After the Storms: Caribbean Relief

Following the devastation reeked in the Caribbean by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the same question is on everyone's mind - How can I hep? We offer a variety of answers.

2017 seems set to go on record for the number of extreme weather-related disasters around the world. In September, Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, noted, “There can be little doubt that 2017 is turning into a year of historic significance in the struggle against climate change and all the other risks that put human life in danger and threaten the peace and security of exposed and vulnerable communities around the world who find themselves in harm's way from hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes.”

The hurricane-prone islands of the Caribbean have been especially vulnerable this hurricane season, recording two Category 5 hurricanes – Irma and Maria, which ripped through some of the islands, leaving billions of dollars in damages, loss of lives, displaced communities, and ruined livelihoods.

We place the emphasis on “some” because certainly not every Caribbean island was hit, and many, in fact, are doing just fine. An extremely useful web page posted by the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association and Tourism Cares—which have also partnered to provide a relief fund (see below)—offers a running update of those islands “open for business” and those “on the road to recovery.” 

Still, many in the region need both immediate and long-term assistance. So the question on many people’s minds is, “How can I help?” One of the easiest ways is to make a monetary donation, either to a reputable humanitarian organization working in disaster relief and recovery or the national disaster recovery funds established on some islands.

To ensure that your donation goes towards relief and/or recovery, it is important to research the organizations. If you’re considering U.S.-based organizations in particular, Charity Navigator is a good place to start for vetting. But be sure to also do due diligence to understand where specific funds are going for hurricane relief.

Secondly, if you prefer to donate in-kind items, immediate needs include temporary roofing materials (like tarpaulins), toiletries, first aid items, feminine hygiene products, clothing, footwear, batteries, flashlights, food, and water.
Of course, if you have the time and resources, you may also want to consider volunteering in areas where you can assist and are needed most. Organizations looking for volunteers include, but are not limited to, Habitat for Humanity, Team Rubicon, and All Hands.

Below, you’ll find resources for all of these categories, keeping in mind that relief and recovery efforts in the affected areas are ongoing.

Organizations assisting with disaster relief efforts in the Caribbean include (in alphabetical order):

The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association and Tourism Cares have teamed up to create a Caribbean Tourism Recovery Fund, which enlists tourism industry stakeholders and global allies to pool resources in support of the islands directly affected by the hurricanes. You’ll find more information and a way to donate on its website.

Caribbean Tourism Organization collects donations through its CTO Relief Fund for relief efforts in its member countries affected by hurricanes, and to assist other Caribbean countries affected by natural disasters. Donations can be made via its GoFundMe webpage.

Catholic Relief Services uses donations to help provide shelter, water, and critical supplies, like hygiene kits, to storm victims in the Caribbean. Donate through its website or by calling 877-435-7277.

Direct Relief provides emergency medical supplies and resources to communities affected by Irma. Make a donation via website or phone at 1-805-964-4767.

GlobalGiving, a crowdfunding site for charitable giving, offers a relief fund dedicated to Irma and Maria victims. You can donate through its website or text IRMA or MARIA to 80100 to donate $10 to the Caribbean Hurricane Maria & Irma Relief Fund.

GoFundMe, another crowdfunding site, has a dedicated area on its website for Irma-related fundraising campaigns. You can choose from one of the hundreds of individual campaigns on the web page or donate to the Direct Impact Fund, from which donations are distributed to vetted campaigns helping victims of Irma. GoFundMe donations are guaranteed to end up in the right place, or donors get their money back.

Habitat for Humanity International will help with post-disaster recovery efforts, including the repair of damaged homes and the construction of new, affordable houses. It is currently helping families affected by Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Donations can be made on its website or by calling 1-800-HABITAT.

Sandals Foundation is providing first-response relief of food to those housed in shelters in the Turks & Caicos, and is promoting an international online fundraising drive to collect donations for ongoing disaster relief work in Turks & Caicos, Antigua & Barbuda, and the Bahamas. 

Save The Children is deploying teams and supplies to Florida geared toward children and families affected by the storm. Donations are accepted on its website, or you can text "IRMA" to 20222 to make a $10 donation.

World Hope International accepts donations on its website. The money is used to purchase emergency supplies and equipment for the storm recovery.

For direct assistance to Caribbean countries: Money can be wired to Emergency Assistance Fund (EAF) of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) in Barbados. Donation details are available on the website.

To make donations to specific islands:

Antigua and Barbuda:

  • The Antigua and Barbuda Red Cross is responding to Irma's passage through the Isle of Barbuda by moving volunteers and supplies to where they are needed most. Its operational priority is to keep people safe while providing shelter, food, and comfort.
  • In addition, the Antigua and Barbuda Consulate has approved a number of drop-off areas for people in the New York and wider Northeastern areas (Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut) who would like to donate non-perishables items.

British Virgin Islands:

  • BVI Irma Relief
    Organized by concerned BVIslanders living abroad, this group has direct contact with the BVI Government and BVI Department of Disaster Management to provide the most up-to-date information on recovery operations. All donation sites listed on the donation page have been personally vetted to ensure funds and supplies donated to any relief effort go directly to the people of the BVI.
  • BVI Community Support Appeal: Virgin Unite
    The Virgin Group—through Virgin Unite, Unite BVI, and Virgin Limited Edition—works with local organizations to identify the ongoing needs of affected individuals, families and communities impacted by the hurricanes. Virgin Unite’s overheads are covered by Richard Branson and the Virgin Group, meaning 100 percent of donations received go directly to supporting local BVI communities.

Cuba:

  • Global Giving
    All donations support recovery and relief efforts post-Hurricane Irma. Initially, the fund will help first responders meet survivors' immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, hygiene products, and shelter. Once initial relief work is complete, the fund will transition to support longer-term recovery efforts run by local, vetted organizations responding to the disaster.
  • Friends of Caritas
    The Caritas International network is coordinating a relief effort with the initial focus on providing emergency items, such as food, shelter, hygiene kits, and livelihood support. Long-term support will follow.  

Dominica:

  • Dominica Hurricane Maria Relief Fund
    Established by the Dominica High Commission, this fund accepts large and corporate donations as well as individual donations and provides information on giving in kind.

Puerto Rico:

  • ConPRmetidos
    All donations support the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and provide relief and aid to the communities affected. This fund is managed by the nonprofit ConPRmetidos in alliance with Professional Insurance Agents of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean (PIA).

St. Martin and St. Barts:

  • GoFundMe
    Donate to the Direct Impact Fund, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that has partnered with GoFundMe.

US Virgin Islands (St. John and St. Thomas):

  • 21 US Virgin Island Relief Fund was organized by retired NBA player Tim Duncan. When he was 13, Hurricane Hugo ripped through his hometown in the Virgin Islands, forever changing his life and community. Duncan will match financial donations up to $1 million for relief efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In addition, he is hoping to raise an additional $1 million.
  • Donations to St John may also be sent to the St. John’s Rescue.

 

If you would like to submit additional assistance measures for consideration, please contact Samantha Hogenson at shogenson@responsibletravel.org.