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In part one of this three-part series, we focus on the OEF Hurricane Relief Program
The One Eleuthera Foundation (OEF) has moved from one storm to another – Hurricane Dorian in September 2019 to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Both have created difficult economic times for The Bahamas and this NGO has been there to help alleviate the burden
In part one of this three-part series, we focus on the OEF Hurricane Relief Program
The One Eleuthera Foundation (OEF) has moved from one storm to another – Hurricane Dorian in September 2019 to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Both have created difficult economic times for The Bahamas and this NGO has been there to help alleviate the burden. By June 2020, contributions and grants for the OEF Hurricane Dorian Relief (HDR) Program have amounted to $900,000 and were used for a variety of programs to help evacuees get a new start. The Foundation is preparing for a busy hurricane season with strong fundraising efforts while working through a new normal in their many partner organizations.
Considered one of the strongest storms on the planet when it struck the Northern Bahamas in September 2019, the fierceness and destruction of category 5 Hurricane Dorian is still fresh. Abaco evacuee Josette Albury-Gilbert who is a single mother was thankful for a new start in Eleuthera. She left a shelter in Nassau with her 3 of her 4 children ages 6, 12 and 14. Her eldest is 23 and is a student at the University of The Bahamas.
“When I received a call from Shawna McCartney of One Eleuthera, she told me about their program to help evacuees. I didn’t believe her at first. I thought it was a joke. People don’t call you to say they will relocate you, find you a job and help you with a place to live.” A month after the storm, Albury-Gilbert and her 3 children arrived to North Eleuthera at 1 am by mailboat.
“When it rains and it’s stormy, at night, my children pile into the bed with me and my little one would still tremble,” said Josette Albury-Gilbert. She and her children survived by swimming to a neighbour’s house after the roof of their house was blown off. That neighbour soon the same experience. “All of us kept moving from one place to the next. We were swimming. We were scared. We didn’t know what was happening. I just wanted to make sure we were safe and trying to get to safety.” She lost a co-worker and many persons from her community perished because they could not swim.
Daughter, Samara who is 14 misses her home in Abaco and shares her insight. “From the Storm, it was breathtaking and horrifying to be in the Hurricane Dorian of history. The hurricane was like a demon coming for us. It tore the whole place apart. Sometimes I feel homesick.” Samara is thankful for One Eleuthera Foundation. “It was very tough. The people here are helpful and I am very grateful and thankful. Eleuthera is like my second home. It is very peaceful over here. It is different from Abaco and it’s not crowded.”
A boost for Evacuees and Eleuthera’s Economy.
Almost 14,000 persons were displaced from the 2 northern Bahama Islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco and its cays. From September 2019 to June 2020, community donors and partnerships helped with aid and post-disaster relief. Generous contributions of cash, in-kind donations and grants exceeding $900,000 would support a variety of OEF programs all beneficial in helping to integrate the newcomers and strengthening the economy of Eleuthera. Most of the funds were spent on the Island with a smaller portion spent for relief supplies for Abaco. From the 600 registered evacuees, Eleuthera’s population grew by 5%.
The One Eleuthera HDR Program included a housing and utilities allowance, emergency relief supplies, educational grants, a school feeding program, job placement and training, trauma counseling, revitalization of commercial agriculture in South Eleuthera, and employment and disaster preparedness.
The short-term housing and utility program (Spanish Wells) covered 300 persons comprising of 39 households and 1 business rental. Harbour Island had 1 household. The-long term housing and utility program was available on mainland Eleuthera included 300 persons comprising of 173 households. The long-term housing expenditure was $330,000. Over 4,000 hot meals were served out of the Tea Room at CTI (Centre for Training and Innovation), Ethel’s Cottages and Ingraham’s Beach Inn, with more taking place in Spanish Wells. The education investment of $34,000 covered care, supplies, and salaries. The distribution center at SEEP (South Eleuthera Emergency Partners) supported 96 households and 33 walk-ins not previously registered with the HDR Program. The building that housed the Cancer Society in Palmetto Point also gave out emergency relief items. Direct employment and temporary positions were realized when OEF and CTI hired 14 evacuees and 4 HDR coordinators to develop capacity of its profit centers. Employment expenditure up to January 31, 2020 was $97,000.
