Sunday, August 14, 2022

‘Watching these people suffer is heartbreaking’: Norfolk mother waited week to hear from daughter in Puerto Rico

Rae Lynn Berry, left, and her daughter Samantha Crisp following Crisp’s graduation from Maury High School. (Courtesy of Rae Lynn Berry)

NORFOLK — As the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria continues to affect Puerto Rico, two Norfolk residents are organizing efforts to lend support to a section of the island where one resident’s daughter recently moved.

After originally visiting Puerto Rico in 2016 as part of a Workaway program, Maury High School alum Samanta Crisp moved to Vieques where she has lived for the last six months.

“In the two months I spent here for the Workaway program, I realized I was meant to be here,” Crisp said. ” I feel like I belong here. I enjoy the tiny island away from all the rush and hassle of city living. I like that I don’t have to deal with all these major city issues.”

Following dual category-5 hurricanes, 23-year-old Crisp said that her new home suffered immense damage as houses and buildings were destroyed, leaving many people displaced.

Like other parts of Puerto Rico away from the mainland, Crisp said Vieques, which is a smaller island off the eastern coast, continues to lack resources as residents band together to make the most of their circumstances.

“We’re surviving; struggling but surviving,” Crisp said. “We’re helping each other during the day and at night still hanging out and having a few beers. Have to stay happy. There is still a lot of rebuilding going on. There’s still no power. Still water thankfully. People have been making and handing out food.”

In order to get rations and supplies, Crisp said she and other residents must travel up to 20 minutes to a part of the island where relief groups hold drop points. While there, they usually have a two-hour wait before they can receive food, water, and supplies.

For three people, Crisp said they are given two small boxes of snacks and 12 bottles of water to last a week.

Dual category-5 hurricanes have left Puerto Rico in disarray and devastation as places like Vieques, pictured here, suffer from lacking resources and supplies along with debris spread around the town. (Photos from Samantha Crisp’s Facebook page)

As Crisp’s mother, Rae Lynn Berry, watched on the news the impact both hurricanes had on the Puerto Rico from her Ocean View home, she found herself panicked at the thought that her daughter was caught in the middle of it all.

In the days following Maria, Berry said she hadn’t heard from Crisp in more than a week, leaving her unaware and afraid for her daughter’s safety.

“Knowing that my daughter was there and waiting eight days to find out whether she was either alive or safe was horrible,” Berry said, adding that her daughter’s circumstance brought the devastation closer to her Norfolk home.

As Berry and her boyfriend, Brett Slaughter, searched for answers and information regarding Crisp’s welfare, they found that they were not alone as others dealt with similar situations.

Their search led them to a Facebook group called Vieques Peeps, which coordinates support for people on the island and keeps family members in the loop.

After making contact with Crisp and confirming her safety, Berry and Slaughter said they heard details of the struggles people on the island are living with, which motivated them to find a way to offer support to those in that section of Puerto Rico.

“It kind of, selfishly, started as trying to find out what was going on with a family member, and as it grew, I realized the impact it was having on the island and the people who were suffering as well as other people in the states who have family in Vieques, who didn’t have any means of contact or finding information on what was going on there,” Slaughter said.

Inspired by Vieques Peeps’ model, Slaughter started a group of his own called Virginia Love for Hope. It serves as a medium for people in the states and on the island to stay connected and support each other during the struggle.

According to Slaughter, he has collaborated with different groups and organizations locally and nationally like Vieques Families United in Texas and Vieques nonprofit, Concerned Residents for Improvement, Inc., to coordinate ways to gather and send supplies and resources to the island.

Virginia Love for Hope’s first fundraising event for Vieques relief gathered plenty of water, food, and supplies that they hope to ship out to the island. (Courtesy of Rae Lynn Berry)

Virginia Love for Hope’s first effort was a benefit concert and fundraiser on Friday in Chesapeake at the Riffhouse Pub.

The event featured live music from local bands Patient Zer0, WildCliffe, Fallout of Fear and System Failed.

There was also a raffle held at the venue with prizes donated by local business, including three $500 tattoo gift cards from Sacred Dagger Tattoo and Piercing and a $100 gift card from Pet Paradise.

The event gathered around $188 along with food, water, clothing and other supplies to send to Vieques.

According to Berry and Slaughter, while Crisp plans to return to Norfolk on Monday for a few months to work and save money so she can return to the island, their efforts to support the people there will not end as they are planning more fundraising events for the future.

“At the end of the day, my daughter wants to go back after she comes home, and I want to make sure she has a safe and solid place to live when she gets back there too. As a human being, watching these people suffer is heartbreaking.”

Reach out to Jordan on Twitter at @JordanEGrice, or send him story ideas at


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