In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, one mother from Puerto Rico made the painstaking decision to uproot her son and say goodbye to the island they call home.
Roxana Arroyo is now living with relatives and her son Juan has been enrolled at an elementary school in Southington. Channel 3 saw how the Kelley Elementary School is making them both feel welcome in Connecticut.
"That's been my home, ever since I was born,” Arroyo said.
Arroyo was on a trip with her father when the hurricane hit. The storm devastated her beloved Puerto Rico.
"I contacted my mom after I finally found some communication, and she let me know how things were back at home,” Arroyo said.
She and her family live on the northwest side of the island. Roxana's home is still standing after the storm.
"There's no water, there's no electricity, food is running scarce,” Arroyo said.
Roxana's sister lives in Southington and offered to take in her 7-year-old son, Juan.
"I slept on it, and when I woke up, I just knew this was the best decision for me to take,” Arroyo said.
Roxanna, her mother, and father, and her son moved to Connecticut, while her husband, who is a postal worker, stayed back in Puerto Rico.
"At least he knows that he's bringing a little bit of happiness to people who are expecting packages and some letters, maybe. It's bittersweet for him,” Arroyo said.
Marilyn Kahl, who is principal of Kelley Elementary School, found out they would be welcoming Juan into their school community late last week.
"We had Juan and his mom came to school on Friday morning, and in giving a tour and speaking with his mom I asked, what can we do to help? And she mentioned there's no baby wipes available on the island,” Kahl said. “Not just for babies, but people are using them to shower, instead of showers to clean themselves."
Baby wipes are filling a vital need for those on the island without running water.
After reaching out to the staff and the school's parent-teacher organization, they started a collection drive. They'll be collecting wipes these next two weeks.
"Then look to gather efforts and donations to help ship these down to Juan's father with distribution through his community and through the postal service down there,” Kahl said.
Arroyo said she's touched by the support her family has received in Southington. She added there's only one word to describe it, overwhelming.
"Overwhelming of how easy it was to get him enrolled in school and how easy he has adapted,” Arroyo said. “And the Kelley School has made things so easy since day one so I’m really going to cherish that and certainly he will too."
If you would like to make a donation, you can call the Kelley Elementary School at 860-628–3310. People also can drop donations at the front door. The school’s address is 501 Ridgewood Rd. in Southington.
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