By Area Governor Lisbeth Knowles / October 31, 2019
 
Dear Fellow Rotarians,
 
Here is an update on some of what Rotary has done since hurricane Dorian hit our beautiful Grand Bahama Island:
 
With professional attention to details, and days prior to Hurricane Dorian’s devastating winds and surge reaching the shores of Grand Bahama, the Rotary reverse osmosis plant manager, and his staff, inspected, serviced and double checked this specialized equipment. Once satisfied with the plant’s reliability, the system was geared up to assure as much stored pure, clean drinking water. While we all hoped for the best, this special team planned for the worst. Unfortunately, their foresight proved essential. Subsequently, this same plant manager requested, and was granted, the necessary funds to double the plant’s output capacity.
 
Hours after the official “all clear” declaration, A special Rotary Disaster Relief committee was formed to evaluate options, to communicate with fellow Rotarians, NEMA, and other NGOs, to provide checks and balances, transparency and accountability to our donors and others.
This five persons committee consisted of the present AG, (Area Governor), the incoming AG, and the next in line Area Governor (to permit for smooth continuity), and two persons very familiar with successful post Hurricane Matthew We Care and the Roof Repair and Replacement program.
Next this committee agreed upon three guiding principles. 
1) To reach the most needy
2) To help as many victims as possible and
3) To do both as quickly as practical. (There’s more) For example, it was deemed to be important, by the committee, to cooperate, coordinate, and communicate with NEMA, (the Bahamian National Emergency Management Agency), via it’s GBI agency head, Senator Katherine Forbes Smith. As a side note, and maybe because of Rotary’s comprehensive, wide reaching and well organized efforts, Senator Smith has been generous with her time and expertise. Truly, this key coordinator, has been instrumental in Rotary’s successes to date.
            
In that the island was in a dire survival mode. The committee addressed the primary needs in order of importance.
            
Days after the “all clear” was issued, a small flotilla, from Fort Myers Fl. lead by Stokes Marine, visited McClean’s Town and Sweeting's Cay with medical supplies and personnel along with water, food, generators, and other essentials. This was done after completing two round trips across the Atlantic, from Florida to GBI in just three days.
            
At the same time, Rotary’s reverse osmosis water plant, in Hawksbill, kicked into high gear. Using both 275 gallon mobile tanks, and the water station’s mass distribution system. Rotary became one of the first sources for clean potable water on the island with a mobile distribution network capable of going to the areas in greatest need.
            
Prior to the storm the committee was offered 4 large containers full of relief supplies from the Rotary district 6990 members through a large collection effort of Rotarians in Florida. The containers were sent via a 180 foot supply ship as the harbour and airport were closed.
            
With those supplies on the way, the first of four warehouses was secured, and a system for efficiently sorting, packing and distributing was conceived. Food, water, clothing, personal hygiene supplies, generators, diapers, baby food, flashlights, tents, mattresses etc. began to flow through the system. With the second and larger warehouse, the entire space would fill, be processed and emptied out within 36-48 hours, seven days a week. Over 20 containers were processed through this distribution warehouse system. Additionally Rotary lent the warehouses to service groups like Pilot Club for their own distribution programs.
            
It quickly became obvious that the generous in-kind donations, while much needed, still left gaps to be filled. To that end a cash donation appeal was instituted to buy, for example, five gallon gas cans and extension cords to go with the donated generators or operational essentials such as gasoline to fuel the vehicles of our volunteer drivers. Everyone, including our teams, had suffered losses, and everyone was a volunteer.
 
Before the hurricane, the five Grand Bahama Rotary Clubs worked together on securing a Global Rotary Grant. As a result of these efforts, a special shipment was donated by Denise Sears from Supplies Over Sea, also known as SOS. This shipment included hospital beds, walkers, wheelchairs etc. This $60,000 plus, was delivered to the Rand Memorial Hospital, after it was devastated to the point of partial condemnation.
            
