Rotarians respond in the Bahamas

Report compiled by Diana White, past district governor, and District 7020 Rotarians

The destruction left behind by Hurricane Dorian is devastating. In parts of the Bahamas, literally everything is gone, replaced by piles of rubble where homes once stood. Roads blocked with debris and thousands on thousands left homeless and in need of supplies.

As Rotarians in District 7020, one of two districts that cover the Caribbean and hard-hit Bahamas, we immediately switched into assistance mode. Significant donations of supplies are funneling in from various local efforts and through international disaster relief agencies.

As this aid continues to come in, Rotary in the Bahamas is beginning to move to longer-term strategies in preparation for helping the economies to recover. We will get in to do a needs assessment as soon as access is possible and work in coordination with the government. We also plan to raise impactful funding to bring these communities back.

It will take time; but that is what Rotary is best at.

In the meantime, here are a few of the local efforts underway that Rotarians in our district have had a hand in:

  • Rotarians in Nassau have rescued, registered and sheltered more than 3,300 evacuees in New Providence and Eleuthera. Through the receiving and registration process at the airport’s main staging site, we collect information on those needing housing. We are constantly working to assess needs and fill the gap by providing resources, even working to provide non-governmental controlled shelter in private homes and vacant rental spaces. So far, we have been able to place 153 persons in hotels and private homes. We have many Rotarians and Rotaractors who are working at kiddie play area, helping to facilitate expedited processing for those with babies or in wheelchairs.
  • Nassau Rotarians were also able to purchase eight bunk beds for The Ranfurly Home for Children to assist in preparing a room that will now be home to 17 children evacuated from the Grand Bahama Children’s Home.
  • In Grand Bahama, the water plant in Freeport undertaken as a global grant 10 years ago was the first water available in Freeport after Dorian.
  • Following an emergency meeting held on 3 September, Rotary members in the British Virgin Islands, under the leadership of their district governor, will be launching a major fundraising effort to help victims of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. This will include a live telethon to be held on Tuesday, 10 September.
  • Disaster Aid Canada, Disaster Aid USA and Disaster Aid UK&I are working together with local Rotarians to provide shelter and comfort. Tents that were pre-positioned in Nassau have been set up for evacuees with the assistance of Rotary clubs in the Bahamas. An additional 50 to 100 tents, tarps, water systems, bed packs, and hygiene items have been sent. Rotarians have erected 16 tents at the main receiving site for evacuees. In the near future, international volunteers will use these as their living quarters as they give their time to support national relief efforts.

The Bahamian people are amazingly resilient and will get through this no matter how long it takes. Rotarians here and around the world have surrounded us with love and empathy and an outpouring of well wishes and offers of support. Once again I am inspired by Rotarians and their willingness to step up and make other people’s lives better. I am proud to be a Rotarian.

Editor’s Note: Rotary’s disaster relief partner ShelterBox has sent a team to the Bahamas to work with Rotary members, local contacts, and other organizations to assess damage, evaluate recovery options, and determine needs for emergency shelter. Watch a video update from the team. Learn more about what Rotary members are doing to help disaster victims around the world.

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