For many people, Hurricane Irma is a distant memory in a world where the coronavirus pandemic rages on, and dozens of large-scale disaster events unfold month after month. For those in the Caribbean who survived the storm and for those who lost loved ones, homes, and livelihoods, the storm is not a distant memory at all—its impacts are a constant reality that continues to shape daily life. We all must remember that Hurricane Irma and its destruction as a Category 5 storm did not happen in isolation. Hurricane Maria, another Category 5 storm, quickly followed. Tragically, that brought even more pain and loss to the Caribbean, especially Puerto Rico. These storms, like all other disasters, disproportionately affect the poorest and historically underserved members of a community, region, or country. And, of course, the pandemic has made ongoing recovery even more challenging.
Since the launch of our Hurricane Irma Relief Fund immediately following the storm, you and nearly 15,000 people and companies joined together to affirm the power of generosity and the positive impact that we can make in the world. After more than three years, we have collectively raised more than $3 million to support immediate relief and long-term recovery and resilience in the Caribbean.
At GlobalGiving, we are incredibly proud of what we have accomplished alongside and in close partnership with community leaders and local, trusted nonprofit partners in the Caribbean. That is true specifically in the United States Virgin Islands, where the damages caused by both hurricanes were particularly severe.
As we now close our Hurricane Irma Relief Fund, I’d like to highlight 10 incredible accomplishments and memorable moments that emerged from the fund because of your generosity:
Though we are closing this fund, our nonprofit partners in the Caribbean remain hard at work. They need your support to continue the long journey to full recovery, especially in the face of the compounding effects and danger of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you can, please consider supporting a local organization in the U.S. Virgin Islands like the St. Croix Foundation for Community Development, the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, or the St. John Community Foundation.
From everyone at GlobalGiving, thank you for joining us in this important work. Your generosity and support have been critical to community-led disaster recovery in the Caribbean.
Be safe and well.
With immense gratitude,
Donna + the GlobalGiving Team
After Category 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the U.S. Virgin Islands three years ago, the St. Croix Long-Term Recovery Group was formed to combine recovery resources and meet community needs. To show you the difference your donation is making to long-term recovery on the islands, I reached out to Jay Rollins, Executive Director of Regional and National Relationships of the St. Croix Long-Term Recovery Group and Interim Chair of the U.S. Virgin Islands Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. He shared his experience responding to Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here’s what he had to say about his community’s tenacity, the challenges they continue to navigate, and how a new grant from GlobalGiving will help.
Q: What do you wish more people knew about how your community was impacted by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria?
A: I believe it is very difficult for people to understand the significant impact that two Category 5 hurricanes in a four-island territory really has on a community. Most of us went without electricity for more than 100 days. Ports and airports had to be cleared before supplies could get here. Communication was almost non-existent. Our children went almost an entire year with no school. Our senior population died at a greater percentage, most likely from stress.
In the United States, crews and equipment can be prepositioned in nearby states to drive in and restore power quickly. Volunteer teams can load up church vans with supplies and people and mobilize to the scene. This is just not a reality for the Virgin Islands. At the end of 2020, we still have 1,600 families without access to safe, dry, sanitary homes.
Q: How have the funds you received from the GlobalGiving Hurricane Irma Relief Fund made a difference for your community?
A: The funds provided by GlobalGiving in this round of contributions are all about rebuilding and strengthening our communities. They will help us provide hurricane kits with emergency supplies to seniors, individuals with access and/or functional needs, and those with fixed low income, giving them a better chance at survival. They will also allow for much-needed support to our nonprofit networks for asset mapping and planning. They will be leveraged with other funds to be sure we are better prepared for next time—because there will be a next time.
Q: What are the greatest unmet, long-term needs in your community?
A: COVID-19 has further complicated our greatest unmet needs. Housing remains an issue. Access to health care (especially mental health care) remains an issue. A reliance on federal funding for recovery is an issue. And our children's education is an issue again with COVID-19 forcing us into remote learning and so many children not having easy access to the internet.
Q: How has your organization adapted to continue serving your community during the pandemic?
A: Ingenuity and perhaps a bit of luck! The blessing of a territory physically divided by water means we had already been implementing online business practices as part of the recovery. Our staff, supporters, and volunteers were already used to meetings by Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Our disaster case managers adapted by standing in people's yards and talking through windows if they could not reach a client by phone. I guess we are lucky in that we are small—that allows for flexibility. The bottom line is that we will continue to do this work to make sure these islands recover and double our efforts to be sure that we are ready for next time.
