“Desperate to help,” college student charters planes to bring supplies to Puerto Rico

PITTSBURGH — A Carnegie Mellon student disturbed by stories from her native Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria decided to do something about it.

Rosana Guernica, 22, a junior majoring in decision sciences, heard stories about people getting off the island by chartering a private plane, so she got the idea of raising money for a plane to bring in medical supplies and evacuate sick people.

Her grandmother told her it was a crazy idea, but that’s exactly what Guernica has done — twice.

Carnegie Mellon said in a Twitter post Saturday that Guernica is on her second trip to Puerto Rico this weekend with a team of volunteers from Carnegie Mellon. They are bringing supplies and hope to evacuate people.

A week after the hurricane, Guernica set up a crowdfunding page and sought contributions from everyone on her contact list, asking them to share the message with others.,

“We are desperate to help the island and don’t seem to know how,” she wrote. “By the time normal distribution channels open, it will be too late for the people who needed it the most.”

She raised $7,000 in 24 hours and $11,000 by the following day, and by the middle of last week, she had $48,000.

On October 4th, she spent her first $20,000 in donations to bring 1,000 pounds (453 kilograms) of supplies to the island, including infant formula, batteries, water, water filters, medicine and medical supplies — and also brought back six evacuees.

On her latest trip, she and her fellow students planned to take 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms) of supplies to mountain and coastal areas that have been difficult to access, bringing back two dozen people who have urgent medical needs.

“I’m absolutely in awe of her,” said Ann English, associate dean for finance and operations at the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy, who shared Guernica’s message with the entire Heinz alumni list.

“The first time I met with her I told her that I didn’t know whether to think that she was crazy, or the most determined and passionate student I’ve ever heard of,” English said.