She Stepped Up As A Community Leader In Hurricane Irma’s Aftermath

Meet Imani Daniel, a 2018 Disaster Feedback Fellow of the Disaster Recovery Network at GlobalGiving.


 

The day that Hurricane Irma made landfall in St. Thomas on Sept. 6, Imani Daniel wasn’t getting ready to respond to a natural disaster—she was getting ready to start a new job the very next day at the education outreach director for the University of the Virgin Islands’s environment research center.

That new career was put on hold, however, as she and thousands of islanders came to terms with the devastation Irma, and then Maria two weeks, had inflicted across St. Thomas and the rest of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Imani’s role in St. Thomas’s recovery started small but quickly expanded into something she hadn’t anticipated.

“My grandma gets the credit for this one,” Imani explained.

She had weathered the storm with her grandmother, who asked Imani if she could check on some of her neighbors to see how they were coping. Many of the elderly residents she visited reported that without electricity they couldn’t keep their insulin at safe temperatures. So Imani began organizing a dozen or so volunteers to make trips to restaurants and hotels that were beginning to reopen and collecting donations of ice to distribute to diabetes patients in need.

As official recovery efforts lagged, she saw a growing need for food distribution and began partnering with the same businesses to collect and distribute donated food and water. What began as an informal effort organized through Facebook was growing into something more, and on Nov. 10, Imani and her fellow volunteers founded the St. Thomas Recovery Team.

The St. Thomas Recovery Team played an important role in improving the efficiency of relief efforts by providing local insight to outside relief agencies unfamiliar with the island and its people.

Much has changed for Imani since then, including her career—she’s now chief of staff to one of St. Thomas’s territorial senators and is helping to ensure that money from federal recovery grants is spent effectively.

And her work with the St. Thomas Recovery Team isn’t finished either. While they continue support ongoing recovery efforts across the island, she’s aiming to develop an exportable model of community-led disaster preparedness and resiliency to islands throughout the Caribbean.

Imani is a 2018 Disaster Feedback Fellow of the Disaster Recovery Network at GlobalGiving. Learn more about the fellowship.

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