To help ease the trauma for the hurricane evacuees, One Eleuthera engaged the services of a counselling team led by Emma Basset and Stephen Thompson; the counselling services covered all of Eleuthera. Utilizing the services were 272 evacuees – 203 under the age of 18 and 69 adults - with the addition of 38 new applicants at the end of January. More funding is needed to support this initiative and a survey showed that 60% of adults and 100% of children under 18 requested additional counseling.
School principal Shardell Gibson of Samuel Guy Pinder All Age School had reported to One Eleuthera that prior to counseling, “Everyone was just falling apart. Everyone was crying, and some (children) just didn’t want to come to school. We had so many tummy aches, nightmares, parents crying. And now these children, if you didn’t know their story, you wouldn’t know what they’ve been through. They’ve come such a long way...I’m seeing quite an improvement in the parents, because the children are doing well. Even academically, the children are doing so well, many of them are on the Honor Roll.” (Source: OEF HDR Report).
The One Eleuthera Foundation is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2012 to identify, invest in and strengthen projects that improve the island of Eleuthera and further its economic, environmental and social development. Additionally, they support projects on other islands like New Providence and in the wider Bahamas. One Eleuthera operates a foundation in The Bahamas and one in the USA and is a successful NGO. More information is available on www.oneeleuthera.org
Photo: In October 2019, Abaco evacuee Josette Albury-Gilbert, a single mother of 4 was left homeless by Hurricane Dorian. She took a chance and left a shelter in New Providence with 3 of her younger children, for a new start in Eleuthera, assisted by the One Eleuthera Foundation. Her eldest daughter lives in New Providence and is a student at the University of The Bahamas. In the spirit of the Christmas season and celebrating "life" after Hurricane Dorian, Josette and her family wore t-shirts with the lyrics of "Jingle Bells" separated on each shirt. She comes from a tight knit family of 12 and tells others to treasure family and friends. Shown from left to right in the photo are Josette, Ashley, Samara, Teron and Andraya. Photo supplied by Josette.
Written by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry
In part two of this three-part series, we focus on the strength of community
It has been almost one year since Hurricane Dorian battered the Northern Bahamas and memories of the Category-5 assault on Abaco and Grand Bahama are still fresh. In times of recovery, the strong support from the local and international communities can lessen th
In part two of this three-part series, we focus on the strength of community
It has been almost one year since Hurricane Dorian battered the Northern Bahamas and memories of the Category-5 assault on Abaco and Grand Bahama are still fresh. In times of recovery, the strong support from the local and international communities can lessen the sting of tragedy. Many champions stepped up and worked tirelessly and passionately to make life better for those who were at their lowest. They worked with or were part of the One Eleuthera Foundation that has moved from one emergency to the next – from Hurricane Dorian to COVID-19.
Reflecting on Dorian, no one expected that a 23-foot king wave would push buildings off their foundation, wipe out communities, and affect people from all socio-economic backgrounds. The unprecedented strength of the superstorm that struck the Northern Bahamas in September 2019 caused fatalities and the largest internal displacement of people said to be more than 14,000. When touring Abaco days later, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated that he had never seen such destruction and attributed it to climate change and human actions. Grand Bahama had also suffered greatly and would have serious setbacks. People resettled in New Providence, Andros, and other islands as well as south Florida and Canada. Eleuthera became home for over 600 people seeking food and shelter.
Before Dorian’s arrival, CEO of the One Eleuthera Foundation (OEF) Shaun Ingraham and his team were in preparation mode. Ingraham had reached out to Steven Cartwright who was in Harbour Island. “I've done some hurricane relief work with Shaun before,” said Cartwright. “I think he knew that I could help and make sure that things were organized properly.” Ingraham was preparing for his mother’s funeral when Dorian struck. As he stepped away briefly, he knew that the consultants and staff in place would mobilize things in the best ways possible.
