What does it mean to be a taino volunteer?

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Tainos were the Native Americans in Puerto Rico and throughout the Caribbean before European explorers arrived.  Much has been lost of this advanced civilization, but we do know that Tainos were incredibly inventive and generous, and they believed in living in harmony with the land and nature.  Tainos are also inherent survivors; even though they were pushed to the brink of extinction from disease and persecution from European settlers, today, more than 60% of Puerto Ricans proudly claim at least a bit of indigenous Taino DNA.


We couldn't think of a better society to honor and hold as an example.  The circular swirl surrounding the helping hands in the Taino Volunteers logo has a double meaning: 1. a hurricane 2. for the Tainos, that circular swirl was the symbol of life, and water.  

Mission

Taino Volunteeers empower, restore, and promote community development in Puerto Rico through sustainable practice. This organization exists to provide a hands-on and eye-opening learning experience focusing on authentic connection between volunteers and host communities. The name Taino Volunteers is symbolic of the steadfast roots that established and helped shape the Puerto Rican culture. In the same way, this organization is aimed at rebuilding foundation and illuminating the resilient culture, not just for the people of Puerto Rico, but with the people of Puerto Rico.

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Culture & Sustainability

Just like the Tainos, we strive to live in harmony with nature and her gifts.  The only landfill in Puerto Rico filled up in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria; trash continues to be piled up on top while another solution and another site is identified.  There is very little recycling processing on the island; what is recycled is shipped to China for processing, where they are refusing many materials.  Our camp and our working practice is free of styrofoam and plastic bottles, and we will do everything possible to minimize use of single-use plastic. 

Learn More

Click to view a list of books, videos, and news reports to see learn more about Puerto Rico, its heritage, and its (complicated) relationship as a United States territory.

Find out more

Our Team

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Founder and Executive Director

Ashley Wright is the founder and chief Cacique for Taino Volunteers.  Born and raised in North Carolina, she began visiting Puerto Rico seven years ago to surf and kitesurf in winter months.  Over time, she grew to love the island and its culture, and she's now a full-time resident and small business owner of Puerto Rico's leading wedding and events management company.  


In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria, she tapped into her extensive international disaster relief and mission trip leadership experience by volunteering, soliciting donations, and distributing supplies all over Puerto Rico.  When her family's church in North Carolina contacted her for advice on planning and leading a mission trip to Puerto Rico, she jumped at the opportunity to host a group of hard-working volunteers dedicated to helping those who need it most .... and Taino Volunteers was born.  

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Local Connections

We’ve partnered with a number of local businesses and community leaders to provide an authentic Puerto Rican learning experience for our volunteers.  For instance, food is an important part of our island culture.  Our meals will be prepared by the passionate husband/wife team of organic farmers (click here) who own their own restaurant, Mimosa Brunch Farm to Table (click here),  Chef Charlotte and Farmer Sebastian. They will be onsite with us all week, guiding and teaching our groups traditional Puerto Rican cooking using their fresh and delicious local ingredients.  Every meal, a different team of volunteers will join them for prep and cleanup.

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Interns

We're delighted to announce our 2019 interns: Ashley Bryant, Dawson Taylor, and Anna-Marie Taylor.  As university students studying non-profit management and organization, they also have extensive mission trip and youth leadership experience.  Follow us on social media to learn more about them and their experiences as Taino Volunteers!

Learn more - RECOMMENDED READING AND WATCHING

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Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish by Pablo Cartaya

This fun YA book is particularly relevant for our senior high groups.  From Amazon: "After a fight at school leaves Marcus facing suspension, Marcus's mom decides it's time for a change of environment. She takes Marcus and his younger brother to Puerto Rico to spend a week with relatives they don't remember or have never met. But Marcus can't focus knowing that his father--who walked out of their lives ten years ago--is somewhere on the island.  So begins Marcus's incredible journey, a series of misadventures that take him all over Puerto Rico in search of his elusive namesake. Marcus doesn't know if he'll ever find his father, but what he ultimately discovers changes his life. And he even learns a bit of Spanish along the way."

https://www.amazon.com/Marcus-Vega-Doesnt-Speak-Spanish-ebook/dp/B077RLQZ96/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1550856901&sr=8-1&keywords=marcus+vega+doesnt+speak+spanish

Powerless: Puerto Rico’s struggle after Hurricane Maria

In a NBC Nightly News documentary, NBC News’ Gabe Gutierrez travels to Puerto Rico one year after it was devastated by Hurricane Maria to report on ongoing recovery efforts and speak with survivors.

https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/powerless-puerto-rico-s-struggle-after-hurricane-maria-1324694595643

Introduction to Taino Spirituality

An overview of Taino culture.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mI1Gk-RIyk8

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Puerto Rico is suffering a massive debt crisis. Lin-Manuel Miranda joins John Oliver to call for relief.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tt-mpuR_QHQ

War Against All Puerto Ricans by Nelson Denis

The powerful, untold story of the 1950 revolution in Puerto Rico and the long history of U.S. intervention on the island, that the New York Times says "could not be more timely."

https://www.amazon.com/War-Against-All-Puerto-Ricans-ebook/dp/B00PWX7TKO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1550856935&sr=8-1&keywords=war+against+all+puerto+ricans+nelson+denis

Blackout in Puerto Rico

FRONTLINE and NPR investigate the humanitarian and economic crisis in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, examining how the federal response, Wall Street and years of neglect have left the island struggling to survive.

https://www.pbs.org/video/blackout-in-puerto-rico-340ybo/