CI Red Cross continues to help BVI

| 05/03/2018
CNS Local Life

BVI Governor Augustus Jaspert with Jondo Obi of the Cayman Islands Red Cross

(CNS Local Life): Cayman Islands Red Cross (CIRC) director Jondo Obi recently returned from a month spent in the British Virgin Islands, offering help after the passing of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September last year which caused widespread devastation. An international appeal for the most-affected areas that the organisation launched has raised US$164,600, which was matched by an anonymous donor, bringing the total to US$329,200.

Despite the reduced media interest in the aftermath of the hurricanes, Red Cross societies and branches have been working tirelessly to assist the most vulnerable in the affected areas, stated a CIRC press release.

Obi was deployed to the BVI for one month between January and February as part of the Hurricane Irma/Maria response operations that are underway in those islands. Having experienced the passing of Hurricane Ivan in Grand Cayman in 2004, she was able to provide support to the BVI Red Cross as it transitioned from an emergency to response phase of operations.

“My aim was to help get the branch started in moving back into ‘day to day’ operations,” said Obi. “Being on ‘emergency mode’ is extremely draining for everyone. Unlike with Hurricane Ivan, where Cayman was able to rebound fairly quickly by comparison, the devastation in BVI is so widespread that the return to ‘normalcy’ is still far in the future.”

Students in BVI are still going to school in shifts, as the local high school was destroyed and has not yet been rebuilt. “This has created a major issue not only for the students and the school, but also for the parents who have nowhere to leave their children when going to work or working on getting their homes back in working order,” Obi said. As a result, the BVI Red Cross has created a safe space, providing students with opportunities to volunteer when they are not in school.

“Having kids roam the streets is a major safeguarding issue in a number of ways, and having a space where they can come to and be of service to their community is as important for their physical safety as it is for their mental health,” Obi explained.

During her time at the BVIRC Obi trained newly hired staff, conducted induction training for new volunteers, and facilitated numerous workshops with the BVIRC board of directors, first responders, nurses and the community emergency response teams. Attendees for the Ideals in Action induction course included the new BVIRC patron, Millie Jaspert, wife of Governor Augustus Jaspert who took office two weeks before Hurricane Irma hit the islands.

Obi also reviewed and developed the BVIRC five-year strategy given that the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria changed the dynamics of the country. This was a significantly time-consuming task as it involved interviewing several external stakeholders, such as the Department of Disaster Management, the Ministry of Health, HM Prison Services and the Fire Department.

“The lights and cameras have left BVI, but the BVI Red Cross and its volunteers have been and will continue to provide key services for an incredibly vulnerable and highly traumatised population,” she added.

Phase 2 of the hurricane response will cover April 2018 to September 2020, following an evaluation of lessons learned from all stakeholders, internal and external, Obi said. “We should pay close attention to this because we have much to learn from the BVI experience,” she added, noting that Hurricane Ivan hitting Grand Cayman was “not in fact anything like Irma and Maria, and it is in that spirit of humility and deference that we need to approach our own national response plans which need to be revised, rethought and scaled up.”

For more information, or to join the Cayman Islands Red Cross, email CIRC or go to its website

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Category: Community, Service Organisations

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