Spanish Wells and Harbour Island were hubs that were instrumental in assisting the evacuees. On the ground were Steven Cartwright, Scott Aranha and Will Tomlinson of IdeaRelief. Others included India Hicks, Ben Simmons and many volunteers who gathered supplies and prepared a staging station.
“Within 24 hours of planning, we had 112 volunteers including those on mainland Eleuthera signed up and assigned duties,” said Cartwright.
“There were data entry and photography stations to document the those arriving at the government-run Three Island Dock in North Eleuthera, with another processing station at the North Eleuthera Airport. We set up a full medical triage with IVs and a nurse, police and fire services and other government support. We were lucky to have advice from Happy Hall and Dr Graham Cates of Family Medical Center in Nassau to guide us.”
On September 6th, a 22-boat convoy left Spanish Wells for Abaco and its cays. They had taken 1,000 bags of relief supplies only to reach Abaco and realize that it became necessary to quickly evacuate hundreds of the displaced. Over 4 days, 600 evacuees were documented and the information was turned over to NEMA. A ferry service and flights took many of the displaced to Nassau - 300 remained in Spanish Wells and others went to Camp Symonette in James Cistern. By December, mainland Eleuthera had welcomed another 300 newcomers.
OEF Community Outreach Coordinator, Maisie Thompson had stepped up to the challenge, taking on more responsibility without hesitation. “I had not worked with hurricane recovery before and I wanted to help,” said Thompson. “We could see all the footage of what was happening in Abaco and it was heartbreaking. We started collecting clothing, dry goods and building supplies.”
Thompson worked with other NGOs, government agencies, and interacted with the many families who relocated. She became a beacon of hope for the newcomers, always checking in with them. “I grew up with my parents always being our keepers and I watched my parents helping people. I always wanted to be like that, so it just came naturally.”
She pauses to find the right words of concern for the Covid-19 situation. “Right now I carry a burden for many of the survivors because they are not working. They were just starting to get their lives in order and now here it is, they are unable to work. They have little or no savings and they will still need to pay their rent and utilities.”
Immediately after Dorian’s devastation, Audrey Carey who worked at OEF’s Centre for Training and Innovation (CTI), used her negotiating skills and network to find food, clothing, housing and furnishing for many households, driving all over the Island to pick up items. “I'm always out in the community so it wasn't difficult to ask and the beautiful thing was that everyone said yes."
Carey connected the evacuees with various government agencies and reminded those serving to have empathy for what the displaced were experiencing. “It was a humbling time for everyone,” she said. “Many of the people who came had only a few plastic bags of items in their hands. Many were filled with grief and were withdrawn. That broke my heart. But I had to be strong. I would have my little cry on the side and keep a strong face to motivate everyone.” Carey praised the locals and second homeowners for their contributions. “We were grateful for the second homeowners who are just like us, locals because they have been coming to Eleuthera for so long and they wanted to be part of the rebuilding process.”
A few of the properties that were sourced for housing needed small and some major repairs. If the owners were not in the financial position to invest, One Eleuthera covered the cost of supplies. Labour was provided by the CTI apprentices and former students as well as some of the male evacuees. The ladies contributed their time volunteering at the distribution center or where needed. The long-term housing and utility program for 173 households on mainland Eleuthera contributed $330,000 into the economy.
Financing for various projects was covered by grants and Joy Sweeting who was contracted for grants and donor management shared that One Eleuthera had used a data-driven model to get demographics and livelihood information to drive response. Through the life of the program, the Foundation continually obtained information, feedback and all program data was tracked.
“You must track data and you must know the population you are serving,” said Sweeting. “Our coordinators analyzed client needs based on information extracted from the intake forms. We placed families where it was most beneficial for them. For example, we assessed the livelihoods and profiles of single mothers, placing them in communities with maximum support for education, childcare, employment, and mobility.”
Kearney Copeland, who hails from Ontario, Canada and has family connections to Eleuthera, used the Hurricane Dorian Relief Program as part of her PhD research. “The One Eleuthera response offered a different perspective. I was able to share my work with my friends and family through a silent auction to raise money for disaster relief.” These funds helped support Dorian evacuees with food during the Covid-19 crisis.
