One year after Hurricane Dorian, times are still hard in the Bahamas. But our partner FRIENDS of the Environment is moving forward to ensure that residents of Abaco can continue to learn about and improve their natural surroundings, even while dealing with a global pandemic. We caught up with Olivia Patterson-Maura, Deputy Director of FRIENDS, for an inside look at the recovery and resilience-building in her community.
Q: What do you wish more people knew about how your community was impacted by the combination of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: A year after Dorian devastated our island homes many people are still without shelter or living in tents or their homes without a closed-in roof. Even with the incredible help from outside organizations, many people are still struggling with basic needs such as electricity, water, and food. Outside of the construction industry, job opportunities are slim, as many businesses are closed or operating at minimum capacity. Several schools were lost to the storm, and some are still working on repairs. Residents who were displaced from Abaco are having difficulty returning home because housing is limited and education and daycare are needed. The children, though resilient, have definitely been affected. And many teachers are still giving so much to the students, even those without an income from a lost job.
Q: How have the funds you received from GlobalGiving made a difference for your organization and your community?
A: We find ourselves handling things each day that were not part of the work plan we had envisioned for 2019-2020—from working to address immediate concerns such as repairs to our existing buildings, to planning to rebuild our destroyed education center, to totally revising our summer camps so that we can provide a virtual experience that fits within safe COVID-19 restrictions.
Funding from GlobalGiving gave us the ability to be flexible and meet rising needs during the ever-changing landscape post-Dorian and throughout the COVID-19 crisis. For FRIENDS, it was very important to reach out to our student network to let them know that we are here to support and encourage them to continue their part in environmental conservation. We believe a purpose and positive focus, no matter how small, may help to encourage healing—it has certainly helped us!
Q: What about your local community’s response to these challenges makes you most proud?
A: Our community members continue to be resilient, supportive of each other, work together to solve problems, and simply press on while living in a disaster landscape. Can you imagine nearly a year (September 1 is the one-year anniversary) without city power or even regular access to running water? The sun has set, and, as I write this, I can hear the sound of generators and tools as people move on from their daily occupation to the critical work of repairing their homes. Despite the challenges they face, people are hopeful and full of gratitude for the outpouring of help and generosity of others.
Q: Real disaster recovery and environmental sustainability require a long-term commitment. What inspires you to keep at it?
A: I am immensely grateful to live in such a beautiful place where I can so easily connect with the environment—an environment that is healthy and diverse and provides food and enjoyment. I am passionate about ensuring that future generations of Bahamians are able to benefit from and experience the same beautiful Bahamas that I have. There is so much that I want to share with my children and enable other children to experience.
It is your generosity that allows us to continue supporting local organizations in their work to recover and rebuild from Hurricane Dorian, even with the challenges brought by the COVID-19 crisis. Thank you for supporting community-led disaster recovery, and I can’t wait to share more updates with you in the coming months.
Donna Callejon + the GlobalGiving Team
Learn more about FRIENDS’ ongoing work.
The planes full of tourists stopped arriving at Nassau’s Lynden Pindling International Airport in late March. With one of the most restrictive “shelter in place” policies globally, the Bahamas has been on an intense lockdown for nearly two months. President Minnis and his leadership made clear the seriousness of the restrictions:
“The order instructs every individual, excluding for essential workers, to remain to the confines of their residence, including their yard space, to avoid contact outside of the family, except for essential travel to the doctor, grocery store, bank, pharmacy or gas station to refuel.”
While some aspects of life in this multi-island country are returning to “normal,” it’s important to remember that just months prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, the Bahamas suffered catastrophic casualties and destruction from Hurricane Dorian.
It is estimated that more than 50% of GDP in the Bahamas is tourism-based. And while Nassau was seeing a return to more typical levels of activity in early 2020, Grand Bahama, Abaco, and many of the Out Islands were still struggling to repair, rebuild, and recover. Once COVID-19 became a serious concern, all work to rebuild housing, repair, and reopen schools, and to establish marine habitats came to a grinding halt.
