Oprah Winfrey Donates $2 Million to Puerto Rico Relief Efforts

Oprah Winfrey is the latest celebrity to join the relief effort in Puerto Rico, which has struggled to rebuild after the devastation left behind by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Winfrey was reportedly inspired to donate $2 million after “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s efforts to help the US territory. “I was so moved by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s commitment to bring ‘Hamilton’ to Puerto Rico and support the community that served him growing up that I wanted to join in the revitalization efforts of an island so rich in culture, beauty, and heritage,” Winfrey said in a statement, according to Reuters.

The Hispanic Federation said on Monday, April 8 that $1 million of Winfrey’s donation will go to its UNIDOS Disaster Relief & Recovery Program to Support Puerto Rico fund. UNIDOS, which launched when Hurricane Maria struck in 2017, provides funds for the nonprofit to help the island with its long-term needs. The organization has raised $43 million for the recovery and relief effort and has distributed $30 million in grants to 110 Puerto Rican community groups and initiatives since the devastating hurricane. The Hispanic Federation has also established an office in the capital of San Juan to support nonprofit organizations on the ground.

The Hispanic Federation has focused on helping local organizations in a number of sectors — including agriculture, housing, local development, renewable energy, and the environment — help their communities. “The government fell short [in helping Puerto Rico],” Charlotte Gossett Navarro, senior director of Puerto Rico operations for, the Hispanic Federation told The North Star. Despite the “terrible accusations” by President Donald Trump, she said, “Communities have risen up to respond to this disaster.”

The other $1 million will be devoted to arts and culture programs in Puerto Rico under the Flamboyan Foundation, according to the release. The Flamboyan Arts Fund was created by Miranda, his family, and the Flamboyant Foundation in an effort to support artists and arts institutions on the island.

Miranda raised an estimated $15 million for the Flamboyan Arts Fund when he reprised his role in the hit musical “Hamilton” during a 23-performance run in Puerto Rico in January, according to The Washington Post. The award-winning composer is also credited with helping to raise millions for the Hispanic Foundation. “The Mirandas have been among the biggest advocates for Puerto Rico,” Gossett Navarro said. The family has worked to keep the island on peoples’ minds and in the news, she added. “They have been a large part as to why we’ve been able to raise such large amounts of money.”

Celebrities like Winfrey, Miranda, Jennifer Lopez, and Victor Cruz have been critical in raising funds for the relief and recovery effort in Puerto Rico. Gossett Navarro continued, “We have a president who is so clearly biased against us. We need as many voices as possible to keep Puerto Rico in the news.”

Gossett Navarro noted that there was still plenty of work left to do in Puerto Rico. While tourism on the island, including hotels and many restaurants, is up and running communities, still need urgent help. The island’s issues run deep. Even before the hurricanes, Puerto Rico had poverty levels as high as 40 percent, according to Gossett Navarro. Six in 10 children on the island live in poverty, while the cost of living is exorbitant, she told The North Star. Hurricane Maria and crippling debt have only exacerbated the issue.

The housing and agriculture sectors are among those that need the most help. Prior to the hurricane, 80 percent of the island’s food was imported, Gossett Navarro said. “We need to get farmers back on their feet,” she added.

Hurricane Irma hit Puerto Rico in August 2017 and was followed by Hurricane Maria in September 2017, which killed an estimated 2,975 people. The hurricane, which left around $90 billion in damages, is the third-costliest hurricane in United States record, NBC News reported.


About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.