Bonnie Symonette in Spanish Wells looked after the scheduling of the meals for the displaced population. Three hundred people received 3 meals a day through a feeding program supported by various households in the community. She also managed the lunch program for 70 displaced students and 3 teachers. “I started off scheduling at the donation center and my role expanded. Feeding the persons in groups, was therapeutic for them to be together. They had lost everything. They had come to a different Island and didn’t know us. The gathering at meals was a time for them to speak about their experiences with each other but also a time for us, the community, to get to know them.”
Symonette reminds us to stay grounded. “We can sometimes get in a rut in life and think that we have control of our circumstances. But in a moment, everything can be taken away from us.” She confessed that while holding down a full- time job, God gave her the strength to facilitate the relief program. Symonette and her husband Tony had also temporarily opened their home to displaced individuals and a full-time student so that she could finish her 12th grade in Spanish Wells.
ONE ELEUTHERA IS NOT A DISASTER AGENCY
There were many local and international people and agencies that touched hundreds of lives and countless champions who helped the Dorian evacuees get through their personal storm. In times of disaster and crisis, Bahamians are known to be resilient people who have lived through hurricanes however, Dorian was different. The One Eleuthera Hurricane Dorian Relief Program made a difference for the communities it served, and at times it tested the limits of the organization, the staff and the evacuees.
Ingraham explained, “Dorian took out the country’s second-largest economy of Abaco and further frustrated Grand Bahama’s recovery. We saw a lot of emotion, fear and anxiety. While we have been hit many times by hurricanes, this one seemed to have dealt a more severe economical and psychological blow. It was crippling to the soul. Fear was heightened in the Haitian community, obviously as their opinions were not as sought out. In many cases, they were undocumented and fear of deportation was obvious.
Language sometimes became a barrier. We were grateful that the pastors in Spanish Wells and James Cistern were able to make things a bit easier. Everyone who came to us had suffered great loss whether it was a loved one, their worldly possessions or livelihood.”
When the resettled population residing in Eleuthera was at its peak, the economy grew by 5%. It also received a positive boost since most of the funds from the HDR Program were spent on the Island with a smaller portion spent for relief supplies for Abaco.
From September 2019 to June 2020, generous contributions of cash, in-kind donations and grants exceeding $900,000 supported the OEF 7-month HDR Program. All made possible from hundreds of donors, partnerships, grants and community who helped with aid and post-disaster relief. The structure of the Foundation with their operations in The Bahamas and their US OEF Foundation as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, was advantageous.
A housing and utilities allowance, emergency relief supplies, educational grants, a school feeding program, job placement and training and trauma counselling were part of the OEF Hurricane Relief Program. Funds also covered revitalization of commercial agriculture in South Eleuthera and employment and disaster preparedness; programs all beneficial in helping integrate the newcomers and strengthening the Foundation.
Ingraham shares that One Eleuthera is not a disaster agency however, they wanted to participate in the Dorian Recovery in a meaningful way. “We knew we needed extra technical support and we initially enlisted the help of volunteers to help with coordination. As the crisis got deeper, we engaged temporary staff and also researchers to advise. We partnered with South Eleuthera Emergency Partners, the Salvation Army, Rotary Bahamas and the Rotary Club of Eleuthera, the Cancer Society of Eleuthera, New Providence Community Church, The TK Foundation, Templeton World Charity Foundation, OEF US and other natural partners.”
Many of the evacuees from Spanish Wells have now returned to Abaco; approximately 70 to 100 have remained,” said Symonette. On June 14, 2020, around 40 people from central Eleuthera returned home to join family members who had gone ahead to rebuild. More are expected to follow.
The One Eleuthera Foundation is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2012 to identify, invest in and strengthen projects that improve the island of Eleuthera and further its economic, environmental and social development. Additionally, they support projects on other islands like New Providence and in the wider Bahamas. One Eleuthera is a successful NGO with operations in The Bahamas and in the US that has 501(c)(3) status. More information is available on www.oneeleuthera.org.