Another committee decision was to both start in specific town neighborhoods with several programs predicted on optimum efficiency, while also focusing on the eastern settlements, with more of a purely humanitarian rationale, while remaining mindful of our donors and practicality.
            
The central communities targeted were Hawksbill and Hudson Estates. These communities would receive a systematic program of removing all drywall and other articles that were saturated during Hurricane Dorian. In total this would involve over 1,000 homes. Next after these stripped homes reached a maximum water content reading of 17%, a mold remediation process would commence. While at the same time, a separate team would go door to door measuring for replacement drywall, sheet rock tape, plaster, corner bead, and both switch and outlet boxes with plates.
            
The final phase in the process would be to deliver these building items to each homeowner for the repairs to commence.
            
It is important to note, the committee was always mindful of the potential health consequences to team volunteers, occupants and future visitors to any mold infested structure. This awareness resulted in changing the intended mold remediation treatment from bleach, historically used for decades in the islands, to the recommended fungicide used in today’s hospitals. Further as we learned more about using proper protocols and necessary protective equipment, we halted our programs until we had received the training and protective garb. At that point we formed partnerships with two global NGOs, specially trained to manage and/or perform these tasks.
            
Out east, a more comprehensive program was mapped out for two reasons. Firstly, these were the hardest hit communities on the island, and secondly, Equinor donated an extremely generous amount of cash for Rotary’s relief efforts, with a strong empathy for the Eastern communities of Gold Rock, Freetown, Gambier Point, Turtle Reef, High Rock, Pelican Point, Golden Grove, Rocky Creek, and McClean's town. Consequently, in addition to the core community program described above, an additional roof repair, and replacement program was implemented on an expedited basis.
           
 During this same period, (and within the first 50 days post-Dorian,) a tent and inflatable mattress program was implemented in partnership with other NGOs. This was important because many displaced homeowners preferred to stay on their land, rather than move to town. They did this for both practical and emotional reasons.
            
Additionally, starting with the “all clear” announcement Rotary started crisscrossing the island daily with clean water, food and other essentials. Many times there were specific personal requests, fulfilled on the next return visit. Items such as baby formula, diapers, adult hygiene supplies, etc. always reached the requesting recipients.
            
Back in Hawksbill the donated warehouse became a fixed based multi-neighborhood distribution center. Once or twice daily, “we care” parcels were given out to hundreds of families. Contents varied with incoming in kind donations.
            
A traffic coordinator also operated out of this location. With a fleet of volunteers drivers and trucks this very key person would plan, notify and direct her fleet to the airport and loading docks to collect and safely deliver the shipments to the appropriate warehouses.
This was no small feat, given, in that no one on the ground knew the specifics of a load arrival, sometimes until within a half hour before “wheels down”. General Patton would have been proud of this young lady.
 
With these programs stabilizing and functioning well, Rotary began to “up its game”.
 
Contacts were initiated with larger, more expert NGOs. As a result an adobe type block building machine, for rebuilding homes in the East is now in transit to GBI. These block homes will be superior to those destroyed.
 
Contact was also made to Tesla’s solar division. While Tesla’s response was immediate, GB Power was already proceeding with this resource. So Rotary shared it’s limited progress and stepped back to allow the experts to address this important need. While still attending the Government’s solar group meetings.
 
Without these and other NGOs expertise, organizational skills, and willingness to share, the Bahamas would be further behind this challenging recovery curve. Also, it’s important to recognize the guidance and daily efforts of NEMA. Because, at the end of the day, Rotary is a local service organization, who in past years have raised dollars, and volunteered countless hours to makes the lives of many deserving souls better.
 
Just recently the international Red Cross has reached out to assist the 5 Rotary clubs on Grand Bahama in their mission to become, “the little train that could”.
 
There’s more...ie field psych evals to stem the eventual serious threat of post disaster depression and worse. “Mashed buildings” are one thing, traumatized people, totally more important. 
 
Yours in Rotary Service,
AG Lisbeth