Amazing Kids! Magazine

Amazing Kids! Interview with Salvador Gómez Colón

By Victoria Feng, Assistant Editor and AKOM Editor


After Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, Salvador Gómez Colón and his family were in need, yet he decided to put others first and launched a crowdfunding campaign called “Light and Hope for Puerto Rico.” The campaign has raised almost $10,000 in two months, and the money will be used to buy solar lamps and washing machines. Salvador hopes that the success of his campaign will serve as an inspiration to others so that they, too, can make a difference.

Amazing Kids (AK): What inspired you to start the “Light and Hope for Puerto Rico” crowdfunding campaign? What was the most important part of this fundraiser?

Salvador Gómez Colón (SC): Every day, I would sit in our family room to watch the daylight go away, and immediately, a sense of loneliness, hopelessness, and uncertainty covered my thoughts. I learned that light is an emotional and physical companion, and without it, I felt immersed in sadness, even though I was surrounded by my loved ones. The idea for solar lamps came soon after realizing the fact that many people would not have the fundamental resource of light, and the only alternative to light using electricity was solar light. I decided I wanted to provide light to people who were feeling extreme loneliness and would not have power from 6 to 12 months. Without light, you cannot move around your home, cannot eat, cannot see that you are accompanied or even see the mosquitoes that are going to massacre you. The lack of light makes us vulnerable to despair and uncertainty. People could not do anything from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., as it was completely dark, and were facing serious emotional and physical safety situations. Providing washing machines as a way to prevent broader public health issues like the spread of disease and illness was important, considering the barriers towards access to healthcare at this time. This initiative creates awareness about fundamental resources and parts of our daily life that many people are lacking, but beyond that, it is about how one person can create a difference in people’s lives and effect positive change and impact.

AK: What has been the biggest struggle in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria?

SC: The biggest struggle has most probably been getting used to this unforeseen situation, in which we have warped back decades in time. Because of the island-wide power outage, Puerto Rico was extremely disrupted. Now, two months later, the effects of Maria are still felt. Getting fresh food remains a big struggle, as you must go different days to get different things in the supermarket; there’s never all the food you need, so you must go one day to get eggs, another for chicken, and another for meat; and you still must be careful that the food is not rotten or stale. When school started after the hurricane, it felt as if we were starting all over again, and the uncertainty of when things would get back to normal was still very grave. Electricity and connectivity still remain very big obstacles. The lack of Internet was one of the biggest obstacles I had to create this initiative. In my house, there was no Internet connection, and cellular connectivity was extremely poor, as only 20 percent of cell towers survived the hurricane. Because of this, when I contacted Neha Misra (refer to question 4), she put herself in her disposition to be able to set up the platform. The whole exchange occurred in extremely long text messages that usually took hours to send and multiple, extremely spotty phone calls because of the lack of Internet and therefore email. Through these methods, I was able to receive all the requirements for the platform and send them back to her after writing them on a document on my computer and sending pictures. After three days of exchanges, the campaign was live.

AK: How do you plan to deliver lamps and washing machines after reaching your goal?

SC: We will make our first delivery of solar lights this coming weekend. Our goal is to impact the first 200 families. The second shipment of over 2,000 lamps is coming this week while the washing machines are still on their way. The first impact will take place in coastal Loiza, one of the most underserved communities in PR that was extremely devastated by both hurricanes Maria and Irma. Our next impacts will take place in Naranjito and Comerío, two mountainous towns that became completely isolated and disconnected after Hurricane Maria hit.

AK: Is there anyone who has helped you on your journey? Who, and how they did assist you?

SC: My number-one aid in this whole endeavor is my mother, Marta Michelle, who, while facing employment uncertainty herself, has dedicated herself to help me run this initiative, whether it is helping me reach out to people or coordinating logistics of distribution that required an adult, while keeping up with her clients to maintain a stable future for us. Neha Misra, co-founder of non-profit Solar Sister, has served as the guide to everything, whether it has been helping me set up the Generosity crowdfunding campaign when I had no Internet, connecting me to all of her solar partners, and becoming my mentor and guiding light in this whole experience.

AK: What are your goals for the future?

SC: I want to drive resilience and grit. I want people to realize that even in the midst of difficulties and uncertainty, things could always get better—it will always be dependent on our mindset and focus. I also want to drive kindness, respect, and consideration, as one of my personal experiences has been seeing people becoming frustrated, intolerant, and hopeless as time continues to pass and many cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. In terms of long-term aspirations, I want to become a doctor and a public health advocate.

AK: If you could change one thing about this world, what would it be, and why?

SC: I would change the complaining and complacency of people. Mahatma Gandhi says it perfectly: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” It is so disappointing that some people are always talking about how bad something is or how something needs to change, but they never do anything to change it—they become spectators of the problem and not facilitators of the solution. We should not be afraid to take action and do our part. We should not expect things to happen without doing anything for it. John F. Kennedy said that “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” It was precisely Neha who gave a gift to my mother with this quote in the beginning of 2017. I always wonder if it was meant for me!

AK: When you’re not working on your project, what activities/hobbies are you interested in?

SC: I am a very avid photographer and swimmer. I also participate in Model United Nations in school. I love defending rights, finding solutions to global issues, and creating resolutions to provide better opportunities.

AK: What advice would you give to our readers about following their dreams and making a difference?

SC: One of the biggest lessons this experience has given me is that age is just a number and that if you want to truly accomplish something, you can get around all the obstacles you are facing. Age shouldn’t define your maturity, your responsibility, or your potential to do good. We can all create change and do good, but we must take responsibility, drive action, and take action.

AK: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

SC: If there is something I have learned throughout this experience, it is to be grateful and not take things for granted. We should be grateful for what we have and be considerate with others. These past two months have taught me many things, and I have matured and come out with a better perspective of the world and what I can do to help.

One comment

  1. I got hit too and i need light