The Centre for Training and Innovation (CTI) is the first and only postsecondary, non-profit, training and business enterprise institution on Eleuthera. They encourage growth and development for learners to become better citizens and to contribute to building a vibrant economy for the island of Eleuthera and The Bahamas. More information is available on www.oneeleuthera.org/projects/CTI
Two school children in Spanish Wells are all smiles and are shown holding their lunches. A lunch program under the Hurricane Dorian Relief Program by One Eleuthera covered lunches for 70 students and 3 teachers from September 2019 to June 2020. Photo supplied by Bonnie Symonette
Written by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry
In part three of this three-part series, we focus on the farming and food security
Food security and farming became pressing issues in The Bahamas and for the first time, the country had faced a food crisis of a magnitude never experienced. The catastrophe caused by Hurricane Dorian in September 2019 and COVID-19 in March 2020 presented e
In part three of this three-part series, we focus on the farming and food security
Food security and farming became pressing issues in The Bahamas and for the first time, the country had faced a food crisis of a magnitude never experienced. The catastrophe caused by Hurricane Dorian in September 2019 and COVID-19 in March 2020 presented extraordinary challenges that the One Eleuthera Foundation readily embraced.
Nearly 14,000 people were displaced by Hurricane Dorian after the category-5 storm devastated parts of Grand Bahama and the Abacos. Six months later, The Bahamas temporarily closed their borders for 3 months, reopened in July, and with the new surge of COVID-19 cases, again closed inter-island borders.
These actions deemed necessary to save lives, placed tremendous pressure on the economy, the people, and greater demand for obtaining food whether purchased or donated.
Approximately 25% of this small island nation population has been marginalized by the pandemic and Hurricane Dorian. It was reported by Hands For Hunger that more than 100,000 people faced food insecurity because of increased poverty and 1 in 10 people have just $4 a day to spend on food. Unemployment levels exceeded more than 40% by July 2020 and are oftentimes higher on the islands outside of New Providence. Farms, feeding programs, and NGOs became essential for survival.
The One Eleuthera Foundation (OEF) had developed a Hurricane Dorian Relief (HDR) Program that assisted 600 evacuees mainly from Abaco who were temporarily resettling on Eleuthera while they rebuilt their homes and lives. The almost $1 million program assisted in housing, schooling, retraining, employment, meals, and expansion of their farm.
From their inception in 2009, One Eleuthera had always paved the way towards strengthening communities and planning for the future. They worked with partner organizations to establish small gardens with the Cancer Society of Eleuthera and the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) and both spaces also supported farmer's markets.
In 2012, they started a holistic 5-acre farm at the Centre for Training and Innovation (CTI) in Rock Sound. Known as "The Farm at CTI," it has served the communities in Central and South Eleuthera as a supplier, a marketplace and it became a visitor's destination.
As part of CTI's training program, students gained experience in solar panel installations, in agriculture and as chefs preparing healthy meals for the Tea Room restaurant that promoted a farm to table experience.
When the evacuees arrived in Rock Sound, they too had access to healthy meals and farm-grown produce.
"We were always involved in local and national conversations that dealt with food security and health issues," said CEO Shaun Ingraham. "In 2012 when we started our Pathway to Wellness series the experts clarified that 60% of all deaths in The Bahamas were a result of non-communicable diseases (NCD). These NCDs are hypertension, diabetes, and cancer, and accounted for half of all deaths of people 45 years and older. That being said, we needed to offer a solution and part of it was growing fruits and vegetables and encouraging backyard farming."
Healthy foods were accessible when the island's borders were closed and under the HDR Program, the farm had expanded its infrastructure with new programs as well as employing two experienced Dorian evacuees who had extensive farming experience.
Farmers Michael Lightbourn and Deon Gibson's livelihoods in Abaco had been jeopardized by Hurricane Dorian and they had welcomed the opportunity to join the team at CTI.
Lightbourn is the sustainability officer and agricultural engineer while Gibson is the agricultural manager at The Farm at CTI.
A decade ago, Lightbourn installed a 1200-plant site vertical hydroponic system that allowed Lightbourn Family Farms to provide a variety of mixed greens year-round to the local community. Later, he contributed to the Bakers Bay and Schooner Bay agriculture programs and joined in on a venture with friends to grow year-round greens and plant fruit trees orchards.
