disasters. “Our purpose right now is to get Puerto Rico back on its feet,” he said.

Interested in helping?
There have been many natural disasters in the past few months, affecting people from Puerto Rico to Texas to Mexico.

  • The Foundation for Puerto Rico recommends Puerto Rico Real-Time Recovery Fund. All donations go exclusively to long-term relief for Hurricane Maria’s victims. 
  • The MIT Sloan Student Senate recommends Topos Voluntary Team, a rescue brigade digging people out of collapsed buildings in Mexico; as well as UNICEF, which responds to disasters and storms like Hurricanes Maria and Irma and earthquakes in Mexico, with a focus on supporting children and rebuilding schools and education systems.