The news has been devastating. Image after image of houses without roofs, no water, no food. My entire family comes from the Virgin Islands. My father’s side is from the British Virgin Islands, a small chain of islands close to my mother’s island of St. John, in the US Virgin Islands. My parents met in high school in St. Thomas and married in a small Moravian Church on St. John almost 50 years ago. These islands tell the history of my people and in the smiling faces and chocolate brown skin of strangers, I see my reflection and culture. These islands are full of relatives, all interconnected, on these tiny land masses in the Caribbean Sea.
These storms have gutted this history and their lives. These storms have changed the landscape and safety of homes and communities. They have left many basically homeless, as they stare at empty lots and cement walls with no roof. Where there were generational ties of land and memories passed from family member to family member, there now is waste and ruin. People are trying to put the pieces back together, but unlike a mainland natural disaster, the isolation and limited resources on the islands have made this a daily struggle.
Communities are now without power, clean water, food, homes, hospital access, and jobs. Given that tourism is the leading economic driver of these islands, countless island residents are now not only living without basic survival needs but have lost their jobs for the foreseeable future. When 90% of the GDP is tied to, or reliant on, the now non-existent tourism industry, the rebuilding effort will be nearly impossible and create a huge financial crisis for the local economy. Individuals and families will need to make ends meet, to access supplies and to repair/rebuild with limited, and for many, no income source. This need will exist long after FEMA leaves and the media is no longer showing images of the devastation.
When I founded the SISGI Beyond Good Ideas (BGI) Foundation it was with the intent to build the capacity of individuals, groups and organizations working for social good. A core pillar in this work is collaboration, working together to move the needle and solve social problems.
For all of these reasons, we have launched the Hurricane Fund as a way to help communities move beyond crisis to address immediate and long-term needs. I invite you to learn more about the fund and join me in pledging $25 a month for the next two years.
The Hurricane Fund that will provide mini grants, in kind donations and supplies to community based groups and individuals in the US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico for the next two years. We have chosen these locations because of our personal network connected to the local communities and the ability to assure that the donations from the fund are provided directly to those in most need. We are doing this with no operating costs for the foundation, as 100% of the fund will be used to support direct community need. If you are looking for a way to make an impact in these hurricane ravaged communities please consider pledging your ongoing support towards this effort or making a one time donation to the fund. You can learn more about the fund and how you can connect to this local strategy of giving on our website at sisgigroup.org/hurricane-fund.
Thank you for your support of the Hurricane Fund and the communities that will benefit from it.
Thenera Bailey is the President/CEO of the SISGI Group. In this capacity she serves as the Interim Director of the SISGI Beyond Good Ideas Foundation, the organization’s nonprofit charitable division. Thenera has an accomplished career as a consultant, trainer and technical assistance provider to programs, organizations, government agencies, nonprofits, corporations, schools and school districts. She has extensive experience in social entrepreneurship and started her first nonprofit organization immediately upon completion of her undergraduate degree. She has a Masters Degree in Social Work, a Masters of Arts in Globalization and Sustainable Development and a Doctorate in Business Administration with a concentration in Strategy and Innovation. Over the last two decades, she has continued to assist other individuals and organizations in developing their nonprofit organization, grant writing, fundraising, strategic planning, training, knowledge management, financial management and general start-up and expansion assistance. As the CEO of the SISGI Group, she has developed key programs and organization initiatives for the organization’s nonprofit division, with the assistance of the board of directors, key partners and volunteers.