Hurricane Maria volunteer from Central Pa. Red Cross says experience “changed her life”

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- One Hurricane Maria volunteer from Central Pennsylvania is in awe at the resilience of the people of Puerto Rico.

Her name's Hope Roaten. She's a Disaster Relief Manager for the Red Cross who spent nearly three weeks on the U.S. territory providing relief with other volunteers.

Hope tells Fox 43 she is inspired by the people she met. She told me stories of neighbors helping neighbors and so many people who aren't worried about losing their belongings, just about one another. She says the experience changed her life. 

"When you're away for 21 days, and you have no access to a phone, you have very little access to electricity, you really learn what's important in life," said Hope Roaten.

For nearly three weeks, it was Roaten's job to provide hope to people in Puerto Rico with other volunteers from the United States. Now, she says it's her duty to remind people how the island continues to struggle.

"We need to remember instead of focusing on the downed trees and downed power lines, that there are hundreds and thousands and millions of people who are living on the island, and they're isolated, and they don't have the resources they need," she said.

Hope says after volunteering there, she's renewed her faith in humanity.

"Every place we went, it wasn't people like, 'Oh, here comes the Red Cross. They're going to serve us.' They jumped in line and helped us unload the truck. They helped us find neighbors in need," she explained.

She says it's important people don't focus on the pictures of devastation... rather, the survivors of Hurricane Maria and its aftermath.

"At the end of the day, it's not about the destruction. It's about the people living through the destruction," said Roaten.

Sharing photos of her experience: a beautiful sunset, trucks of oranges the Red Cross gave out to neighbors, and her teammates who were like family during those three weeks.

"Definitely, my life's changed, definitely forever changed, for sure because the things I've seen, and the people I've met. I'd like to think I'd be a much better version of myself because of that," she finalized. 

Hope says there's so much more to be done in Puerto Rico. She says financial donations are still the best way you can help the red cross provide relief. They've dedicated a portion of their website to relief where you can donate.