Why the Bahamas needs kindness right now

Screenshot from a YouTube video uploaded by NBC News showing drone footage of the Bahamas’ Marsh Harbour destroyed by Hurricane Dorian.

The Bahamas is struggling to right itself after the passage of Hurricane Dorian, the first Category 5 storm of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season.

The deadly Dorian lingered over The Bahamas from September 1-3, 2019, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake, including a steadily climbing death toll, severe flooding, unfathomable damage and, more surreptitiously, serious cases of post traumatic stress.

These are undoubtedly scary times: the heating of our planet has made storms that much more intense and small island developing states have been, thus far, hardest hit and least equipped to deal with them. In fact, The New Yorker came right out and called the whole ordeal “a climate injustice”.

While many Bahamians in some of the worst affected areas have been lamenting what they say is the inadequate response of their government, the country's official website at least, seems well organised, with a page dedicated to hurricane disaster relief. The site contains information relevant to the ongoing relief efforts, including various ways in which to make a monetary donation, or to provide supplies (a handy list of the most needed items appears at the bottom of the page).

Indeed, a recent Facebook update by Trinidadian poet Shivanee Ramlochan eloquently suggested that one of the most effective ways of overcoming fear is by reaching out and giving:

I want you to feel sorry for and give to the people who have lost everything, everything. Because as afraid as I am of everything specifically and nothing in particular, I have lived a greatly privileged life, and I do not know what it is like to rub two rice grains together to see if they might magically make three, […] and I do not know what it feels like to look into the face of a hurricane and know it will take everything from you with everything it has, that it will steal the sound of your voice praying all the prayers and psalms and stotras you know.

Individuals, organisations and governments across the region — and across the globe — have been doing just that.

Some Caribbean nations sent troops to help with relief efforts on the ground. One St. Vincent and the Grenadines non-profit has been shipping safe drinking water and water purifiers to the worst-hit sections of the archipelago. Schools and churches have been putting together care packages. Celebrities have pledged their support. And the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas has partnered with a team of therapists and psychologists to support hurricane survivors through their journey of mental health recovery.

There are so many ways in which to contribute to the relief effort. But where to begin?

The website Charity Navigator is a good start, as it has rated responsible organisations that provide aid to the Bahamas. Even better, they're categorised by location, so people can choose to give to Bahamian-based charities for quicker outreach to those most severely affected.

The United States-based Center for Disaster Philanthropy is also a useful resource for “informed disaster giving”. In anticipation of the adverse effects that storms like Dorian will likely have on the Caribbean and other parts of the Americas this year, it has established the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season Recovery Fund, which will focus on recovery efforts in both the medium and long term. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted a 45 percent chance of a more active than usual hurricane season in 2019. Donors also have the flexibility to choose which affected region to their contribution will go.

There are also targeted relief efforts like the HeadKnowles Foundation's drive to get critical supplies to the worst affected areas of Abacos and Grand Bahama, from big items like generators to small necessities like mosquito repellent. As at the time of publishing; this initiative had raised nearly US $1.5 million.

The Bahamas Alliance for Animal Rights and Kindness (BAARK) has a drive aimed at relocating animals from Abaco and Grand Bahama to foster homes in locations that are currently better equipped to care for them.

Well-established and trusted organisations like The Salvation Army, the Red Cross and Rotary also tend to have wide and efficient networks on the ground in countries the world over.

There are so many ways to help and according to Ramlochan, they all serve to cast fears aside and focus on what we can do:

We all have that beaded curtain, don't we? That jangling, petrified partition dividing how we can be strong for others, while we feel our own spine might separate from our own skeleton in front of the world's uncertainty? We all pass through it, praying between those beads. So if you are just as scared as I am, I see that. And I am terribly sorry, but I can't solve it. But I can be good to you. I hope that I am. I hope that when you come to me with all your own terrors rattling behind your bone curtains, that I am thoughtful. That I can listen to what you say and unsay. That I am kind.

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