The eruption of the La Soufriere volcano last week in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, our neighbouring island, has displaced 20% of the island’s population. With the entire Caribbean already reeling from the effects of the COVID crisis, this latest disaster is truly a crisis within a crisis. It is estimated that the overall damage of the La Soufriere eruption will stretch into the hundreds of millions, according to Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.
As Bahamians, we know what it is like to live through a disaster. In 2019, when Hurricane Dorian left $3.4 billion worth of damage, it was Bahamians themselves that came together to help coordinate a response. The Fox Foundation was involved in taking private vessels to Abaco to assist with the evacuation efforts, as well as partnering with the Buddy Hield Foundation to distribute food, water, and generators to all those affected by the hurricane. Part of our response involved launching a Go Fund Me campaign, to help spread the message across the country and beyond, to call on everyone to donate whatever and wherever possible.
These grass-roots efforts can be just as important as larger scale recovery platforms to helping people move through crises. Often, it is the short-term relief for people living through crisis that grass-roots initiatives can best help with, as they can see results sooner. While governments and international organisations might be able to mobilise funds to help economies in the long-term, it is grass-roots initiatives by citizens that can ultimately make the biggest difference.
It has been great to see similar Go Fund Me initiatives launched by organisations, as well as comments from our own Prime Minister that the Bahamian government might provide some financial support to the country. Just as we learned when we had to respond to Hurricane Dorian, what we say can matter almost as much as what we do when it comes to converting the emotional pain, felt by so many in the face of destruction, into a positive response.
I hope that citizens across the Caribbean, as well as across the world, will do whatever they can to help our dear friends and neighbours in St. Vincent and the Grenadines as they embark on what is likely to be a long and difficult recovery ahead. We hold them deeply in our hearts and minds.