"The Farm at CTI was like a canvas - artwork that wasn't complete. Everything was laid out and it just needed to expand to become more functional. I saw an opportunity to make it a more regenerative farm that would lead to more sustainability."
Lightbourn said that they have completed the installation of a 4,000-plant site hydroponic system, completion of the grow beds with irrigation systems and a 7,000-watt solar system was recently powered up for the farm's needs. According to Lightbourn they are maximizing the space and growing a large variety of crops using various agriculture techniques in minimal space. They are creating a hybrid of traditional in-ground row cropping and vertical hydroponics that earmarks greater crop diversity and an extended growing season. They have also created 4 acres of citrus and other tropical fruit trees that surround the 1-acre growing area.
In Deon Gibson’s case, he had also left Abaco due to the extensive storm damage caused by Dorian and the lack of safe accommodations where he had resided. He had obtained training in sustainable agriculture while in Cuba and Vermont, USA. He worked at Bakers Bay where he contributed to a 100-bird laying flock and a 1.5-acre fruit orchard and 1 acre of row crops. Gibson assists with the beekeeping program at The Farm at CTI and is helping to establish poultry farming. He offers his insight on the effects of Hurricane Dorian and the food supply chain.
"Dorian was the worst hurricane we have had. It showed our reliance on imported food which is such a crippling factor to us. When the food stores weren't able to open, people looked to the farms to supply them," said Gibson. "As well, many backyard gardens were started and we were happy to work with those in the communities."
The Farm at CTI uses diversity and regenerative agriculture methods like composting, building, and improving soil life and improving biodiversity in the ecosystem. The birds that visit the farm help take care of pest management and only organic pesticide spraying is used when necessary. Neem is one of the important ingredients used for pesticide management and those trees had originated from the Abaco Neem Farm. The pollination by honeybees helps the flowers produce fruits and seeds and the honey that is pulled from the hives is sold for consumption. The beekeeping operations started with 4 hives and through a grant that the One Eleuthera Foundation was able to secure, they plan to expand the operations to about 20 hives over the next two years. A Global Environment Fund (GEF) grant will assist with a processing facility.
"Part of the concept was to put together different growing methods," said Gibson. "A regular farm grows dedicated crops while the Farm at CTI grows vegetables, fruits, and flowers.
Although the crops are seasonal, The Farm at CTI is working towards a yearly production of goat peppers, kale, collard greens, cabbage, beets, string beans, swiss chard, eggplant, a variety of romaine, salad mix, grape tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, parsley, basil, cilantro, mint, thyme, oregano, dill, radishes, okra, bananas, pomegranate, mulberry, papaya, citrus, and sugar cane.
The One Eleuthera Foundation is the government recognized NGO for the island of Eleuthera for the national Food Security Task Force and they have also participated in various food programs in The Bahamas. One Eleuthera's partner, SEEP (South Eleuthera Emergency Partners a non-profit) recently secured a 1,000-gallon fire truck that will also offer support to local farmers to improve the quality and quantity of food they produce.
Ingraham added, "We are part of the regenerative farming solution and continually seek ways to improve farming for the betterment of our planet."
The Centre for Training and Innovation (CTI) is the first and only postsecondary, non-profit, training, and business enterprise institution on Eleuthera. They encourage growth and development for learners to become better citizens and to contribute to building a vibrant economy for the island of Eleuthera and The Bahamas. More information is available on www.oneeleuthera.org/projects/CTI.
The One Eleuthera Foundation is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2012 to identify, invest in, and strengthen projects that improve the island of Eleuthera and further its economic, environmental, and social development. Additionally, they support projects on other islands like New Providence and in the wider Bahamas. One Eleuthera is a successful NGO with operations in The Bahamas and in the US that has 501(c)(3) status. More information is available on www.oneeleuthera.org.
This article is part 3 of a 3-part Hurricane Dorian "Reflections" series.
Deon Gibson, agriculture manager at One Eleuthera's The Farm at CTI (right) is seen cultivating a kale crop. Photo provided by OEF.
Written by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry
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