Many of our international partners were forced to pause or severely limit their work, as well as evacuate their teams from the islands. But this hasn’t changed local teams’ commitment to their nation’s recovery. Because of your generosity, we have been able to provide much-needed emergency funding to Lend a Hand Bahamas and Head-Knowles Foundation, two anchor nonprofits that have continued serving their communities and those impacted by the continued adversity experienced by the people of the Bahamas.
Lend a Hand Bahamas works with at-risk youth and provides programming in the Grants Town community in Nassau. But all the usual programming—basketball tournaments, computer classes, and sewing classes—was halted to abide by lockdown and movement restrictions. Leveraging relationships allowed the Lend a Hand team to provide healthy meals to 150 children and the elderly each week during the month of April. In addition, they have mobilized in new ways to support their core community:
“We have rolled out a mobile connectivity plan for the youth and seniors in the community to include 100 participants. They are utilizing smartphones to connect via group video calls to stay in touch, to participate in an online literacy program, virtual art program, receive other critical updates/have access to online educational resources, to learn to sew masks, and even to participate in community virtual karaoke and exercise programs.”
- Shelagh Pritchard, Director, Lend a Hand Bahamas
Beyond Grant’s Town, Lend a Hand is working in partnership with other local nonprofits to provide food and hygiene and household supplies to 120 families in the Gambier neighborhood.
Much of the post-Dorian recovery has been focused in Nassau and on Abaco and Grand Bahama Island. But the Bahamas is a country of more than 100 islands, several dozen of which are inhabited. While task forces have been formed to address food shortages in New Providence, the need is still acute on several of the Out Islands. Head-Knowles Foundation, a new GlobalGiving partner, is using your donations to the Hurricane Dorian Relief Fund to get food and supplies to families on Andros, Eleuthera, and Long Island, and more remote parts of Abaco. Since the storm, Head-Knowles has been a driving force in the provision of food and water, medical supplies, furniture, and more. They are now also working to establish storm bunkers, full of crucial resources, to promote preparedness for future storms.
Thank you again for your contributions to the Hurricane Dorian Relief and Recovery Fund. Your generosity allows our nonprofit partners to stay nimble in the face of numerous hardships. And, of course, I hope you will continue to stay safe and well during these complicated times.
Donna Callejon + the GlobalGiving Team
On Abaco, Grand Bahama Island, and other out islands, many people still haven’t returned home and regained their livelihoods, four months after Hurricane Dorian. I had the opportunity to speak with some of them—and learn more about how your donations are being put to work—on a weeklong trip to Nassau, Abaco, and Grand Bahama in January. Here are three observations I’d like to share with you:
1. The people of The Bahamas are truly awesome. And resilient.
There’s a lot of talk about resilience these days. And resilience comes in many forms. One form is embodied in a couple of the folks I met during my time on Abaco and Grand Bahama.
As I drove up to a “muck and gut” site, Pleasant, who has recently returned to Abaco from Nassau, sat and watched the contents of her home be piled up in her front yard. Furniture, clothing, kitchen products, and photographs. All had been ruined by the storm surge that reached double-digit depth. Pleasant lost her husband of 36 years when he was swept away. She never recovered his body. But as I sat and heard her stories of the storm, she sat right up in her observation perch and smiled, assuring us that she was never leaving Abaco. She would “do whatever I need to do” to get her family resituated on this cul de sac by the sea.
In preparation for Hurricane Dorian, Neville, a resident of Grand Bahama Island, took his disabled wife, Blossom, from their home along the ocean in High Rock to higher ground in Freeport. For hours, as the water rose to shoulder height in the shelter, he couldn’t locate her and feared that he had lost her. Yet someone had brought his wife to safety on the second floor. A man of unfailing faith, he is repairing his home, caring for Blossom in a borrowed house, and continuing to be a “loyal and humble servant.”
