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Puerto Rico Faces Extensive Damage After Hurricane Maria

Source: Mario Tama / Getty

Dashai Morton’s 12th birthday was on October 10, and while most kids her age might want to celebrate with, say, a Stranger Things-themed bash (journey to The Upside Down anyone?), all she wanted to do for her special day was give back to Hurricane Irma and Maria victims in Puerto Rico.

Morton, a sixth grade student at North Forestville Elementary in Maryland, treated herself by collecting 500 cases of bottled water to help address the clean water shortage currently plaguing the ravaged island. The effort was a part of “Project Give Back 500,” a campaign she initiated at her school. She also collected blankets and nonperishable foods.

“It makes me happy because I can help other people who don’t have,” she told local station WJLA. Tanya Morton, Dashai’s grandmother, said she wanted nothing else. “No party, no nothing. This is what she wanted.”

She’ll also reportedly be coordinating with the Red Cross (we know—but it’s babygirl’s thought that counts) to continue collecting water and other goods throughout the remainder of October.

The water shortage has left the people of Puerto Rico in a compromised position; more than 35% of the island still lacks safe drinking water weeks after the storms, according to CNN.

Water samples from one of the island’s wells, which sits on the Dorado Groundwater Contamination Site, are currently being tested by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the EPA, the site is polluted with industrial chemicals that “can have serious health impacts including damage to the liver and increasing the risk of cancer.”

“I’m going to drink it. I’ve drank it before. It tastes fine,” Juan Carlos Oquendo, a 39-year-old resident, recently told CNN while filling jugs at the well. “If I don’t drink water I’m going to die. So I might as well drink this water.” Gary Lipson, EPA incident commander, says other residents have been drinking water from the same well.

“It’s a concern both in public health and perception. We understand that people are hurting right now. We understand there are a lot of thirsty people out there, and they are accessing whatever water they can,” Lipson said. “We are trying to ascertain if it poses any hazards or not.”

Dashai’s efforts come at a crucial time. God bless the babies.