Several times over the years, I’ve written about the importance of Junkanoo to Bahamian culture.
For well over a century, Green Turtle Cay residents have gathered on New Year’s Day to welcome in the coming year by donning colourful costumes and marching through town accompanied by a cacophony of cowbells, whistles and the infectious rhythm of goat-skin drums.
But when Hurricane Dorian devastated Green Turtle Cay this past September, the storm not only destroyed the island’s Junkanoo shack where residents gathered to make costumes and to practice, but it also ruined many existing costumes and instruments.
With so many locals left without homes and jobs, and with so much rebuilding to do, it seemed unlikely they’d want (or be able) to stage a 2020 New Year’s Junkanoo rush.
I’ve received numerous reader emails since Hurricane Dorian and by far, the most commonly asked questions are “How can I help Dorian victims?” (which I’ve answered HERE) and “What Abaco businesses are open?”
To keep everyone informed (and to help me keep track, since the list is growing daily!) I’m compiling a master list of open Abaco businesses, which I’ll share over the next few days here on the blog.
Though much of the world’s media has moved on to other stories, our friends and family in the Bahamas are still struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
While it’s true that some communities are making progress in their recovery, many areas still have a long, long way to go. Thousands of Bahamians still have no electricity, running water or access to banks and other vital services.
The reality is that foreign aid is still very much needed in the northern Bahamas, and will be for years to come.
For those wondering how to best help Bahamians affected by Hurricane Dorian, I’ve recently updated my “How You Can Help” page. Please take a moment to check out the list and contribute if you can toward these worthy organizations.
Until the 1970s and 80s, few Green Turtle Cay residents had home telephones. Most had to walk to the hilltop telephone station to place calls.
Later, the VHF radio provided a vital communications link for local residents. What it lacked in privacy, I’m told it made up for in entertainment value.
Thankfully, over the past few decades, communications in Abaco have improved significantly. Not only have land lines become common, but the quality of cell service and Internet rivals that in the U.S. and Canada.
But then came Dorian. And now we’ve gone back – quite
literally — to the drawing board.
A lot of blog readers have emailed to ask how the Green Turtle Cay Ferries fared during Dorian.
Prior to the storm, GTC Ferries had four vessels in operation: Bolo, Bolo II, Bolo III and Bolo IV.
With Dorian churning toward the island, the ferry company hauled Bolo and Bolo IV from the water and secured them on the hard at the boat yard. They tied up Bolo III in Black Sound and moored Bolo II deep in nearby Munjack Creek.
Today makes two years since we lost Eric Sawyer so unexpectedly. His passing was a shock then and it’s still difficult to accept.
I wanted to take a few minutes to remember him (if I close my eyes, I can still hear his laugh) and to send love to his parents, Brian and Caroline, his sister Michelle and her family, his brothers Ronel, Peter and Richard, and his thousands of friends in the Bahamas and around the world.
When Tom and I arrived on Green Turtle Cay last week, we were prepared for what we would meet. We’d seen the images and heard stories of the destruction Hurricane Dorian had visited upon this little island.
What I wasn’t expecting was how beautiful New Plymouth still is. Bruised and battered? Definitely. Still in need of help? Absolutely.
But, as the saying goes, true beauty comes from inside, from the heart. And the heart of Green Turtle Cay is bigger and stronger than ever.
Though some of our young people have left Green Turtle Cay post-Dorian, many remain. And on Thursday evening, local residents took a few hours away from the ongoing recovery effort to stage a fun Halloween event for the town’s children.
Over the past six weeks, Tom and I have received so many kind calls, emails, texts, Facebook and Whatsapp messages and more, inquiring about our little house by the ferry and how it fared during Hurricane Dorian. Until now, however, I just didn’t feel ready to talk about it.
Early on Sunday, September 1, as Dorian barreled northwest along the coast of Abaco toward Green Turtle Cay, we began hearing how severely Hope Town and Marsh Harbour had been hit. At that point, Tom and I made peace with the fact that Fish Hooks would likely be destroyed.
