Michelle Uí Cheallaigh, better known as “Ukulele” to those in Puerto Rico, is a civilian who answered the call to help in a volunteer capacity over the past 90 days of hurricane relief from Harvey to Irma to Maria. She stepped in with little more than a mobile phone, a cheap laptop, a love of data and people, a zero-dollar budget, a fierce drive to connect some important dots, and a rusty bicycle. The daughter of an Army combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and the granddaughter of WWII and Korea veterans of the Army and Navy, Michelle was raised in between Maguire AFB and Fort Dix and has a tremendous respect for all branches of the armed forces. She was born in a rural farming community on a working farm and has been finding opportunities that are dressed in overalls and look like hard work ever since. Her “YES” came with little to no experience of the complexities the work she ended up being asked to do, but instead brought a metaphorical “hurricane of force” to figure it out when called.
Michelle is guided by a strong moral compass and a firm belief in God. With those as her greatest assets, she has directly impacted a multitude of areas previously unknown to her. Her coordination include, but are not limited to: strategic infrastructure improvements to various municipal water supplies with Corps and civilian engineers; mold remediation efforts; large generator sourcing and transportation and repair logistics, as well as assisting installation in hospitals and orphanages; establishing landing zones and air drop logistics in the NW mountain region for civilian and military aircraft; coordination and dispatch of trained civilian water search and rescue and landslide/mudslide response efforts with PREMA, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. and P.R. National Guard; procurement and distribution of basic medical supplies to civilian physician, medic, and nurse teams; evacuation of severely disabled adults, sick children, and elderly veterans to mainland hospitals with transportation and hospital intake coordination, procurement of inbound/outbound civilian aircraft for strategic cargo delivery and people movement; dispatch of fixed wing and helicopter for MEDEVAC response; coordination of medical needs and assets with all branches of the U.S. military; coordination of social services and admittance to VA hospitals for veterans of foreign wars and their dependents; engagement of Congressional resources and State legislatures and disability-focused non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the mainland and in Puerto Rico; fundraising and logistics for distribution of large-scale, veteran-led mobile water filtration and purification efforts all over P.R.; distribution of solar lights; coordination of satellite and antenna equipment delivery for structural improvements to communications systems; educational efforts to teach use of satellite phones at the municipal level; coordination with FEMA and civilians for proper utilization of relief services to benefit remote mountainous regions; assistance in doctor-to-doctor medicine sourcing; Maritime Operations Center (MOC) communication, dispatch of civilian physicians to homes, and sourcing and transportation and coordination for refilling of oxygen for home medical use with the USNS Comfort, along with a multitude of other humanitarian aid efforts.
Whether needs were food and water, security, LEO coordination, FBI/DEA/DHS reporting and information sharing to reduce fraud, civilian accommodation and travel assistance on the island, or de-escalating ground situations involving machetes, Michelle stood in the breach to help provide anything that might have needed a little duct tape added to it to be more effective. Michelle has a professional background in SQL/DTS/SSIS programming, data analysis, project management, biotech and pharmaceutical consulting, publishing, classical vocal performance, supply chain logistics, as well as clinical experience as an allied health fertility practitioner – essentially nothing related to this. She is a wife, a mother to 5 children who have predeceased her, and she was inspired by her young Godson Jensen, whose family resides in Ponce, to love that little island with her whole heart.