Jamaicans in Bahamas step up to help

Jamaicans in Bahamas step up to help

Associate editor — news/health

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

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NASSAU, The Bahamas — As people from around the world step up to help those devastated by Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas, Jamaicans living in the 700-island archipelago are also doing their part to assist victims.

In fact, Jamaica's honorary consul to The Bahamas, Terrel Butler, told the Jamaica Observer that a Jamaican has been hosting countrymen who were evacuated to New Providence after losing everything when the killer storm battered Abaco Islands in northern Bahamas.

The Jamaican, Patrick Hanlan, who is also the country's former honorary consul to The Bahamas, has made an apartment available to both Jamaicans and Bahamians who were among the more than 5,000 evacuees from the affected islands, but had no place to go.

“I am aware of a number [of evacuees] that are being held at the premises of Mr Patrick Hanlan… he has been hosting them there, and other Jamaican nationals and myself have assisted them with certain items… that have been collected amongst the group — amongst concerned Jamaicans who are aware of their situation and would like to help,” Butler told the Observer during an interview at her Shirley Road and Victoria Avenue office in the Bahamian capital two Thursdays ago.

She added: “They have assisted with clothing, food, and we have persons who have prepared meals and taken them there for their comfort. We have a Jamaican national here who owns a bedding company, who has offered bedding ...and sheets to make them a bit more comfortable. Persons have donated a stove, I understand, and a refrigerator, so that they could cook their meals.”

When the Observer visited the Shirley Street apartment later that day, only a few of the evacuees were at the premises, but volunteers were seen at another section of the property sorting and labelling items donated for hurricane victims.

Hanlan, who shared that he had served as an honorary consul for 41 years, said at one point as many as 25 people were being housed at the location.

He also told the Observer that he feels it is his duty to assist those in need.

“I've seen the need. We — both the current honorary consul and myself — started the relief initiatives and I was able to give the premises as well, for want of a better word, as a home for those who needed it,” Hanlan said, adding that he has been housing evacuees since September 5.

Many of those who have sought shelter at the location have gone on to stay with relatives who learnt that they were at the premises.

Hurricane Dorian, the fourth named storm of the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season, impacted the northern islands of The Bahamas from September 1 to September 3, leaving at least 53 people dead, more than 1,300 missing, and thousands in need of shelter. According to statistics from the National Emergency Management Agency, 1,889 people were in shelters in New Providence up to last Friday.

“I knew it was going to be needed and it (the apartment) was available,” Hanlan said. “Being able to serve or help my fellow man, that's what my challenge has been over the years because not only was I honorary consul, [but due to] my previous employment, I have always been in a position to extend my help and understanding to others.”

Since moving to The Bahamas in 1963, Hanlan said he worked with the Royal Bahamas Police Force for eight years, then he spent 32 years working with the Royal Bank of Canada.

Sharing how blessed he has been to serve his country of birth and the country that affords him a comfortable economic life, Hanlan said, over the years he has had strong support from the Hummingbirds Association — an organisation for Jamaicans and descendants of Jamaicans in The Bahamas.

“There is the group here, the Hummingbirds Association, which I was one of the initial founders, and that is where I get my support, because… honorary consuls give their services free, and you have to have that support. They have always been there to assist, even in this case of Hurricane Dorian,” Hanlan said.

The association's public relations officer, Sharon Purser-Cooper, told the Observer that outside of the establishment of the housing for evacuees with Hanlan, the group has also been trying to mobilise Jamaicans in The Bahamas in order to help Hurricane victims.

“We have been trying to mobilise Jamaican entities here, and business places,” she said, adding that they've been bringing in items and also cooked meals either from private individuals or donated by restaurants.

“We've been advising them (evacuees) and persons who want to make claims, so we've been trying to network them with agencies that can assist them,” she continued.

Purser-Cooper said Jamaicans in The Bahamas are trying to help everyone in the aftermath of the storm, not only Jamaicans.

The Observer also spoke to a member of another Jamaican association in The Bahamas Rohan Kerr of the Jamaica Diaspora Association, who has been collecting items to donate to victims of the storm.

Kerr, who has been living in The Bahamas for 31 years having left Jamaica after Hurricane Gilbert, said his association is trying to give back to the Bahamian community as best as possible.

He said its members would be donating items such as hygiene products, food, and clothes to evacuees being hosted by Hanlan as well as to children's homes in New Providence.

In the meantime, Jamaica's honorary consul to The Bahamas said she is touched by the assistance and support being offered by Jamaicans outside The Bahamas.

“My message to Jamaicans back home is that we appreciate your love and support. We have been touched by the overwhelming support that Bahamians and Jamaicans have received and, in general, all the persons affected by Hurricane Dorian. We know that you have various charitable groups, various organisations, persons that have been reaching out to us across the Jamaican Diaspora and elsewhere, who have offered their assistance and their support, and we thank them very much,” said Butler.

Hurricane Dorian, at the peak of its strength, had sustained winds of 185 mph with gusts of up to 220 mph while making landfall in Elbow Cay, Abaco Islands, on September 1.

Thereafter, the weather system slowed its forward motion considerably, remaining essentially stationary over Grand Bahama from September 2 to 3, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency has said.

“Due to the prolonged and intense storm conditions, including heavy rainfall, high winds, and storm surge, damage in the aforementioned islands was catastrophic, specifically in north and central Abaco and eastern Grand Bahama,” the agency reported.

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