2. The international nonprofit community is critical to recovery.
International organizations that work closely with local community leaders are critically important in the first phases of disaster recovery.
I had the chance to visit with several of these organizations, which have been long-time GlobalGiving partners. As always, they are doing amazing work.
3. There is a significant need for increased social sector capacity in the eastern Caribbean.
Unlike on other Caribbean islands, and in many places around the globe, there is no local community foundation or similar “anchor” organization for the nonprofit sector. But Bahamian nonprofits—which help amplify the voices of the people they serve—are critical to ongoing recovery efforts. There is a clear need for more leadership engagement and governance structures on the islands. This will help the Bahamian social sector take on a stronger, more powerful role in long-term recovery and resilience building.
In the coming months, we will be using some of the contributions you made to assist with this capacity building. A pending grant, for example, will support the convening led by the Organization for Responsible Governance, a Bahamian nonprofit which seeks to “empower civil society and the people to take a greater stake in the governance of the country through generating dialogue and education.”
It is a privilege to lead the GlobalGiving team responsible for stewarding your funds. I hope this update gives you a sense of our work.
Pleasant and Neville are just two of the inspiring Bahamians I had the chance to meet during my trip. I can’t wait to return to see their homes restored completely. Pleasant promises a true Bahamian meal. I’ll be there.
With sincere gratitude,
Donna Callejon + the GlobalGiving Team
We recently caught up with Lucas Metropulos, founder of Lend a Hand Bahamas and Marine Education Initiative, formerly known as Fishing for Families in Need, our partners working on relief and recovery after Hurricane Dorian. Here’s what he shared:
Q. What do you wish more people knew about how your community was impacted by this storm?
The devastation of Hurricane Dorian quickly dominated the news cycle around the world. Bahamian nonprofits and other NGOs began receiving thousands of gifts to support relief efforts; however, the Bahamas relief effort is slowly moving to the background. There is still a need for immediate relief items, but also longer term needs that will plague the Bahamas—primarily the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco—for years to come. It is my hope that supporters from abroad will continue to contribute to relief and rebuild efforts.
I also would like to stress and encourage everyone to still be traveling to the Bahamas. Many individuals have canceled their plans to go to Nassau and other islands thinking that all of islands of the Bahamas were impacted by this storm, while it was predominantly only two islands. One of the best ways people can support the Bahamas right now is to take a trip to Nassau, Exuma, Bimini, Eleuthera, and other unaffected beautiful islands.
Q. What makes you most proud about how Lend a Hand Bahamas and other local organizations are responding to Hurricane Dorian?
As a Bahamian nonprofit organization committed to community development in the Bahamas, we were working here before Hurricane Dorian and will be here long after. This has been our first time on a larger scale assisting with hurricane relief, and we have been working tirelessly to ensure that our support is transparent and reaches those who need it most as quickly as possible. There are many Bahamian organizations that have come forward in the wake of this disaster whether it was their expertise or not. These organizations have risen to the occasion and worked together to increase impact in affected areas and to support evacuees. I am especially proud of our team for their thoughtful approach and willingness to adapt our efforts. I have personally witnessed the impact our efforts have had on evacuees families in Nassau and in Grand Bahama and Abaco.
Q. What are the greatest unmet, longer-term needs in your community?
We’ve received large deliveries of food and immediate relief supplies, but there is still a need for these items as the rebuilding and recovery process will long-term. Debris removal and building materials are of high necessity right now as well. In addition, there continues to be a strong need for mental health professionals, and opportunities for victims to receive counseling due to this immense trauma. Our organization, Lend a Hand Bahamas, is also taking a deeper focus on the need to enhance and sustain educational opportunities for children displaced as a result of the hurricane. We are encouraging donors to support our educational after-school programs for evacuee children launching soon in Nassau and larger educational initiatives to help support the influx of evacuee children in Nassau.
