How can we help BVI after hurricane Irma

If you are reading this it is because you have seen the devastation hurricane Irma left behind as she moved through the Caribbean before moving up to Florida.

Here at Tortola Sailing and Sights we have been very very fortunate, all staff, their homes and their animals have been spared, our boats were found demasted, but floating the right way up in Mooring marina and our office didn’t even have a broken window (it’s crazy when you see the destruction around Sopers Hole). 

We have had many friends and family ask ‘how can we help the people of the BVI?’ so we thought we should pull together some practical advice on what we can all do from wherever we are in the the world. 

As I write this I can tell you the UK military are in situ, some aid is getting through, people are starting to pay for charter planes to take them to Puerto Rico, with commercial flights reportedly starting this week. There are 1000s of people without shelter, food and water many left with only the clothes on their back.  The islands will need our support and help for many months so here are 6 practical things that you can do NOW to help all on the island…. 

 
 

6. Monetary Donations

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The following links are a few of the sites out there to donate to, (there are many great people setting up donating pages, but please ensure you know the owner - there are many unscrupulous people out there with bogus pages - please be careful!)

  • "Pay What You Can" Air Evacuation by Fly BVI. This amazing company are running (until their funds run out) a "Pay What You Can" policy for Air Evacuation to San Juan International Airport. If supported by those who can afford it, they will continue to evacuate BVI Residents and Visitors, as long as needed. Because of distance, aircraft time commitment and added expense, we will focus efforts on flights to San Juan only, for the moment.
  •  Red Cross. The UK government have pledge to match the money pledged through the Red Cross (up to £3m)
  • Virgin’s BVI Community Support Appeal Richard Branson has promised every penny will go to the relief effort, no bank fees, no hosting fees. Virgin Unite’s overheads are covered by Richard Branson and the Virgin Group, meaning that 100% of all donations received will go directly to helping support local BVI communities. (You can also add Gift Aid to your donation if you are a UK tax payer, meaning an extra 25% of your donation will be added on top.)

  • BVI Recovery Fund - This is a BVI government linked page set up by BVI tourism. This site gives you the option to cover the cost of your donation when you pledge. 
  •  VISAR (Virgin Islands Search and Rescue) - These guys and girls do phenomenal work all year round on the islands. All volunteers, they already have have boats in the water (some having to axe there way out of their homes) - they will be working tirelessly long after many others have left the island. 
  •  Local ‘gofundme’ pages If you want to help closer to home, it’s worth checking local media for people from your area who have been left with nothing - a lot of their friends & families have set up fundraising page to get them home.

5. Goods Donations

This is the official list of supplies that are most needed according to the The BVI Relief Fund (BRF) press release:

  • Medical equipment: blankets; pillows; first aid kits; bandage / gauze; painkillers; sterile wipes; santizer/hand gel; medical gloves.
  • Hardware: Satellite phones; flashlights; batteries; candles and dry (plastic bagged) matches; pre-charged battery power boxes / banks; solar chargers; wind up radios; leather work gloves; tarpaulins; cleaning supplies.
  • Living essentials: soap; toothpaste; toothbrushes; deodorant; shampoo; towels/washcloths; new underwear / socks; baby wipes; diapers (adult and baby); toilet paper; sanitary napkins/tampons; sponges, chlorine tablets.
  • Food: canned goods; dry goods; snacks.
  • Pet carriers, all sizes & pet food.

Please do not donate clothing, medicine, water or toys, (we don’t have anywhere to store them and these are not essential to people’s survival right now.)

Please check your FB friends group - you will know people who work for companies that have some of these items in storerooms, warehouses and marketing cupboards etc. Do you know companies who can manufacture or supply any of the list above? Please collect as much information as possible from your contacts and then email us so we can connect the relevant people. 

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4. Shop on Amazon Wishlist

For those of you in other parts of the world who can't drop of goods to collection points in US and UK you can also shop online through ‘Amazon wish lists’ some have been set up with the essentials the island currently needs urgently. This is very easy to do, just shop like you normally would online and then use one of the USA addresses below for shipping address.

Two pages currently listed are:

- Virgin Gorda Relief / VGR. 

