Displacement, Homelessness, Disaster, Destruction; these words/adjectives immediately come to mind when I think about the last few weeks. Antigua and Barbuda and several Caribbean territories were devastated following the passage of Super Storm Hurricane Irma who reached category 5++ and Hurrican Maria who unleashed deadly winds and caused serious flooding. My home country got lucky and came out of the whole situation relatively unscathed; Barbuda on the other hand which is home to about 1800 persons was rendered un-liveable with 95% of the housing stock having been flattened by Irma's winds. Utilities were compromised, Communication Systems were in shambles, and all the necessary services were now rendered useless.
The damage sustained by Barbuda was hard hitting. We had to evacuate the entire country and the rising price tag on the recovery is enormous. It will take quite a while for any amount of normalcy to be restored to Barbuda.
However, while Barbuda is in a favorable position as the big sister Antigua is around to help, others are not so lucky. Turks and Caicos, Tortola, St Croix, St Thomas, Puerto Rico, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Anguilla and St Martin sustained catastrophic damage and i'm still not fully able to come to terms with the entire situation. The news of the devastation hit me on a personal level. I had only been in St Martin and Anguilla during the summer and I have friends who have lost homes and friends who are currently living in broken countries; a completely different reality than what they usually know.
I sat down after hearing everything and when it finally processed I had a breakdown in my aunt's house in London and cried. I've only recently begun hearing from friends who are still without power and stable cellular service and i'm still unsure if some people are okay. All in all, despite the worry, I am keeping positive that communication will be gradually restored and i'll be able to get the all clear from my friends whose wellbeing i'm still unsure of.
The amount of ignorance as well that has been shared about our islands in the wake of these Hurricanes as well was so disturbing. I have seen people declare that our homes are built of cardboard and that we aren't storm ready. I have seen people say that we are 'stupid' for living near the coast and on 'tiny islands'. I have even seen people say why should they care about the damages if they've never heard of these countries before. This level of ignorance is intolerable. We have several hurricanes and tropical storms every year and we hold up pretty well through them all; however, no one could be prepared for a Category 5 ++ Hurricane then scramble to prepare for two other Major Hurricanes in a matter of days. It was unprecedented.
In everything, in times like these we as Caribbean People need to band together and help each other because if we fail to help our selves no one will. I'm very pleased by the example being set by our Leaders in this time of crisis who have banded together to help the islands around them who have been severely impacted. We have made an effort but there's still so much more that needs to be done. More focus needs to be placed on spreading word of the tremendous damage done to the USVI which tho an American Territory has yet to receive substantial assistance. We've got to focus on bringing awareness to Dominica whose access ways have been cut off and so many people are in need of help. We've got to continue to remind people that even though our islands are small they exist and real lives have been affected.
A very Special thank you to Sky News UK and NPR for reaching out to me to get in touch with people on the ground and to give real first hand accounts of the devastation and what was being done to assist and to push awareness of the devastation.
I've attached some useful information below so you can do your part to help. Here is a list of a few trusted charities I know of that you may donate to (not an exhaustive list of islands in need):
https://t.co/Hxlw10esIh (Some will go to other islands)
1. The Rotary Club in District 7020
2. The British Red Cross (Not BVI specific)
3. The BVI Tourist Board
4. Richard Branson Relief fund (BVI specific)