Getting Virgin Gorda going again: Serve On switch on water, communications & basic services for islanders
By Martin Phillips
The traumatised people of Virgin Gorda were slowly getting back on their feet yesterday, with help from a joint humanitarian mission by Serve On and Team Rubicon.
The expertise of our volunteers helped to focus the incredible self-help efforts of the hurricane-hit islanders in the south, while our team’s guidance also ensured the safe delivery of aid to the even more badly damaged north. The team of 5 Serve On members, with 2 members of Team Rubicon, have been in the hurricane hit British Virgin Islands since Monday.
In another hectic day, the team of seven:
*Carried out a full assessment of the needs of displaced and injured islanders in the shelters and clinics.
*Fully assessed the state of the island’s water desalination plants.
*Provided thousands of litres of purified drinking water to residents.
and *Provided a communications hub for the island’s Recovery Base Team,
They did it for people like nurse Rosalind Daisy who staffs the clinic for Virgin Gorda’s North Sound community which was almost completely obliterated by Hurricane Irma.
With the debris of people’s destroyed homes and shattered lives all around her, nurse Daisy struggled to hold in her emotions as she revealed to one of our assessment teams how she cowered in fear at the clinic when Irma inflicted its devastating power on Virgin Gorda.
She said: “I was alone upstairs and it was very, very gruesome.
“I prayed and cried and cried and prayed.”
She began to tell us how, when the eye of the storm passed over the island, she came out of the clinic to see blue skies and sunshine and thought the storm had passed.
But she broke down in tears at the memory of how the rest of the hurricane soon followed and how she thought she was going to die.
In spite of her trauma, nurse Daisy had been on hand when the hurricane finally passed to reveal a scene of biblical-scale destruction and a queue of people needing stitches to wounds received in the apocalyptic storm.
With no power and no lights in the clinic, nurse Daisy treated no fewer than 40 patients from the small community,
With precious few communications available on the island, however, she revealed that none of her own family abroad even knew that she was alive. At least by lending her our satellite phone our team were able to put that right, connecting her for a heart-rending phone call.
Serve On International Response Team member Tom Hales and Team Rubicon’s Lizzy Stileman had bumped into nurse Daisy while carrying out assessment of the humanitarian aid needs of all five of the island’s emergency shelters and both clinics.
They were also on hand for the arrival of a delivery of aid from Puerto Rico, facilitated by Sir Richard Branson’s Nekker Island staff, and offered useful guidance on how it might most efficiently be distributed
Sir Richard himself was there to witness Tom and Lizzy help bring the aid ashore and also thanked Serve On’s Garry Wonnacott and Martin Phillips for their work as their own assessment mission took them to North Sound where he was surveying the homes laid waste.
Garry and Martin were conducting a full survey of all the damaged, and working, water desalination plants on the island, including the shattered filtration plant at South Sound, and were able to alert authorities to the damaged roof of the island’s main 450,000-gallon water storage tower which was left open to the elements.
They also managed to check on a vital generator at the Spanish Town clinic and, with rotting garbage threatening to add to the sanitation crisis on the island, Garry and an island mechanic managed to repair one of Virgin Gorda’s five vital dustbin lorries.
Back in the island’s Valley, Serve On operations manager Craig Elsdon had turned a derelict building into a communications hub not only for our team but for the island’s grateful leaders.
He not only provided them with the chance to email a list of medical needs to disaster coordinators on Tortola, but printed off the census forms they will use to check on the welfare of the residents and contractor security passes.
A detachment of Royal Marines from 40 Commando Assault Engineers, who had also made the building their base, were disappointed to be leaving just as they had engaged with locals and were beginning to see our operations centre take shape.
Meanwhile, in a remarkable lone mission, Serve Ons Andy Harris manned our water filtration unit for ten hours and single-handedly dispensed more than 2,000 litres of drinking water to a seemingly never-ending queue of residents.
Darkness had fallen before the team, led by Serve On Operations Director and Team Rubicon UK Operations Manager Dan Cooke, all finished their work and prepared their kit for another busy day.
In order to support this deployment and the day-to-day work of Serve On, helping disaster-hit communities around the world and at home, we need your help.
Please give what help you can. Any donations are greatly appreciated.