For the islanders that endured Hurricanes Irma and Maria, September 2017 will forever be ingrained in their memories – and on the history of the British Virgin Islands.
Team Rubicon UK was one of the first relief organisations to get to Tortola, together with the British military and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. What our responders witnessed was nothing short of an apocalypse.
They found destruction in every direction. Fear and panic had set in amongst even the most resilient and hurricane-hardened locals, making it clear that the road to recovery was going to be a long one. But like any large and complex problem, you have to start at the beginning.
The beginning for us – and one of the many positives that came from these terrible events – was the indomitable spirit of the British Virgin Islands. Without such tenacity and community, they may never have recovered. “BVI Strong!” rang loud and clear.
Another positive for us was finding other organisations that truly share a collaborative spirit and aren’t focused on who gets credit, as long as the people that need help get it.
Virgin Unite, Unite BVI and local NGOs, BVI Red Cross, VISAR and Rotary have been instrumental in the path to recovery and we are immensely honoured to partner with all of them.
Since the initial relief efforts last summer, Team Rubicon UK knew there was much work left to do and sent Charlie Peschardt on a full time secondment to Tortola with the primary objective of continuing the collaboration needed to help the islands recover from Irma and Maria, as well as prepare for the 2018 hurricane season. Charlie, an expert in resilience and preparedness, has done a sterling job.
We have seen and facilitated joint planning and disaster relief exercises with the Red Cross and VISAR; work has commenced to rebuild the West End Community Shelter (a vital hurricane safe space) which has been achieved through our partnership with One Love BVI and the Ministry for Health and Social Development.
We will continue this partnership well through the summer and beyond to ensure all vital community infrastructure is in the best possible condition.
Aside from collaborative projects,Team Rubicon UK has also been focussed on community capacity building work to help the people of Virgin Gorda and Tortola prepare themselves for disaster and indeed, respond themselves in the immediate aftermath.
We believe this is some of the most important work we do and we will continue to invest in the community-level resilience that is so vital in disasters.
Team Rubicon UK will forever hold the British Virgin Islands close to our heart, having shared such trial and tribulation with its people.
This is why we will continue to have a permanent presence in the region and if the worst were to happen again, we will drop everything to be there for our Island family.
Donate here to help fund the deployment of our experts to future disasters.
A version of this blog was first published at Virgin Unite on 28 August.