Family Freed By Hurricane Maria To Travel The World Take On A Special Project

By Zeek Thompson

An American family from the state of Maine decided to retire in beautiful Puerto Rico in July of 2016. After falling in love and living in Puerto Rico for a year, hurricane Maria hit and wiped out everything that they had. The family stayed in a hurricane refugee shelter while gathering money to leave the island, and decided to travel Europe. Ryan Thompson, the father took up a mission to review the status of Brexit and decided to create a documentary on immigration in European countries and what that means to the rest of the world.

Ryan Thompson and his family of six were living in Northern California in 2013, and Ryan was working out of his home and making infrequent trips to his employer’s headquarters in Seattle for training and meetings. In May of 2013 Ryan was hit by a drunk driver, that turned out to be a former combat soldier who was discharged for PTSD. The drunk driver had killed himself on Ryan’s car in a head on collision on I-5 in Oregon as Ryan was coming home from working in Seattle. This began a new journey for the family who had been working very hard for retirement.

Car accident Ryan Thompson Dereck Massey
Car accident Ryan Thompson Dereck Massey


Photo of Ryan Thompson’s 2010 Ford Expedition after the head on collision with Derek Massey.

After settling with workers compensation for a small settlement amount that allowed the family to pay off their bills. The family decided to trade their home for a boat in the Caribbean and go on a circumnavigation trip around the world. They traveled from St. Thomas USVI where they bought the boat, towards the Yucatan in Mexico where along the way their boat broke down in Fajardo Puerto Rico. The boat needed a lot more work to make the journey, so the family decided to make a home in Puerto Rico while the fixed up the boat.

Ryan Richard Thompson / Via

View of the Caribbean Sea from the Demejuaga neighborhood of Fajardo Puerto Rico

In September Hurricane Season came and it was more than anyone expected. First hurricane Irma came in and wrecked all of the surrounding islands on September 6th. When the family had realized that another family from St. John lost their home which was their boat to hurricane Irma, the Thompson family then donated their 46′ sailboat to the family.

Ryan Richard Thompson / Via

The boat that the Thompson family donated to a family in St. John who lost their boat.

Shortly after donating the boat, the Thompson family were preparing for hurricane Maria which was due to hit between September 19th – 20th. When hurricane Maria hit, the family were in their small home that the had just recently moved to in Juncos, which was a bi-level home. The roof came off the house and flooded everything. The family lost everything they owned.

The Thompson’s home destroyed

Ryan Richard Thompson / Via

Destruction of the Ceiba Norte barrior in Juncos Puerto Rico, and a drone view of the Thompson’s home.

This turn of events forced the Thompsons to leave their home and all of their possessions and take refuge in a hurricane refugee shelter in San Jaun Puerto Rico for a little over three weeks while they tried to collect money and plan for a new life somewhere. While in the refugee center the Thompon’s friends took up a cause of raising money via GoFundMe and many friends donated directly to the Thompsons via Paypal, which gave the Thompsons enough money to leave the island. In the Thompson’s home school group, they found friends in Ireland and then Netherlands to host their family while they tried to formulate a plan. During their stay in the refugee shelter, the family setup a communication center for the other refugees and allowed them to use their mobile hotspot, cell phones, and computers to get in touch with FEMA and other agencies that were available to help the refugees out.

Ryan Richard Thompson / Via

Communication center at the hurricane refugee center in San Jaun Puerto Rico

The Thompson family gained a lot of great friends at the refugee shelter and enjoyed the hospitality of some terrific people in Puerto Rico.

Ryan Richard Thompson / Via

Beatriz Rosselló (the governors wife) serving pizza to refugees, and Ryan Thompson got a photo with her while she was there.

After leaving the island on October 22nd 2017 and arriving in Ireland. The Thompson family were accepted by a great host family and they lived and worked in Ireland on a farm in the country. The Thompson’s learned a lot about the good nature and humor of the Irish, with so many fond memories.

Ryan Richard Thompson

The Thompsons and The Mellor-Dorans in Ireland

After the dust settled and the Thompsons recovered as much as possible from the disaster that they just survived, the family waited on Puerto Rico to restore services such as electricity and water in their neighborhood, however as of February 19th 2018 the power and water are still not restored in their neighborhood. Their application with FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] for assistance was rejected and the appeal is still pending. However they made it through the worst of it.

Ryan Richard Thompson / Via

The Thompsons standing in front of the flag wall in Naugabo Puerto Rico (prior to the hurricane knocking it down)

In the Netherlands the Thompson family experienced the innovative and culturally rich Amsterdam, as well as Carnaval from the European perspective.

Now as refugees and in a situation where immigration and residential status has become a major issue in their lives. The Thompson family has dedicated their time to learning about Brexit, and immigration issues in the European Union. They are filming interviews with European citizens in both the UK and on the continental European side, and are asking people what they think of Brexit and immigration in hopes to educate people and give a new point of view on immigration.

Ryan Richard Thompson / Via


Living through a hurricane and surviving as refugees in a foreign country has certainly gave the Thompsons a lot to think about.

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