October 17, 2016
With many without electricity in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, ice has become a hot commodity. Members of community-based group Our Carmichael delivered 1,000 bags of ice to residents of the Carmichael, Adelaide and Coral Harbour areas on Saturday.
On Saturday morning, as many New Providence residents frustrated by the nightmarish wait for power to be restored to their homes and businesses took to Facebook to offload on Bahamas Power and Light (BPL), various community organizations were busy addressing the needs of Hurricane Matthew victims.
Frustration over a lack of electricity, and in some cases water and cable supply, a week and a half after the storm slammed New Providence is warranted.
Our lives have been disrupted and we have a right to expect the utility companies and authorities who regulate them and control their budgets to perform at a higher standard.
Amid the frustrations, the community activism that has once again been organized following another hurricane is proving inspirational.
Nikoya Lightbourne, a 34-year-old private chef raised in North Andros, who recently formed the group Chickcharney Children, said on Saturday teams on the ground in storm-ravaged Lowe Sound observed that residents there were in desperate need of food.
"A lot of the stuff that we have been getting are clothing and what people have in their pantry. We need food in North Andros," Lightbourne told National Review. "We need ready-to-eat food."
Lightbourne also told us, "This effort is important, because the way that Matthew decimated our country, there is honestly no way the government or government agencies can be expected to handle it all. There's no way. There are not enough bodies.
"Resources are stretched thin, and private citizens, people who know and love their communities, need to step up and do their best."
Chickcharney Children is powered by HeadKnowles, the charitable group that performed exceptionally well in the wake of Hurricane Joaquin last year.
"This is a completely non political relief effort focused on the people of North Andros," Lightbourne said.
"We're working with a lot of corporate sponsors and a lot of corporate partners and a lot of non profits."
HeadKnowles started as an information-sharing Facebook page. It exploded into a community organization, which moved speedily to get help into the southeast and central Bahamas, which were ravaged by last year's storm.
It is simply incredible what the group was able to achieve so quickly, convincing corporation and ordinary sponsors to help.
Hundreds of donors supported the effort, and many residents gave their time to the relief drive over the course of many weeks.
Lia Head-Rigby, one of the founders of HeadKnowles, is this year assisting in connecting various groups like Chickcharney Children to donors.
On Saturday, Head-Rigby, who is now working out of Mississippi, said Sandals Resorts had just committed $20,000 to provide relief in affected areas in The Bahamas.
Speaking to the importance of HeadKnowles and its post-storm activities and why so many people have been attracted to the group, Head-Rigby said, "Because we are apolitical, we draw the apolitical or we draw the people who are unsure of what's going on and they know that when they give it to us they see the pictures on HeadKnowles, or Chickcharney Children, or Our Grand Bahama, which is a part of [Ranard Henfield's] Our Carmichael."
Henfield and members of the community-based group Our Carmichael were out for most the day on Saturday in the Carmichael, Adelaide and Coral Harbour areas delivering 1,000 bags of ice to residents in need.
Ice has been a hot commodity in the wake of the storm. Many residents have spent hours trying to purchase it, as electricity supply is still not yet restored in some areas.
Henfield said the ice was donated by cruise lines.
"We are all neighbors trying to help neighbors," he told National Review.
"The government and NEMA are not moving anywhere as fast as the people need the relief," Henfield also said.
"We opened an account at Bahamas Wholesale Agencies on Gladstone Road and in Freeport in the name of Our Grand Bahama so persons who want to donate food supplies can go there."
He said a container of supplies, including generators, chain saws, portable stoves and 125 five gallon bottles of water, was shipped to Grand Bahama.
Lightbourne, Head-Rigby and Henfield all told us that accountability is key in convincing more donors to help.
They said donors receive reports on, and evidence of where their donations go.
Head-Rigby said, for instance, her group will be able to document for Sandals, down to the penny, how its $20,000 donation is spent.
"You will get full transparency of how we spend the money, and that is what donors like," she said. "We're the trusted ones. You give a dollar to NEMA and you don't know where it went."
She added: "HKers have inspired breakoff groups. We're still pushing our efforts and we're making them accountable for where every dollar is going and every can of corn is going. We're logging and we're getting pictures and we're getting dollar amounts."
Our Carmichael reported throughout the weekend on its Facebook page on the distribution of the ice donations.
Henfield said all of the relief sent into Grand Bahama has been properly accounted for. He said in the case of supplies like generators and chain saws, those are only on loan to the residents in need.
Our Grand Bahama expects that those storm victims will operate in good faith and return those supplies once their situations have stabilized and power has been restored.
Henfield said it will make no sense to continue to ask donors for supplies like generators and chain saws when storms hit in the future.
He is hoping the system works.
"Everything is logged," Henfield told us. "We have asked them to return the items. Families sign for what they get. It is not meant to humiliate anybody. It is to have transparency and have accountability."
Yesterday, Captain Stephen Russell, who heads the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said these kinds of organizations should apply to the Office of the Attorney General for official recognition.
Russell said the recognized charities that NEMA deals with are the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the Rotary Clubs.
While he recognized the good work done by HeadKnowles in providing relief to storm victims in the southeast and central Bahamas last year, he indicated that they would have to go through the proper channels for official recognition.
Russell said international organizations that want to help are directed to the recognized charities.
Jessica Robertson, who is working closely with Chickcharney Children and others involved in community activism post Hurricane Matthew, sees a need for a more structured grouping of community organizations.
"This is the first time I've been involved in an initiative of this sort," Robertson told National Review.
"What has become abundantly obvious is that a non government agency or organization needs to be formed that can mobilize immediately in the aftermath of a storm because what happened last year is that HeadKnowles, two people who formed an information-sharing group on social media, became the de facto lead
"Luckily this time Lia and Gina (Knowles) have been helping to guide these people (Chickcharney Children and others). It has fallen in their laps. We have to have something that is more structured. There is a ton of GoFundMe accounts and people don't know what's legit and what's not.
"People get afraid to donate and the people who are in need suffer more."
Candia Dames, Guardian Managing Editor
Click here to read more at The Nassau Guardian