Two weeks ago CEO Ric Elias launched Rebuild Puerto Rico, a new nonprofit with the goal of raising at least $10 million to help his home country. He also pledged to personally match donations up to $5 million.
This week, he made his first trip to the island since Hurricane Maria hit. He recorded his experience and opened our annual Master Sales Agent Conference with the video below and a short message about humility (full transcript below).
As we headed out and my eyes adjusted to what looked the same, but was completely different, it felt like there’d been massive trauma to the island. There was a feeling of shock. There was an aftershock and a sense of uneasiness.
But underneath all of that, I think, what it was, was a deep feeling of uncertainty.
As we started leaving San Juan, you had this sense of exposed areas and barren areas, and in an interesting way you got to see neighborhoods, lakes, and things that you never knew were there. That being exposed—almost naked—you got to see the island naked in a way locals had never seen before.
There was some element of newness to that. There was some sense of opportunity. Being stripped down to its core, and what that does.
As we started getting into the towns (and we drove forever), people felt humbled. They felt that nature had humbled them. And in a beautiful way, some level of sacrifice. Not just in that there’s a shortage, but you see a lot of people tapping into the same generator for two hours so they can have a fan, or sharing community foods.
There was a deep sense of being disconnected. Many of them don’t have media, no anything. There’s one radio station. Even though they’re there, we know more than they do.
But in that process, in that mourning, there was room for discovery for them.
Almost like the beginning of hope, of a rebirth. You already see it in a couple of trees trying to return. Nature almost leading its way… it felt like the fauna that took such a beating was almost the shield that protected the island and sacrificed itself.
Just like it will come back, I am certain Puerto Rico will come back.
There was a beautiful moment where there was a baby that had been born the day before the storm. We pulled up to a house, and eventually the mother and the baby came out, and it got me thinking about how strong that baby Zoe will be one day. Because she decided to come out and face the storm and not hide from it inside of her mom. She knew. Nature knows. And her first day of life was the day of the future of Puerto Rico.
I came to Puerto Rico to do my part and to try to help. I left Puerto Rico reconnected—not only to my island—but to my people.
I am proud to be a Puerto Rican. And I’m proud to be an American.
Learn more about Rebuild Puerto Rico at www.rebuild-puertorico.org. If you’re able to give, Ric will personally match up to $5M on YouCaring.com. 100% of funds go directly to hurricane relief and rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico.
About the Author:Ric Elias | Co-Founder & CEO
Ric Elias is CEO and co-founder of Red Ventures. In 2009, he survived the "Miracle on the Hudson,” which led to his viral TED Talk, "3 Things I Learned While My Plane Crashed." In 2011, Ric was named Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year, and in 2016 he was inducted into the Carolinas Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. Ric has founded several social impact initiatives including RoadtoHire, Golden Door Scholars, LifeSports, and Forward787. A native of Puerto Rico, Ric attended Boston College and Harvard Business School.