MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A Florida woman boarded a plane to Puerto Rico in hopes of helping families still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria.
And she did.
Melly Mizrachi, the wife of a CBS4 employee, had not heard from her own family in Vega Baja which is about 20 minutes away from one of the hardest hit areas prompting her to take aid into her own hands – literally.
She got on a plane headed to San Juan on October 2nd with $1,300 meant to help anyone who needed it on the island.
“When you first fly in, its like you’re flying into an apocalypse,” said Melly. “You see just pure devastation.”
Sights that included many collapsed roads and bridges, flattened crop fields, people drinking from dirty rivers to stay hydrated and mothers with their babies walking up and down streets trying to find food.
“The locals were guiding the traffic themselves,” said Melly. “There was no police, no military, no food, no water, no gas.”
But she had $1,300 – stashed in a pack of envelopes – given to her by friends and family who wanted to directly help. Each envelope had the name of the person who donated cash.
“I started to drive around the neighborhood and see who could I help that was out on the streets,” said Melly who clarified she did not want to take supplies she thought would attract attention to her.
The first to get an envelope was a woman who lived with her mother and had lost her roof during the storm. She had no other family she could call on to help her.
“Her and her mother were sleeping on the floor,” said Melly. “She had nowhere to go.”
Another woman was deaf and had only two bottles of water which she planned to share with another family that had six children. It was her birthday.
“She started to cry and said, ‘Oh my God, today is my birthday and I didn’t think I was going to get anything for my birthday. God must have sent you to me,” Melly said the woman told her after she gave her one of the cash envelopes.
She ended up leading Melly to the family with six children and they too got an envelope – one filled with $100.
From there, she would stop at random homes and pass out cash to those she saw truly needed it. She ended up helping 20 families with those $1,300.
But she has one regret.
“I wish I could have helped everybody there,” said Melly.
She wants to go back but only when she knows it’s safe. She does not recommend others to do the same unless they know the areas.
Melly spent two nights there – nights she said were filled with gunfire and pure darkness since most parts remain without power.
“I was afraid for my life every night,” she said, adding that she slept with a machete since there was no one, not even a signal to call for help.
“I really wanted to stay but because of the gun shootings at night, I couldn’t stay,” she said.
As for her own family, Melly said she was only able to find one of her aunts who suffers from Alzheimers. She tried to reach others in her family but the bridges leading to their areas had collapsed and could only be reached by helicopter.
While there is aid flowing into the island, she is concerned about the West side which she did not seem to be getting aid at that time.
“All these people were fending for themselves out there,” said Melly.
For those who would like to help, she asks that you make a donation to trustworthy organization and, if possible, donate cash so victims can buy the essentials.