This terrific video was posted yesterday on YouTube by a member of Team M/V Adventure. Team M/V Adventure helped set up the Adventure Cafe, which has been feeding the folks of Green Turtle Cay as they attempt to rebuild their town and their lives after Hurricane Dorian.
I just did a rough tally, and over the past 14 years, I’ve shot more than 115,000 photos on Green Turtle Cay. And yet, in watching this video, there were entire street scenes that I didn’t immediately recognize. The amount of damage and destruction our little island has sustained is absolutely heartbreaking.
A million thanks to Bruce Pinder of Da Salty Pig Adventures in Spanish Wells for allowing me to share these photos of GTC’s New Plymouth settlement with you.
As you can see, the devastation is widespread, and the residents of Green Turtle Cay (as well as the Abaco mainland, other Abaco cays and Grand Bahama) will need all the support they can get in the weeks, months and years ahead. Please help if you can. Here’s how.
Hi, all. Below are a number of high-res photos of Green Turtle Cay taken during a fly-over shortly after Hurricane Dorian. I’ve tried to put them in order roughly from north to south.
As you can see, some homes have been lost all together and most others are heavily damaged. Our family and friends on the cay and throughout Abaco and Grand Bahama need as much help as we can give them in the weeks, months and years ahead. Here’s How You Can Help.
The following information comes directly from Green Turtle Cay as of this morning, Sunday, September 8th:
“Everyone on Green Turtle Cay is working around the clock, keeping spirits high, and staying very organized against all odds. They have jumped into immediate action hosting town meetings, distributing relief items, and clearing debris.
The roads are fully cleared already with use of some functioning carts/cars.
In early September 2019, Hurricane Dorian swept through the northern Bahamas, devastating thousands of Bahamians in Abaco and Grand Bahama. Hundreds of people were killed. Many who survived were left with nothing but the clothing they had on. And since hurricane insurance is prohibitively expensive, most didn’t have it.
Bahamians affected by Hurricane Dorian will need all the help we can give them — not just today, but for months and maybe years to come.
Here are some of the many ways you can help:
25United is a group of volunteers and professionals from all walks of life who are passionate, hard-working, and devoted to rebuilding communities, replenishing supplies, and restoring a way of life in the aftermath of devastation. For more information, visit their website, their Instagram page or Facebook page.
Abaco Freight, which operates a shipping service from the Florida to Abaco, has been assisting with shipping relief supplies to the communities most in need. This is not an inexpensive proposition, and donations toward the shipping costs (they offer a ‘sponsor a pallet’ program) would be greatly appreciated. See their Facebook page for more information.
All Hands and Hearts is an international volunteer response team that has committed to being on the ground in Abaco for several years, helping to rebuild the area’s schools. In addition to donations, they’re also seeking volunteers.
BAARK Bahamas has been vital in helping to rescue lost and injured animals and reunite families pets lost as a result of Hurricane Dorian. Please consider supporting this important organization.
Bahamian Life, a Bahamian-owned company that produces Bahamas-inspired fishing & diving apparel, has created a special, limited-edition t-shirt. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the sale of this item (which comes in men’s and women’s sizes) will be donated to Hurricane Dorian relief efforts in the Bahamas.
Bstrong by Bethenny Frankel is a disaster relief initiative that provides emergency assistance to individuals and their families in crisis. In partnership with Global Empowerment Mission (see below) they have delivered more than 195,000 pounds of supplies to the Bahamian victims of Hurricane Dorian.
Crossroads Alliance is collecting relief supplies in southern Florida and arranging to transport them to Abaco. Donated supplies (food, clothing, building materials, tools, etc.) can be delivered to: Drift Freediving, 2424 N. Federal Hwy, Lighthouse Point, Florida 33064. Financial donations can be made HERE.
Global Empowerment Mission (GEM) empowers people struck with tragedy by providing emergency aid, cash cards, food and housing. As of November 11, they had delivered more than a million pounds of relief supplies to Abaco and Grand Bahama and helped evacuate more than 850 people, including 39 medical emergency cases. Learn more about their Hurricane Dorian relief initiatives on their website or their Facebook page. They’re also looking for volunteers to assist at their aid warehouse in Miami. Click here for more information or to volunteer.
