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Fly south this winter and help Irma victims

Volunteer tourism has become a big thing in the world. And now Hurricane Irma has given the average person a chance to take part.

You don’t have to go and build a house in St. Martin or Barbuda or Cuba, although that would be awesome. No, all you really need to do to help folks in Irma-stricken parts of the Caribbean (and Florida, by the looks of it) is do what many of us have done for years; visit.

I wrote that a week or so ago. And now we’ve had more damage from Hurricane Maria, which has devasted the stunningly beautiful island of Dominica.

“We have lost all that money can buy,” said the nation’s Prime Minister.

National Hurricane Center officials in the U.S. said Maria could hit the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico tonight or Wednesday. The British and US Virgin Islands were hit hard by Irma. The last thing they need is another big storm, but it may be headed their way.

Hurricane Irma damage in St. Martin.

It’s going to take a while for the hardest hit (and neediest) areas to recover. It could take months or even a year for some operators to get back to where they were a short week ago. But once they finish that last coat of paint or plant that last palm tree, you’d be doing them a whole lot of good if you gave them some business.

You won’t be helping just the family that owns that little hotel near Marigot in St. Martin you’ve always liked or that kayaking rental place on Dominica; you’ll be helping the workers that depend on that hotel to feed THEIR families and the folks who supply food and drinks and all the other services that go to allow us spoiled North Americans to vacation in the sunny south.

It’s not the reason to go, but chances are there will be some deals as well. That means you might have a little more money to provide on the ground to food banks or other charities that can really help, versus donating to large organizations that are top-heavy with staff and fancy computers and don’t always provide all the disaster relief money they should.

Irma has caused massive floods in Cuba.

There are mixed reports, but it seems at first glance that folks in Florida may have gotten off relatively (I use that word with caution) easily. There’s a ton of damage up and down the state, and there could be more flooding. A friend of mine in St. Pete/Clearwater said there’s a lot of folks without power but that damage wasn’t as bad as many had feared.

CNN was reporting around 2:45 p.m. that more than six million Floridians were without power. They also noted there’s a tornado watch for Charleston, South Carolina. Ugh.
It looks to me like the worst of it was in Barbuda (almost 95% heavily damaged or destroyed, some reports said), Cuba, St. Martin/Sint Maarten and Anguilla.

A Twitter photo of a gas station in Redington Shores (St. Pete), Florida.

A couple of places I’ve stayed at in the last couple years sustained heavy damage; the Westin Dawn Beach Resort and Spa on St. Martin and Cuisinart Resort on Anguilla. The web page for the Cuisinart today has the following sobering message:

“It is with great sadness that we advise our guests and friends that CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa was significantly affected by Hurricane Irma, and we are presently assessing the full extent of the damage. Our ownership and management are steadfastly committed to restoring, rebuilding and reopening, as well as doing all that we can to help and support our employees through this most difficult time. Thankfully, we believe all of our staff are safe, but the current conditions remain extremely challenging. Before we can move forward, we must face the threat of Hurricane Jose, which is expected to approach Anguilla this weekend. We appreciate your concern, patience and support, and will be posting additional information on our website and social media networks as soon as it is available.”

As you can see in the photo I’ve posted, there’s also been substantial damage to Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, owned by Sir Richard Branson. He posted this pic on his Twitter page.

A Twitter photo of Necker Island posted by Sir Richard Branson.

The hurricane season in our part of the world goes on until November. Mind you, they say the worst is usually mid-August to mid-September. And we’re almost at the latter point.

Whatever Maria does or doesn’t do to various islands, it’s clear that there’s been a lot of suffering and pain already. And it won’t get better until they get things cleaned up and we North Americans (and Europeans and others, of course) hop back on our planes and pay them a visit.

You’ll be doing folks a world of good if you go.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Trudy Wilson 11 September 2017, 7:54 pm

    What a great post Jim – informative and hopeful. A trip to the Caribbean is in our future travel plans. Keep us posted.

  • Brenda O'Keefe 12 September 2017, 3:23 am

    Great report Jim

    • jimbyers 19 September 2017, 4:03 pm

      thanks Brenda. Hope you’re well!!

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