US Virgin Islands Irma & Maria Fund
**Updated Sep 19 as Hurricane Maria approaches**
100% of these funds are going to VI residents in need.
Wednesday September 6 the US Virgin Islands took a direct hit from hurricane Irma, the largest cat 5 hurricane on record in the Atlantic. Exactly two weeks later on September 20 we are bracing for another cat 5 hurricane, Maria. We need your help NOW.
Organizers of this effort include:
Tara Bouis - PiZZA Pi
Sarah Haynes - Scoops N Brew
Erika Kellerhals - Kellerhals Ferguson Korbin PLLC
Partnered VI Non-Profits include:
My Brother’s Workshop & Cafe
St. Thomas Reformed Church
Unlike the mainland US, we have an already weak infrastructure on our tiny islands so residents will be largely on their own for survival and clean up efforts. Residents were advised to prepare to be without power for 4 - 6 months. After Irma this advisory was updated to 6-9 months without power.
The grocery & hardware stores were empty before Irma. In the time between storms we were able to get a few deliveries into the St. Thomas commercial ports but most of our supplies and evacuations of children, sick & elderly were coordinated between private boats, paid for by GoFundMe campaigns and relied 100% on St. Croix & Puerto Rico's functioning air ports & sea ports. Both of these islands are lined up to take a direct hit from Hurricane Maria. The VI will soon feel disconnected from the rest of the world at a whole new level.
The people of the VI are a tough breed who know how to pull together in times like these- they've been doing it for decades. But two catastrophic hurricanes within two weeks?? This is enough to test even the most fierce spirit.
Reopening the airport and seaports will be top priority for the territory but it will take time - the St Thomas airport was on the verge of reopening before Maira and now we will have to access damage once she goes through.
Our plan will evolve once we know the extent of damage in Puerto Rico & St. Croix as we may no longer have accessible air ports. But the basic plan will be to continue landing shipments of needed supplies to the island :
Water Purification Systems
Non-Perishable Food & Water
Tarps, Staple Guns, Plywood, Sleeping Mats
Once local stores, offices & tradesmen are open and accepting business our efforts will shift to focus on supporting the fragile economy as it restarts. Initial thoughts on this end will be to send money rather than supplies to the soup kitchen at MBW so that they can BUY food from their suppliers on island. Send money rather then supplies to STRC so they can BUY needed items from their community for their community. The islands will soon need cash into the economy if jobs are to be restored.
Tara Bouis will be withdrawing funds from this campaign and dispersing them directly to the organizations buying and loading supplies and eventually will be making donations directly to appropriate organizations within the VI.
Please donate what you can to help support the people of the VI. We will be frugal and put your money to work to get through survival mode and into rebuild mode. "American's Paradise" will be back on it's feet as quick as we can and will welcome you with open arms during your next vacation!
If you would like to contribute something other than money please send me a message and I will do my best to connect you with an appropriate recipient.
In my last update I announced my 15k funding to start the Marine Rebuild Fund (MRF) under the umbrella of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CVFI). I'm now on a team tasked with establishing contacts, guiding funds, culling through information, and checking on progress with current contractors. Other team members include the president of Hotels & Tourism, Director of the Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association, and a representative from the Department of Planning & Natural Resources. We have launched our first two projects and are now pursuing higher level donors to ensure we have a budget to build upon our current work. Check out our website and encourage others to donate: vimarinerebuild.org
Last week I contributed 10k to the Clean Water for the Virgin Islands Initiative started by the resident Young Life coordinators. Some of our schools have reopened here in the VI, but all students are required to bring their own food and water for the day as the cafeterias do not have supplies. In the public schools many children are being sent with no food or water because their parents have nothing to send with them. When fully funded, the Clean Water Initiative will provide high quality water filters for every public school. Each classroom will have a 1 phase filter and communal areas will have 2 phase filters (in case of future water boil advisories). If you would like to donate to the Clean Water Initiative directly check out this link:
https://tinyurl.com/cleanwatervi In the Sponsoring field be sure to type in "Clean Water St. Thomas".
We have landed a total of 3 medical supply shipments on St. Thomas. The most recent shipment (an entire pallet of hard goods) landed in Puerto Rico just before hurricane Maria and it has taken this long to locate, get it on a boat and haul it up the hill to it's final destination. This is a whole new level of "Island Time"!!
I have been packing up flat rate boxes of survival supplies and my husband, Sasha, flew down to St. Thomas last weekend with 5 large boxes of supplies - dehumidifiers, tarps, rolls of Gorilla tape, extension cords, fans, sanitary products, MREs, etc. The goal of this effort is to provide supplies to our on island counterparts who have been on the front line of coordinating relief efforts. Many of these people have lots homes and businesses but in the past nearly 2 months have been working tirelessly to help others. Sasha reported that just driving from one side of the island to the other was overwhelming. The scale of destruction is intense, but there is progress being made!
The Salvation Army, St. Thomas Reformed Church and My Brother's Workshop Cafe continue to coordinate efforts to distribute household supplies to about 200 families per day and serve around 900 free meals per day. All efforts are fueled by product donations and volunteer workers (many of whom lost everything during Irmaria and are still looking for ways to serve their community). My Brother's Workshop has pulled together a crew of volunteers to begin framing and tarping blown out roofs and walls this next week.
I have been bulk ordering and shipping supplies to a container in Florida based on the needs list I'm given from those on the ground in the VI. Items I've focused on this week aim more directly at sustaining the infrastructure of distribution centers-- pop up shade canopies, distribution bags, collapsing wagons to help haul goods, etc. Along with some basic first aid supplies & even some fun stuff for the kids (sidewalk chalk, bubbles & activity books).
Looking beyond survival mode, this week I was also invited into a advisory board to start a new fund under the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) umbrella. We established the "Marine Rebuild Fund" which is a 501(c)(3) and I took $15,000 from this GoFundMe to start the fund. All monies will be used to boost employment for virgin islanders by forming a network of local contractors to help clean up current cruising grounds (bays, beaches, marinas), identify growth opportunities in the marine industry and work with the local university & high schools to create vocational programs to track young virgin islanders into the marine industry. Why focus on the marine industry at a time like this? Large hotels are projecting 12 month rebuild timelines -- yachts can begin work in a much shorter timeframe as long as we clean up the cruising grounds. The hope is that the yachting industry can restart and provide some income/ stability during an otherwise economically sluggish time.
The past few days have been spent changing gears - I have a small team of volunteers who are culling through "need lists" coming out of the islands, searching online product reviews, and soliciting corporate product donations or bulk rate/ reduced pricing for the needed items.
Do you have contacts with a company that makes any type of solar powered or survival/ camping gear? Chances are we could really benefit from your connections. If you're willing to help out please send me a message through GoFundMe.
I’ve also had many people contact me to see if they can ship a box of stuff to the VI to further support the cause. I have a friend who is collecting donations and shipping a container at the end of the month. I’ve attached a photo with more info about the container.
Christina’s Supplies Effort
930 SE 6th Street
Stuart, FL 34994
**Please do not send clothing**