Since Hurricane Irma, Unite BVI, Virgin Unite and Virgin Limited Edition have committed over $3.8M USD to charitable projects and initiatives across the BVI, including $2.8M USD of the BVI Community Support Appeal funds. Virgin Unite and Unite BVI continue to work hard to identify further projects that support the long-term recovery, and to allocate the remaining BVI Community Support Appeal funds in the most efficient and effective way.
In the immediate aftermath of Irma, we were heavily involved in relief efforts – since then our focus has been on the long-term recovery of the islands, by supporting the government’s vision of building a “stronger, smarter, greener, better BVI”.
As outlined in Richard’s blog, we continue to focus on the same three areas to assist the long-term reconstruction of the BVI:
Community and Education: through the rebuilding of schools, using technology to enrich educational delivery, supporting community/youth/children centres, and building capacity to respond to future natural disasters through disaster risk reduction and preparedness training.
Entrepreneurship: through skills-based training programmes and a microloan programme.
Environment: through supporting the development of renewable energy and recycling initiatives and community debris clean-ups.
BVI Recovery Update
September 2019 marked two years since Hurricane Irma struck the BVI – causing widespread devastation to local communities and the natural environment. Recorded as the strongest hurricane in Atlantic history, the impact was immense and relief efforts were critical.
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Virgin Unite and Unite BVI were heavily involved in relief efforts. The BVI Community Support Appeal fund was established and raised over $2.8 million US dollars, and further donations were leveraged for specific projects - demonstrating a true community spirit. Thanks to all of this generous support, we have been able to deploy funds into immediate disaster relief, building resilient schools, homes and community spaces, and providing opportunities to the children and families who lost everything.
The funds dedicated to immediate hurricane relief efforts and the incredible partnerships formed made possible: a professional disaster response, support for critical infrastructure, emergency relief aid and supplies distributed to vulnerable communities, housing repairs, transportation of shelter boxes, a free lunch programme and delivery of Christmas gifts to school children.
Following the immediate relief efforts, Unite BVI and Virgin Unite turned their attention to the long-term recovery plan and the government’s vision to build a ‘stronger, smarter, greener, better BVI’. Over the past two years, we have invested heavily alongside other donors into the long-term recovery of the BVI, creating positive impact on the community, environment, entrepreneurship and education.
So many schools were damaged by the storms that there has not been enough classroom space for students to attend school at the same time, and they have been on a split shift system (in school for only half a day) since September 2017. Unite BVI has made it possible for all public high school students to return to a full day of school by rebuilding over 17 public high school classrooms across the two most inhabited islands (Tortola and Virgin Gorda). This includes completing the $1.4 million rebuild of the Bregado Flax Education Centre on Virgin Gorda and 5 classrooms at The Elmore Stoutt High School, the largest public school in the BVI. Also through a collaboratively funded initiative to enrich high school education across the BVI, now over 3,000 students have access to Chromebook computers that have been donated to local schools.
Furthermore, over the last two years while students have been on this split shift system, we have supported dozens of youth programmes that offer positive recreational and education based activities and mentorship. Over 450 young people attended after-school programmes including IT skills, learning to swim, leadership, sports, literacy, and life-skill development.
In recognition that many jobs were lost due to the two largest industries being hit hard by the storms (tourism and the financial industry), we have decided to fund trade-skill development programmes to create employment opportunities in emerging markets (construction and maritime).
We have supported families living in Shelterbox tents, providing them with safe, hurricane resilient homes, while helping those living in difficult conditions to receive electricity, running water and septic systems. We have supported community projects, such as putting in a playground at the local Autism Center and Children's Home, are in the process of donating resources for special needs education and occupational therapy equipment for the elderly and disabled. We have provided funding for community emergency response and disaster management training, trauma exposure and resilience training, and we helped to repair a community shelter on the main island of Tortola. We're in the process of restoring destroyed community spaces and parks that will freely benefit BVI communities on each of the four main islands.
It is an important priority to try and restore the BVI’s beautiful environment so that wildlife and the ocean can thrive once again and tourism can help boost the local economy. We have provided funding to advance recycling efforts across the BVI, to support a national debris clearance project, a number of community clean ups, annual Earth Day events, ocean conservation education youth programmes and have committed to a mangrove rehabilitation programme that will support ocean health and coastal resilience against future storms through the establishment of mangrove nurseries. There are some very exciting renewable energy initiatives in the pipeline that we are keen to support moving forward too; we are all responsible for being better stewards of our planet's health and bridging the narrative between extreme weather and our need to mitigate global warming by reducing our carbon footprint.
To support entrepreneurs we have offered interest-free, no down-payment or collateral necessary, customised repayment terms small business loans to help businesses get back on their feet after the storms, to provide more jobs and job security and to stimulate the economy.
There’s still a long way to go in the BVI, but if the critical relief efforts and the progress made over the past two years are anything to go by – a stronger, smarter, greener and better BVI is certainly in sight.
Thank you for your unwavering support towards the BVI Community Support Appeal. Without you, a lot of our work would not have been possible.
We have now closed the BVI Community Support Appeal, which was opened in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane’s Irma and Maria to support the long term recovery of the BVI. However, if you would like to support ongoing efforts in the BVI you can find out how to donate here, or you can make a donation to our parent charity Virgin Unite in the UK or its associated charity Virgin Unite USA - for more information please email email@example.com or Virgin Unite (please note this is subject to VirginUnite.com T&Cs).