Firstly, thank you to everyone for understanding why we have not been able to publish regular updates about our Hurricane Irma relief efforts in the British Virgin Islands.
With this blog I hope to get everyone up to speed and provide a couple of options for those who feel they would like to help. Once Hurricane Irma had left the BVI, she had her sights firmly set on Florida. Initially this was to be an east coast event, but the model plots kept shifting west until a direct strike somewhere around our home town of Sarasota was forecast. While still dealing with all of our responsibilities in the BVI, we scrambled to get our homes and our office prepped for the storm. Once complete, most of our staff then evacuated from Florida. We got lucky; very lucky indeed, returning to homes that were whole on Tuesday so that we could get the office open on Wednesday.
While Irma has gone, the scars she left are deep. The BVI has been heavily damaged and every day more heartbreaking photos of the places we love surface. The good news is that injury and loss of life is minimal, but so many of our extended BVI family have lost everything. Travis and the Ocean Star crew are still in the Territory, splitting their time between cleaning up Ocean Star and our other gear, and assisting with humanitarian aid. They have cleared land, cut roads and effected medical evacuations. They also succeeded in navigating Ocean Star around the wreckage out of Road Harbour last night, returning to our home in West End.
Many of you have reached out to us asking how you can help with Hurricane Irma relief efforts, so one of the things I have been doing is speaking to those on the ground to determine what will make the biggest difference in the shortest time. Food, water and medications are starting to make their way into the community, and security is also improving with the increasing numbers of British Forces. With basic needs starting to be met, we want to focus our efforts on the local community of Soper’s Hole and, in particular, those small businesses that have lost everything. Soper’s Hole has been our home in the BVI since 1987 and this area has sustained huge damage, so we’ve set up a small fund where 100% of those donations will go directly to those people hit hardest. Our goal is to help get their livelihoods rebuilt. Without them, the vibrant, friendly waterfront community of Frenchman’s Cay would be nothing.
If you would like to give financially to our “Helping to Rebuild Soper’s Hole” fund, here is a link to the You Caring website: https://www.youcaring.com/sopersholesmallbusinessownersbvi-944042
For those of you who would like to support wider relief efforts, The Red Cross site is taking donations: https://www.redcross.org/donate/hurricane-irma-donations
I’ve also been contacted by many who say they would physically like to help. Although we don’t have specifics on this just yet, one opportunity that may arise is to help our friends at Sunsail and Moorings start to salvage their vessels and clean up the waters. Tourism will kick start everything back to life and the BVI is the charter yacht capital of the world. If we can help get people back out on the water, then the communities that support those yachts can also start to rebuild. Additionally, working alongside a company such as the Moorings provides a solid infrastructure for those on island. I will have more information on this a little later on, but for now anyone interested in donating their time can register that interest using the following form on our website: https://www.seamester.com/hurricane-irma-volunteer-form/
And what of GoBeyond, AQ, and Sea|mester? We’ll have Ocean Star repaired and ready for our high school service trips by the end of January 2018, and with nine months ahead of us we expect our 2018 summer season to be as strong as ever. As most of you know, our programs are very self-sufficient in the BVI while on the water, so even if all of the leaves have not grown back by this coming June, we’ll still be able to contribute to the BVI while providing fantastic high school service trips for our students. We’ll try to update you all when there is more news to pass along. In the meantime we’ll keep our hearts aimed towards our friends in the British Virgin Islands.