To help the people of her homeland of Puerto Rico, a Two Rivers Community School kindergarten teacher and her class are asking the community to make donations to aid earthquake victims.

According to the United States Geological Survey, an earthquake sequence in southwest Puerto Rico began with a magnitude 4.7 earthquake on Dec. 28. The agency stated that the sequence had produced more than 300 earthquakes greater than magnitude 3 — a strength that people can feel — by Jan. 17. Additionally, there have been 10 earthquakes of magnitude 5 or greater in the area, which is a magnitude that can cause damage.

As a native of Puerto Rico, Vicki Krueger — now a Two Rivers Community School teacher — said it’s been difficult hearing about the tragedy taking place on the island. Krueger still has family in Puerto Rico, and has tried to keep in touch with them during this time. Wanting to help, Krueger and her kindergarten class are asking the Watauga community to donate insect repellent that will be transported to Puerto Rico.

USA Today reported on Jan. 10 that more than 2,000 people were displaced and in shelters, nearly 1 million were without power and hundreds of thousands were without water. The publication reported on Jan. 28 that only 20 percent of public schools in Puerto Rico were able to open because of damages brought on by earthquakes.

Krueger said the majority of homes in Puerto Rico are made of cement because of termites in the tropics. The earthquakes caused extensive damage to the foundations of many homes, and citizens have been told their houses are not habitable. According to Krueger, the National Guard has set up giant tents with cots for people to sleep on. But just last week the people in these “refugee camps” had to be moved because of flooding in the area, she said.

With Puerto Rico being a tropical environment, Krueger said mosquitos are fairly prevalent after it rains — with some carrying diseases. Because she knows what it feels like to be bitten by many mosquitoes while in the area, Krueger said she wanted to collect insect repellent to take to Puerto Rico.

“It’s very important that people feel safe because they’re so unsecure right now,” Krueger said.

Damien Johnson, a kindergarten student in Krueger’s class, said he wanted to help people in Puerto Rico because he didn’t like having an “itchy body” and he didn’t want others to have to experience that either.

Krueger’s class will have a box for donations at Two Rivers school as well as at Stick Boy Kitchen on Boone Heights Drive. While Krueger is mainly hoping for insect repellent donations, she said other items can be donated as well. For example, she said people have donated travel-sized soap and shampoo as well as money that Krueger will use to purchase insect repellent.

Donations can be made through Feb. 10, when Krueger plans to pick up the donation boxes. Her daughter and son-in-law plan to make the trip to Puerto Rico in late February, and will ensure the donations get to Ponce, Puerto Rico — which received the most damage from the earthquakes, Krueger said.

“I feel great about helping people in Puerto Rico because it makes the world a better place,” said Preston Mathews, one of Krueger’s kindergartners.

When Hurricane Maria left devastation in its wake in Puerto Rico in 2017, Krueger said her class of 22 kindergartners collected more than 1,000 items to send to victims. Additionally, each of her students sent a package to other kindergartners in Puerto Rico who were being taught by Krueger’s cousin. Stick Boy Kitchen also offered to give 10 percent of its earnings for hurricane victims as well as allow Krueger to have a donation box at the restaurant.

Her current class of students also collected items for the Hospitality House as part of a community project in November, and donated more than 500 pounds of food, Krueger said. She added that she had hoped that the students would get a sense for serving others in the Watuaga community, and now will know they can help others in other parts of the world too.

“I want them to know that one person can make a difference, maybe even to someone they don’t even know,” Krueger said.

For more information about the donations for Puerto Rico earthquake victims, contact Krueger at vicki@trcsboone.org.

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