Young woman from Puerto Rico begins new life in Charlotte

Young woman from Puerto Rico begins new life in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A 21-year-old woman that grew up in Puerto Rico is starting a new life in Charlotte after most of her home was destroyed by Hurricane Maria.

Kenya N. Soto Nieves was away from her family at college when the storm hit.

"Everything was so loud. When we went out, there was a tree blocking my door," said Nieves.

The school has been shut down along with the place she worked. Once the storm passed, Nieves waited nine hours for gas so she could make the one hour and a half drive to see her family.

"My family was not eating well," said Nieves. "Me and my family ate one meal a day and usually just a bit of water."

Nieves says the crisis left no food, water, gas, electricity, etc. Hundreds of people are sick and even dying.

"They are really desperate. There is no school and there are no jobs so people can't even work for money," said Nieves.

Nieves met the De La Portilla family, of Charlotte, several years ago when their son was in Puerto Rico. Nieves visited the family in Charlotte as well.

Barbara De La Portilla tried contacting Nieves before the storm hit and didn't hear from her until after it passed.

"We got a very choppy phone call and she said she was very hungry and she asked me for help," said De La Portilla.

This past week, after several hours in the airport, Nieves made it to Charlotte.

"My mother said, "you are not going to get anything here. There is no future for you here. There is no school, there are no jobs."" said Nieves.  "I came with just $40 and just one suitcase."

Several people have already donated clothes and other items to Nieves. Nieves hopes to finish school at UNC Charlotte, get a job, and help her friends and family any way she can.

"People are not seeing what is really happening over there. Seeing it is one thing, but living it and experiencing it is just very difficult," said Nieves

Nieves said her story is similar to thousands of others still in Puerto Rico. She encourages people to donate to organizations, like the Red Cross, that are on the ground helping with the crisis.

"We want to let her know that she is safe here, she can start her life here and anything she needs is here," said De La Portilla.

If you would like to help Nieves, especially financially with finishing school, you can email

Nieves is staying in contact as best she can with her family and friends still in Puerto Rico.

"It is a message of hope that nothing is destroyed because your heart and your soul is moving forward to a new future," said Nieves.

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