TheHead.Org is working to help rebuild Abaco and create opportunities for those affected by Hurricane Dorian. Founded by Bahamian Lia Head-Rigby, the organization is assisting Dorian victims in the Bahamas as well as those who have had to evacuate to the U.S. For updates, see TheHead.org’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages.
Humanitarian Aid and Rescue Project (HARP) specializes in delivering off-grid communications, medical aid and search and rescue services. They are currently on the ground in Northern Abaco, providing support. For the latest updates, visit their Facebook page.
Bahamian relief agency, the HeadKnowles Foundation, has raised more than $1 million to date for victims of Hurricane Dorian, and is aiming to raise $10 million to help Bahamians affected by the storm recover and rebuild.
HeadKnowles recently partnered with Canadian organization Global Medic to prepare and distribute relief supplies to Bahamians affected by Hurricane Dorian. Click HERE to learn more and to donate.
Heart to Heart International helps communities recover from disasters by providing access to healthcare and administering crisis relief worldwide. They are on the ground, delivering vital healthcare services at clinics throughout Abaco.
The Lillie Renee Foundation, founded by Nassau resident Marvin Arrington, was created to help Bahamian children, families and the elderly. The group helped to evacuate Abaconians following Hurricane Dorian, and is assisting with the massive clean up and rebuilding effort on the Abaco mainland and the Cays, so that evacuees can return home.
OpenWorld Relief is on the ground in Abaco, providing aid with rebuilding, particularly in Marsh Harbour. Learn more about their activities in Abaco on their Facebook page.
Rotary District 7020 (Caribbean and Bahamas) is assisting with the hurricane relief effort by providing relief supplies, assisting evacuees, coordinating housing and more. Click HERE to learn more and to donate. For more information, email email@example.com
Samaritan’s Purse has distributed over 360 metric tons of emergency relief supplies and provided more than 1 million liters of clean water on Grand Bahama and Abaco Islands. They have assisted with clearing storm debris and tarping damaged roofs, and are currently implementing projects to assist with church and home repairs, trauma healing support groups, and training local church leaders in disaster preparedness, mitigation and response.
SOL Relief arrived in Abaco right after Hurricane Dorian. Since then, they’ve collected more than $1 million in donations, more than 400,000 lbs in supplies, and flown more than 80 relief flights to the Bahamas. Follow their Facebook page for updates.
South Carolina Abaco Relief was formed by a group of South Carolina friends with connections to the Bahamas. They’ve been flying supplies in and people out since the first days after Dorian. They remain on the ground, assisting in a variety of ways with the recovery effort. For updates, visit their Facebook page.
UNICEF (The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) is on the ground in Abaco, providing water tanks and purification supplies, registering displaced students in undamaged schools and covering the costs of transportation, school supplies, etc., training school counsellors, teachers and social workers to give children psychological support and helping Bahamian authorities meet the nutritional needs of infants, young children and their mothers and caregivers. Read more about their Hurricane Dorian relief efforts here.
Water Mission (whose founders, George Greene and his late wife, Molly, have been long-time Abaco second-homeowners), is providing clean drinking water to Bahamians affected by Hurricane Dorian. Click HERE to learn more and donate.
World Central Kitchen, an organization that delivers food to people in disaster zones, have served millions of meals to date in Abaco and Grand Bahama. To help them continue to feed Bahamians in need, please consider donating to their cause.
The Green Turtle Cay Foundation has launched a GoFundMe page to raise funds that will be distributed to affected Bahamians on Green Turtle Cay. The Foundation is a 501c3 charity, so U.S. donations are tax deductible.)
The Green Turtle Cay Foundation has also established several collection locations in southern Florida to which relief supplies for Green Turtle Cay may be delivered. Items should be clearly labelled showing Green Turtle Cay as the final destination, and may be delivered or shipped to:
AVID WAREHOUSE – 7656 Byron Drive #B12, West Palm Beach, Florida 33404 (Donations can also be mailed to this address — so feel free to order online and ship here.)
