If you’ve ever loved the Caribbean, the images of destruction in the wake of Hurricane Irma are heartbreaking. Sometimes, the media engages in “weather porn,” but in this case terms like “devastation” are perfectly apt descriptions for islands like Barbuda and St. Martin/Maarten, where some reports say that 95 percent of all structures have been damaged or destroyed. Anguilla, Antigua, Turks & Caicos, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic also have suffered damage from the Category 5 storm.
We’ve seen a lot of photos and videos showing storm damage, but this aerial shot of the remnants of the Bitter End Yacht Club really hit home for me, because I’ve spent time here and am well familiar how this British Virgin Islands resort looked before the storm. There’s not much left now:
Many of the people on these islands had nowhere to go before the storm hit, and now have nothing to go home to, no jobs, and in some cases no food or water.
How can you help?
- The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association has established the Caribbean Tourism Recovery Fund, focused on getting the vital tourism industry back on its feet in the islands directly impacted by the story.
- The Caribbean Tourism Organization has also set up a relief fund: https://www.gofundme.com/hurricane-relief-fund-cto
- And finally, there are local charities set up on each Caribbean destination hit by Hurricane Irma offering direct humanitarian assistance for victims of the storm.
The 2017 Atlantic (not “Caribbean”) hurricane season went from uneventful to dramatic in a hurry, with Irma battering parts of the northern Caribbean at the same time as two other hurricanes were forming in the eastern Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Jose will still pose a risk to the region even as Irma moves out.
People who love the Caribbean and her people can help by giving generously. You also can help by not writing off the region. As I said, much of the hype about this storm is real. What’s not accurate are headlines like “Storm Decimates Caribbean.”
Yes, parts of the Leeward Islands and the northern Caribbean have been hard hit, and need your support. Most of the Caribbean, however, remains untouched, including popular destinations like Jamaica, Barbados, and Aruba, or suffered only minimal damage in the storm (St. Kitts and Nevis, for example).
The Caribbean region is thousands of miles wide and across, stretching from the Bahamas in the north to the coast of South America to the south, and Mexico to Barbados from east to west:
Please don’t compound the damage already suffered in the Caribbean by assuming that the whole region has been destroyed (far from it) and taking your travels elsewhere. The people of the Caribbean have been through worse, they will rebuild and move on from this, with your help. Do what you can for those who have been hurt, and continue to support those parts of the Caribbean that even today continue to welcome visitors to their sunny shores while standing in spirit with their less-fortunate neighbors.
(Cover photo via Caribbean Buzz Helicopters; Hurricane Irma image via Wikipedia)