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Courtesy of All Hands and Hearts

How You Can Get Free Flights to Puerto Rico and Texas to Help With Storm Cleanup

When a Category 5 hurricane ripped through the island of Puerto Rico last September, homes, schools, hospitals, and lives were destroyed. Five months later, the myriad physical and emotional damages inflicted on the island’s 1 million residents remain — and 17% of people on the island are still without power, according to the most recent statistics

With FEMA emergency assistance coming to an end, Puerto Ricans need help, now perhaps more so than ever. The same rings true for residents of Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which inflicted more than $125 billion in damages across the US south. 

At Global Citizen, we believe that taking action on the world’s most challenging issues — from education to health to climate — can make the world a better place and help eliminate extreme poverty by 2030. Online, more than 11,000 Global Citizens have called on world leaders to help the millions of people affected by extreme weather around the world in the past year. 

Now, 50 Global Citizens will have the opportunity to take direct action on these issues, working on-the-ground in affected communities in Puerto Rico and Texas. 

Take Action: Call on World Leaders to Help Millions of People Affected by Extreme Weather

Global Citizen is partnering with All Hands and Hearts, a non-profit that addresses the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters. All Hands and Hearts is offering 50 Global Citizens in the US the opportunity to join their smart response program with flights, food, and accommodation while volunteering paid for in either Puerto Rico or Texas in 2018. 

All Hands and Hearts Volunteers 3.jpgImage: Courtesy of All Hands and Hearts

The flight vouchers for 50 Global Citizens will be provided by All Hands and Heart’s partner Southwest Airlines. Global Citizens are eligible to fly free of charge from any airport in the US that Southwest services. 

“Our volunteer model is pretty unique in the fact that we provide a free and open door opportunity [to volunteers], removing boundaries for people who want to help,” Lauren Muldowney, Chief of Volunteer Experience at All Hands and Hearts, told Global Citizen. 

Read More: The Heartbreaking Photos of What's Really Happening in Puerto Rico

“We share a deep commitment to disaster relief and recovery efforts and helping communities rebuild,” Andrea Cavanagh, a representative for Southwest Airlines, said in a statement shared with Global Citizen. “Southwest is committed to connecting people to what’s important in their lives, and we are honored to provide All Hands and Hearts travel support which helps connect staff and volunteers to communities affected by disaster.” 

Southwest.jpgImage: Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

While numerous relief organizations have brought support to people affected by extreme weather, All Hands and Hearts focuses on working in areas with the “greatest need,” Muldowney said. 

In Puerto Rico, this includes the regions of Barranquitas and Yabucoa, which were particularly affected by the hurricane. Volunteers in this region will work on roofing, tarping, debris clearance, and other manual and physical work. 

Read More: This 15-Year-Old Is Bringing Light to One of Puerto Rico's Poorest Communities

Recipients of this aid include former carpenter, Juan Ignacio Capilla, 79, and his mother, Francisca, 93, whose roof was destroyed by the storm. 

“Maria came to teach us all a lesson — that we have to love and care for one another,” Francisca Capilla said. 

All Hands and Hearts Volunteers 4.jpgImage: Courtesy of All Hands and Hearts

This opportunity is only eligible for Global Citizens who are at least 18 years old and can volunteer for at least a week (ideally a minimum of two weeks) in Puerto Rico or Texas between now and Dec. 31, 2018. 

You must apply directly through All Hands and Heart’s website. And to fly free of charge, you must indicate in the application form under “How Did You Hear About Us?” that you heard about this opportunity from Global Citizen.

This is a first come, first serve opportunity, so if you’re interested, you should apply now.  

Muldowney added that although volunteers are expected to stay at least a week, some might not want to leave so soon — and that’s welcomed. 

“We find people plan to come out for a week and tend not to leave for six months because it’s a truly unique experience,” Muldowney said.

All Hands and Hearts Volunteers 1.jpgImage: Courtesy of All Hands and Hearts