Written by Katie Wilkes/American Red Cross, in the Bahamas
How do you begin picking up the pieces when you’ve lost so much? For Shirley Jean, a lifetime of memories growing up and starting a family on the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas was suddenly shattered as category 5 Hurricane Dorian ripped through her neighborhood last month.
Terrified, she held onto her five children managing to survive. While many residents on the Abaco Islands were evacuated by emergency rescue teams immediately following the storm, Shirley Jean and her kids remained among the splintered buildings for three long weeks, relying on what little food and shelter was available.
Feelings of uncertainty and anxiety rose as they eventually boarded a ferry to Nassau, not knowing what or who would greet them on the other side. At the comforting sight of a Bahamas Red Cross volunteer, those emotions began to transform.
"The Red Cross was the first agency I saw, the first who approached me and could help," she said. Shirley Jean sat down with a volunteer who listened to her story and helped her determine immediate next steps, a daunting task for any storm survivor.
Because all families have different needs, the Red Cross has begun distributing financial assistance to the most vulnerable people affected by Hurricane Dorian, empowering them to use the funds for what is most important to them. While some survivors will use the funds to rent apartments for the next few months, others may purchase school supplies for their kids or replace household items they lost. Purchasing these items also supports local markets and helps get emergency aid into the hands of people in need faster.
For Shirley Jean, these lifesaving funds will help nurture her kids back to physical and emotional health. “The first thing I am going to do is buy food for my kids. They really need it." Holding her two-year-old sniffling son, Adley, she says she’ll also purchase medicine to fight his cold.
Because of the outpouring of generosity of the American public, people like Shirley Jean can begin taking the first steps on their long road to recovery feeling empowered with choice.
"I want all those who are helping us here to know that what you're doing - it's working. It's really working,” she said.
Red Cross Relief Work in the Bahamas
In the lead up to Hurricane Dorian, the Bahamas Red Cross spread preparedness messages about how to mitigate risks during the storm and where to evacuate. During and immediately after the hurricane, Bahamas Red Cross volunteers helped manage an emergency shelter in a school on Abaco, distributed relief items and offered comfort to people in shock.
The global Red Cross and Red Crescent network has since rolled out a major relief and recovery effort. For its part, the American Red Cross has committed $6.1 million to support people affected by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. More than 20 American Red Cross disaster responders have deployed to the Bahamas, with specializations in IT/Telecommunications, relief distributions, cash-as-aid, information management, communications, shelter, finance, and more.
For additional information about the American Red Cross’s work in the Bahamas, visit: https://www.redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/news/2019/bahamas-update-one-month-after-hurricane-dorian.html.