Editor's Note: This article shares highlights from Director Ferrell's recent visit with some of our Caribbean Island Rotary family in the Caribbean, also part of Rotary Zone 34, just like us. Several of our clubs have already expressed interest in helping out. If your club is interested in getting involved, contact District Disaster Relief Chair Steve Stanfield.
would like to share a recent experience traveling to Barbados,
Dominica, St Maarten, Anguilla, and Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. My visit came 4+ months after the hurricane. I had considered such visits earlier, but was concerned that I would
be considered a “looker” when what was needed was “doers.” When I did visit, I came to see the damage and the
recovery progress, and most importantly to be with the people.
What I Saw ... People of Action Addressing Extensive Devastation
islands were hit by Category 4 and 5 with winds up to 160+ MPH; however, there
were reports of gusts well in excess of 200 MPH. In Dominica, even after 4 months of recovery efforts, there
remained extensive devastation and destruction. What made matters worse, this
island was still recovering from hurricane Erika, which hit in 2015. So many
homes and other structures were blown away or extensively damaged. As I flew in
to the island, I saw many blue tarps covering holes in roofs or providing coverage where entire roofs had been blown away. In addition to
damage from the excessive wind and ocean surge, all rainfall in the mountains delivered a surge of water, mud, and massive
boulders that cleared out everything in its path.
Bridges collapsed or washed
away - and even some roads in the capital were still 4-5 feet deep in mud.
In spite of the conditions I observed and was told about, I
was energized to see and hear about how Rotarians and others responded after
the storm had passed. As you would expect, people living through the storm were
stunned from the experience - even more so when they went outside and saw the
destruction. People quickly moved their focus, however, to helping those in need – extracting persons from perilous situations, moving the
homeless to shelters, putting up tarps, providing
food and water, and addressing so many other needs. I soon realized that our Rotarians
were “People of Action” - determined, resourceful, and positive. They witnessed the storm
damage/destruction and determined “that it is what it is so, let’s move on."
in St Maarten and Anguilla were much the same, without the mountainous terrain
As we drove around, a finger was pointed with the words
“there used to be a structure there.”. Although much has been repaired or
rebuilt, much remains to be done. Even with the destruction all around, the
beauty of these islands still stands out. Equally, the beauty of the people
stands out. Again, I witnessed and heard about the Rotarians as “People of
Action” - putting aside personal concerns and needs to focus on those around
them in need.
Puerto Rico also sustained much the same damage
as the other islands. Most significantly, the electrical grid was destroyed,
and the entire island was without power. At this point 4+ months later,
approximately 30% of customers still have no power. With this power outage, the
island experienced a complete loss of communications (no power-driven
communications, cell towers toppled, cell phone batteries couldn't be
re-charged, etc.). This greatly hampered the ability to respond to needs, but
the “People of Action” Rotarians found ways to effectively respond. Cleanup/repair
is making progress in the urban areas, but the recovery needs in the rural,
mountainous areas are still large. As I had observed other place, the people of Puerto Rico are
determined, resourceful, and positive.
Looking for Opportunities for Your Club to Help?
As we moved through the islands, we discussed the
possibility of developing and utilizing Global Grant projects to support the rebuild/reconstruct period. As local Rotarians help define project scopes that would
return the people to where they were before the storm and beyond. There will be opportunities for us to help take people to more secure lives –
remove housing and food insecurity issues, provide education/training to
enable job security, improve health, etc. - all translating to giving hope. As project scopes are
developed, there will be need for support from Districts and clubs – not only
financial but also hands-on. Clubs can reach out to the three District Governors to learn more about the opportunities and needs:
- D7000 DG Jose Lucas Rodriguez at firstname.lastname@example.org
DG Robert Leger at email@example.com
- D7030 DG Waddy Sowma at firstname.lastname@example.org