Additional reporting by Zach Stovall
We watched as Hurricane Irma swept the Caribbean, and continue to be horrified at the images of destruction coming from the region. Many of the islands that we all love are in complete and utter ruin. Residents are still in the dark with no power or communication, shelter is minimal at best, and food and water supplies are dwindling. So now the question on all of our minds is: How can we help? Here are a few charities where your money will go directly to the communities that need it the most.
Hand in Hand
Originally set up to help victims of Hurricane Harvey, Hand in Hand expanded its mission to also help victims of Hurricane Irma. Florida, Florida Keys, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico will benefit from donations that will be distributed among charities like Habitat for Humanity, the ASPCA and Save the Children.
Caribbean Tourism Organization
The Caribbean Tourism Organization, which works with 27 countries in the Caribbean, has started a fund to assist impacted islands. Money collected will be disbursed to the individual islands affected by Irma to aid recovery efforts.
GoFundMe has set up a centralized hub for Hurricane Irma donations. You can choose to donate to the Direct Impact fund, which will be used to support individuals and verified GoFundMe campaigns or you can choose to donate to a specific charity. Among the options are: St. Maarten Hurricane Relief, Anguilla Hurricane Relief Fund, and Turks & Caicos Rebuilding Fund.
Barbuda Recovery & Conservation Trust Fund
Hurricane Irma hit Barbuda especially hard, destroying an estimated 95 percent of homes on the island. The Waitt Institute and Waitt Foundation have teamed up with the International Community Foundation to create the Barbuda Recovery & Conservation Trust Fund. The Waitt Foundation will be matching donations to the trust, and 100 percent of contributions will support Barbuda’s recovery.
Richard Branson rode out the storm in his home on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands. The property was destroyed and Branson immediately put out an appeal via Virgin Unite for people to support the BVI in their time of need. After the storm, Branson evacuated to Puerto Rico and is working tirelessly to get food, water, and supplies into the BVI. He is also covering the overheard costs of Virgin Unite, so 100 percent of the proceeds will go directly to helping the island community.
Love for Love City Foundation
Country singer Kenny Chesney, whose home on St. John was destroyed, shared his heartbreak over his beloved Virgin Islands with fans via social media. Though he has a home in the USVI, Chesney is also a big fan of the BVI — “Somewhere in the Sun” and “It’s that Time of Day (Adios to Jost)” are about the islands. Chesney created the Love for Love City Foundation to raise money for the people on the Virgin Islands affected by Irma. In addition to making a donation, you can purchase Love for Love City merchandise with the proceeds aiding those impacted by the storm. He’s also currently in the studio recording music to benefit the islands.
St. John Calendar
Throughout the years, we’ve made many friends in our island travels and we want to share a way to help that’s personal to us. Islands photography contributor Steve Simonson and his wife, Janet, lost their home on St. John. When asked how people could help, Simonson suggested buying one of their 2018 calendars. It’s a win-win: you’ll get to see gorgeous photos of St. John all year, while helping a family in need.
Visit the Caribbean
In addition to donating to recovery efforts, one of the best ways to help is to keep traveling to the Caribbean. While the impacted islands are not ready for visitors right now, bringing tourism dollars to the region and supporting the local economies is a great way to help. St. Lucia, Barbados, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands were not affected by Irma. The storm passed Antigua, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas, but the islands have recovered and are now welcoming guests. See a full list of Caribbean hotels that are open (and closed) here.