- Three Sheets Sailing

And remember, you can set up your own shopping list for your friends and family, just add the things listed above.

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3. Helping the animals in BVI

Our island vets are working tireless to treat injured animals and help evacuate pets wit their owners. The first International vet from HUMANE SOCIETY INTERNATIONAL arrived on island yesterday and got straight to work, issuing pet passports so distressed owners didn't have more heartache leaving them behind.  There is an Amazon wish list for the island’s animals if you want to help this great work.

Please deliver to the three Sheets Sailing address below.

Shipping Goods 

For people in USA - we have currently 2 places listed that you can send parcels to from USA:

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  • Three Sheet Sailing are a phenomenal couple, Jennifer and Mike are volunteering their own private boat to shuttle supplies back and forth from St. Croix (photos above of one of there many deliveries). They have a gofundme page so they can purchase supplies and get them on Tortola ASAP. Please can you mark any parcels amor the attention of:
- Jennifer and Mike Simpson Hurricane Irma Relief Efforts. PO Box 24007. Christiansted VI 00824-0007. United States

Or, if the vendor won't ship to a PO Box, use this:

- Jennifer and Mike Simpson. Hurricane Irma Relief Efforts. 24007 Gallows Bay Station. Christiansted VI 00824-0007.  US

(They prefer you to use your own phone number on the shipping label, but if you don't want to do that, the post office number is 340-773-4538.)

  • Tortola Express/Aeropost have just announced today that they would be delivering supplies free of charge to BVI if people can get them to Miami. Please send food and Non perishables to: 

- BVI Aid, EIS284, 6703 NW 7th St, Miami. 33126.

I will update this post with other addresses as we get more co-oriented in USA. Check back here or on BVI Relief Website.

For People in UK

If you are in UK, we are in the early stages of setting up logistics for filling a container and getting it on sea as soon as possible. BVI tourism has just announced they will have a collection point and cover all shipping, costs - this was such great news.  We have had confirmation form two national storage companies they want to help us with storage and co-ordination, so we will have more details on addresses, requirements etc. in the next day or two. WATCH THIS SPACE :-) 

2. Volunteering opportunities on the islands

There is currently a list being complied of those who would like to come to the islands to help with the physical rebuild, this may take longer to co-ordinate, but we have already had lots of people wanted to volunteer their 2 weeks annual leave to come and help us. If you have stills the islands desperately need please click here for more details.

These are all great ways to support us as we get off our knees but the most important thing that you can do for the island is……..

1. Book your holiday to BVI

BVI NEEDS YOU!!! 

With over 30% of the islands’ GDP* coming from tourism, if we don’t have tourists coming to visit thousands of people won’t have jobs and won’t be able to rebuild their lives. Business owners who want to be operational ASAP, many believe they can do it in the next 2 months. If you have already booked a trip PLEASE DO NOT CANCEL, contact the company you booked with and see if you can still come or postpone your trip. Most businesses in the BVI will have hurricane refund policies built into their T&Cs, make sure to check yours.

If you haven't booked your Christmas break yet, look for businesses where you can sleep and eat on boats - remember a lot of boats leave the area for hurricane season, so there will be lots of boats that will come back to the region for the new season. Your captain will know where you can get a rum or a lobster and the islanders will appreciate any clear up operations you want to join. 

Charter companies like BVI Yacht Charters, Dream Yacht Charters, The Moorings will be able to help you with fully crewed and bareboat charters, you will also find lots of brokers off island happy to help you book your trip. If you need help with this make sure to email us

Another options to get back on to the islands is sailing courses, learn to sail your own yacht so when the charter companies can take your booking you will have all your qualifications needed to charter your own yacht.  Email us at Tortola Sailing & Sights to check availability. We have had many students contact us to say they still want to come down, the new adventure is, ‘Learn to sail and rebuild’. 

So as we all start to come to terms with the new BVI, the stronger BVI, the working together BVI, please help those who have lost everything in this horrible natural disaster. For regular updates, check back here and visit BVI Relief Website.

Keep the well wishes coming - I am sharing them with my team still on island.

 
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*World Travel and Tourism Council

Photos from British Nay, BVI Beacon, Three Sheets Sailing, Tortola Sailing & Sights

Written 11th September  2017