I am in Puerto Rico this week as a chaperone with the Saugatuck Church youth group mission trip. There are 50 in our trip of high school students.

I had visited Puerto Rico about a year and a half ago, BEFORE Hurricane Maria struck. Puerto Rico was a pleasure to visit and explore.

It still is, but my observations include that Puerto Rico has changed very substantially.

Today, we met a teacher at a middle school who said she was “blessed” to have lost power for “only” 15 days. Some people, now nine months after Hurricane Maria, are still without electricity.

As we were landing at the San Juan airport on Sunday, I looked out the window of the airplane and saw lots of blue around private residences. I thought to myself, “Look. Lots of swimming pools.” Upon further examination, we noticed that the blue was from tarps covering homes, rather than blue swimming pools.

Additional indications when we left the airport on Sunday included seeing numerous signs of Maria’s destruction, including bent, broken or missing light posts, many traffic lights still not functioning, numerous trees still waiting to be cut up and removed, and more.

Where my group is in Ponce, Puerto Rico, about 1.5 hours from San Juan, the situation is pretty good, all things considered.

We have power, clean drinking water, air conditioning and more. There are plenty of buildings that are damaged or abandoned and the people we meet indicate that the building damage was caused by Maria.

Many streets lack functioning night-time street lights and there are many intersections without functioning traffic lights.

We’ve had difficulty finding good WiFi, but I’ve been told the local Burger King and a local hotel bar offer decent WiFi.

On the brighter side, we’ve noticed lots of work putting new power poles and related equipment all over Ponce. Not all of the poles appear to be functioning, but new infrastructure is definitely being put in place.

It’s pretty clear that Puerto Rico has a long way to recover from Hurricane Maria and its other challenges, but it’s certainly well worth visiting the island and supporting these Americans who are still on the path of recovery.

Mark Mathias is a 35-plus- year information technology executive and a resident of Westport. He can be contacted at livingwith