Thanks to the generosity of you and more than 16,000 other donors, we are able to continue supporting local organizations in their work to recover and rebuild from Hurricane Irma, despite the added challenges of the COVID-19 crisis. Thank you for supporting community-led disaster recovery. I can’t wait to share more updates with you in the coming months.
Mikaela + the GlobalGiving Team
In the fall of 2017, back to back storms made landfall in the U.S Virgin Islands. Thanks to your generous donation, GlobalGiving has continued to support vital nonprofits in the USVIs impacted by Hurricanes Maria and Irma.
It’s been a year since we made a $10,000 grant to Patient Assist, thanks to your support. This funding helped to ensure that the most vulnerable residents across the USVIs would receive life-sustaining medicine, regardless of cost.
Two-plus years after the storms, many workers from the hospitality sector were still waiting to start working again, as hotels and rental properties awaited government support to rebuild and reopen. One Patient Assist staff member shared the story of Ms. H:
“Ms. H lost her job as a housekeeper at a large hotel after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Her job loss also resulted in a loss of health insurance benefits. Although she has been able to work odd jobs, her employer has not yet re-opened. Our work with Ms. H has allowed her to obtain her insulin at no cost from the manufacturer and, working with our local pharmacy partner, she pays nothing for her oral medications, as well! Patient Assist will continue to work with Ms. H until she is able to return to work.”
2020 has brought new challenges, with the global COVID-19 pandemic, and restricted movement across the islands. Patient Assist has continued its important work and teamed up with another recipient of funding from GlobalGiving and our donors—St. Thomas Recovery Team—to provide much-needed supplies and food to families on St. Thomas. This prompted us to make an emergency response donation to Patient Assist last month, further extending the power of the GlobalGiving donor community across the ocean.
Thank you for your support of GlobalGiving and our amazing partners in times of need.
Donna + the GlobalGiving Team
More than two years after its landfall, the immense impacts of Hurricane Irma still linger across the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Southeastern states of the U.S. mainland. GlobalGiving’s nonprofit partners remain hard at work on the ground in affected communities. Here is a snapshot of recent updates from three organizations that your donations have supported:
Please stay tuned in the coming months for more updates about the ongoing impacts of your donation. From the entire team here at GlobalGiving, thank you for your extraordinary generosity.
Chase + the GlobalGiving Team
While images of Hurricane Irma were long ago replaced in the media’s daily recounting of the latest disaster, communities impacted by the devastation of the 2017 hurricanes continue to strive towards a holistic recovery.
Our community-led, nonprofit partners on the islands have provided updates that detail how funds raised through GlobalGiving are supporting recovery two years into the work of rebuilding.
Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands is the only organization on St. Croix providing free-of-charge construction services to residents whose homes were severely damaged in Hurricane Maria and Irma’s aftermath. Although this has resulted in an overwhelming case load, LSSVI is determined to repair houses that pose a safety risk to inhabitants, especially the elderly and persons with disabilities. We are happy to have supported LSSVI through this Fund, and in partnership with Cruzan Rum’s Island Spirit Fund.
LSSVI director Chris Finch describes how dire a situation some survivors face, even two years after the hurricane struck:
“One of our clients, an elderly lady, slept under a pop up tent in her bedroom so she wouldn’t get wet every time it rained. Another senior citizen had been without electricity or running water for almost two years. A third house had large openings where windows and doors used to be…. Rebuilding work continues nonstop.”
The grassroots organization founded after Hurricane Irma, St. Thomas Recovery Team (STRT) has been assisting thousands of homeowners rebuild their homes over the past two years. Director Imani Daniel points out the critical work her team has done to ensure the community heals on a psychological level, as well.
“It is important to us that we keep the spirits of our people high, be aware and sensitive to widespread PTSD during this season, and help our constituents envision a brighter future.”
Through the generosity of donors to this Fund, GlobalGIving recently provided an additional grant to the three long-term recovery groups of the USVIs, including STRT.
The We Grow Fund, a partner of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, is helping the farmers who lost thousands of fruit trees to hurricanes Irma and Maria through their native tree restoration project. Projects such as these are critical to islanders ability to sustain themselves through local agriculture, and ensures a diverse variety of fruit including mango, soursop, avocado, caimito, egg fruit, starfruit, dwarf coconut, lime, lemon, and apples.
As we mark the passing of another hurricane season that fortunately spared the USVI’s, the GlobalGiving community continues to work with local partners leading the recovery from previous storms and increasing resilience for the future. This would be impossible without generous donors like you!
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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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