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Women Carpenters from Tompkins County Help Puerto Rico Rebuild



ITHACA, NY (WSKG) - A Trumansburg carpenter is helping the women of Puerto Rico rebuild after Hurricane Maria brought devastation to their island.

Maria Klemperer-Johnson decided to help in rebuilding efforts when she first learned of the hurricane’s devastation. She runs Hammerstone, a carpentry school for women in Trumansburg, NY.

This month, she and others from Hammerstone, along with a group of tradespeople called Rogues on Roofs headed to Puerto Rico. They worked in the town of Gurabo; about an hour from the capital of San Juan.

Klemperer-Johnson saw two big problems.

Debris wasn’t removed because towns couldn’t afford it. And, for months, homes were exposed to the constant tropical rains, which did more damage than the hurricane. Many homes only had plastic, blue tarps to keep water out.

They started by restoring one woman’s house. They also held a free carpentry workshop for women at the YWCA. The line for their 3:00 pm workshop started forming at 9:00 am.

Teaching carpentry skills to women, in Tompkins County and in Puerto Rico, is a mission for Klemperer-Johnson. She says such training provides women more autonomy as they rebuild their homes.

The group’s next trip is planned for early April. They will finish the work they started and hold another workshop.

It’s been six months since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean. On Tuesday, New York's Kirsten Gillibrand joined other Senators in questioning why the Army Corps of Engineers plans to withdraw before all power has been restored to the island.