Q. The storm put many folks in incredibly tough situations. What keeps you hopeful?
This is not the first devastating hurricane to make landfall in the Bahamas, but it has certainly been the strongest. The destruction is truly immense in Grand Bahama and Abaco. Thousands have been displaced, careers extinguished, lives lost, and the environment damaged. We have seen instance after instance of Bahamians coming together to offer relief and support. Bahamians are a resilient people who value community, and when one or two of their family islands are impacted, the whole of the islands come together to support each other. I have personally witnessed this over the past 12+ years of being involved in the Bahamas. Many of the families we have supported have a very positive attitude and are returning home to rebuild and work together to improve their situations. They are extremely thankful to others for support and are committed to not letting the devastation of Hurricane Dorian change their positive attitudes and desire to push on.
Two months after Hurricane Dorian barrelled its way through the Bahamas and onto the banks of North Carolina, thousands of affected individuals are still living in shelters, with thousands of more evacuees displaced around the islands and the U.S. mainland. The GlobalGiving community has matched the storm’s intensity with a strong resolve for recovery—both immediate and long-term.
We are extremely grateful for you and our community of more than 15,000 donors from 97 different countries. Between those who donated to the Hurricane Dorian Relief Fund and those who donated directly to participating projects, you’ve contributed nearly $3 million in support of Hurricane Dorian relief! This week, we are disbursing grants to seven of our high-impact nonprofit partners who are working to address survivors’ needs in the aftermath of the most devastating storm to ever strike the Bahamas.
One of the greatest initial needs felt by victims was for basic supplies such as food, water, and health/hygiene items. Our partner Fishing for Families in Need, Inc. is addressing this issue, as well as stimulating the local market by purchasing all supplies from local vendors. They have already made deliveries to more than 2,000 individuals in Grand Bahama as well as to evacuees in Nassau. With additional funding, they will be working with Lend a Hand Bahamas, a local organization, to establish a long-term capacity to support impacted families.
Executive Director Nicholas C. Metropulos, shares their progress so far:
“We are truly inspired by the outpouring of generosity and we will be working tirelessly to further assist in this relief effort moving forward in these islands as well as with the thousands of evacuees currently in the capital city of Nassau. There is a long road ahead of us, but with your help, WE CAN make a substantial impact in the lives of thousands of Bahamians who have lost so much in the wake of this catastrophe.”
Additionally, our partner All Hands and Hearts has been hard at work ridding affected communities of debris, “mucking and gutting” homes and schools, and performing mold sanitation. During this time of recovery, they are serving up to 75 houses a month as well as working with local groups to clear and clean community spaces. In the following months, they will transition their work into making community structures more resilient.
Immediately following Dorian, first responders faced significant barriers in directing rescue and recovery efforts as a result of the lost communications and internet infrastructure. By installing and supporting internet connections, our partner NetHope, Inc. has enabled first responders to gather vital information on where the most crucial needs lie. With more funds we are issuing this week, NetHope, Inc. will be able to support connectivity to 41 sites, including clinics and other vital community service hubs, across the Bahamas for the next six months.
We are continuing to support our partners that are working tirelessly to offer continued support to the families and individuals that need it most. Thank you for being a part of the community of generous donors contributing to continued recovery and resilience-building.
Donna + the GlobalGiving Team
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When a disaster strikes, recovery efforts led by people who live and work in affected communities are often overlooked and underfunded. GlobalGiving is changing this reality. Since 2004, we've been shifting decision-making power to crises-affected communities through trust-based grantmaking and support.
We make it easy, quick, and safe to support people on the ground who understand needs in their communities better than anyone else.
They were there long before the news cameras arrived, and they’ll be there long after the cameras leave. They know how to make their communities more resilient to future disasters, and they’re already hard at work. GlobalGiving puts donations and grants directly into their hands. Because the status quo—which gives the vast majority of funding to a few large organizations—doesn’t make sense.
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