GRANDVIEW PUBLIC MARKET – 1401 Clare Avenue, West Palm Beach, Florida 33401
YOGA PATH – 4514 South Dixie Hwy, West Palm Beach, Florida 33405
Partnering with the GTC Foundation is the Green Turtle Club/Friends of Empty Pockets, whose own GoFundMe page is collecting donations toward the Foundation.
Green Turtle Cay’s Bluff House Beach Resort has set up a GoFundMe page to benefit the Green Turtle Cay community. Funds will be used to buy tarps, tents, portable stoves, work gloves, machetes, solar lamps, and other emergency and rebuilding supplies.
Key West Cares – For more than 40 years, the settlement of New Plymouth (on Green Turtle Cay) and the city of Key West have been sister cities. Now, city officials, the business community, churches and general population of Key West are uniting to help the residents of Green Turtle Cay affected by Hurricane Dorian. Key West Cares is collecting financial donations and coordinating volunteers, vessels and planes to help with delivering aid. Learn more at their Facebook page.
Key West’s Island Roots Heritage Festival committee has begun an Amazon Wish List to collect supplies for the Green Turtle Cay’s Amy Roberts Primary School. Since they’re a nonprofit 501c3 organization, all donations are tax-deductible. Note: when purchasing from the wish list, please be sure to select “SHIP TO GREEN TURTLE c/o of Island Roots Heritage Festival” during checkout.
Hope Town United is a community-driven, 501(c)3 charity established to provide aid to the people of Elbow Cay, assist in the island’s reconstruction and recovery and help restore the region’s primary industry, tourism. To learn more, visit the organization’s website or Facebook page.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to benefit Guana Fire and Rescue, led by Troy Albury. Funds raised through this effort will be allocated by Guana Fire and Rescue to the people of Guana Cay.
Another Guana Cay GoFundMe page has been set up by Katie Hoog, girlfriend of Guana Cay’s Ricky Sands. Funds will be used to purchase survival supplies, evacuation helicopters and boats, temporary housing, medical supplies and building materials.
The Great Guana Cay Foundationhas been established to sustainably rebuild the island’s homes, parks, roads, buildings and businesses.
The Man-O-War Relief Fund is a board-run charity focused on providing funding for the repair of critical infrastructure and support of Man-O-War residents affected by Hurricane Dorian.
A Rebuilding Man-O-War Amazon Wish List has been established to purchase items requested by Man-O-War Cay’s disaster coordinator. Items purchased via this list are being collected by Travis Blane, owner of Mack Sails, and shipped via barge to Man-O-War.
A Marsh Harbour Wish List has been compiled by area residents, listing the items that are in greatest demand. Items from this list may be sent to Abaco Freight (West Palm Beach,) who will arrange for trasnport to, and distribution in, Marsh Harbour. Donations can be shipped to or dropped off at Abaco Freight at: #AbacoStrong, 10130 Northlake Blvd., Suite 214–192, West Palm Beach, Florida 33412
Marsh Harbour boat captain Errol Thurston and his wife Mercedes have set up a GoFundMe page to benefit the people of Abaco affected by Hurricane Dorian. Donations will help purchase relief supplies (water, food, toiletries, medical items) as well as items needed for cleanup and rebuilding. The Thurstons are also collecting donations of relief supplies at various sites throughout Florida, and have secured boats, planes and fuel to transport items over to Abaco. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can be brought to any of the following locations:
Abaco’s Every Child Counts school – which provides education and vocational training for more than 100 children and young adults with learning, developmental or physical disabilities — has suffered significant loss. Alishia Liolli, a dedicated, young ECC teacher, was killed during the storm. And the ECC campus – including a recently completed transitional living facility, brand new vehicle, electronics and equipment – was destroyed. School administrators and staff are committed to rebuilding as soon as possible. Though they aren’t yet able to accept donations of materials or supplies, here’s how you can make a financial contribution.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I am neither affiliated nor involved with any of the above relief agencies. Nor am I in a position to formally audit or endorse any of them. It’s true that these are groups and organizations to which I would be personally comfortable contributing. But you should always do your own due diligence and ensure your own comfort level before contributing to any charitable organization or relief group.