Saturday, March 24 – Once again, we were up and out before dawn. Today, we were back to work planting trees, this time in the middle of the coastal rainforest in Manatí.

The highway led us through a small township, and on the other side, we found ourselves in some of the most lush and fertile land we’d seen! We assembled at the nearly 200-year-old sugar plantation, “Hacienda La Esperanza.” Was it fate that found the group “Backpacks Full of Hope” helping restore hope on a property called “Hope Hacienda?”

As we trucked into the forest with our tools, it began to rain. But that did not slow us down one bit! In fact, as we launched into our work, we found it refreshing! Still a bit sore from the day before, we were all glad to be working this time on level ground and thrilled to find that ground much softer and easy to work with! By the time we were done, our team had planted another 100 trees, beginning the generations-long process of re-establishing the once vibrant costal forest of the area.

As we pulled away, our nature interpreter invited us, “Return to Puerto Rico when you are older and you, and your children, will be able to enjoy the forest that you helped plant – your forest!”

We did have several stops to make on our way back to our “base camp.” Last night, we were contacted by a local community organizer who had heard we were here helping out. (We have found that that’s the way things work in Puerto Rico – you are contacted by the friend of a cousin’s neighbor who heard from someone else that…) She shared the tragic story of an inland community in desperate need of help. And, thanks to our supporters back home, we are able to help them! So many have already given to our Go Fund Me campaign, and the donations continue to come in from our iLEAD family, friends, friends of friends, and beyond! You’ve all been so generous, and it’s having a HUGE impact! It’s a great side benefit that we can also sew into the local economy by purchasing local.

We will post more details on this community tomorrow, but today, we purchased school books and supplies, home repair supplies, bedding, shoes, basic furniture, a blender and a food processor. We were unable to purchase some of the other supplies needed to help the community begin to generate income for themselves, but we are confident that our friends will continue to support us in supporting them! 😉

We’re doing our best to do good and make you all proud. The people of Puerto Rico truly are grateful for everything. And we are so grateful for the hundreds of you who we know are accompanying us as we continue to venture into the island armed with our “Backpacks Full of Hope.”