The first disaster recovery specialists to reach hurricane damaged Virgin Gorda returned to the UK on Sunday, full of praise for the resilience of the islanders across the BVI. Despite losing homes, businesses and all sense of normality, the community have pooled skills, resources and local knowledge to help protect each other.
Serve Ons Tom Hales a rescue trainer from West Sussex, Garry Wonnacott an engineer from Norfolk, Andy Harris, a IT technician from Cheltenham and Martin Phillips, a writer from Buckinghamshire dropped everything at home and at work and left for the Caribbean within hours of Irma striking. It took a few frustrating days to get to the most affected areas, but the majority of their time has been spent on Virgin Gorda.
Alongside setting up communications routes and providing water filtration, the Serve On team bought experience in coordinating and prioritising the huge number of jobs to do before the island can operate again. Together with the islanders they have established #VGStronghold - a buzzing hub of people helping other people.
A further team of 4 from Serve On & Team Rubicon UK remain on Virgin Gorda. With further damage anticipated in the path of Hurricane Maria, the #VGStronghold is doing everything it can to ensure the already battered infrastructure survives.
Serve Ons communications specialist, Telecoms Engineer Simon Thomasson, from Yorkshire is working with Virgin to establish how badly damaged the islands phone network is. Serve Ons Director of Operations, Dan Cooke and operations manager Craig Elsdon are busy checking over key infrastructure like medical centres and hurricane shelters.
On Tortola, a much larger island nearby, this is the first deployment for Roger Howells from Carmathenshire with Serve On. He’s working with teammate Mark Gatfield from London to use their extensive experience in urban search and rescue to help ensure the hurricane shelters in Road Island are structurally safe, directing repair efforts and resources from the military to the most needed locations. They spent last night unloading aid from Shelterbox and liaising with the local Rotary alongside military and government contacts.
Meanwhile, the wider co-deployed team from Serve On and Team Rubicon UK are expecting reinforcements over the next few days. The teams are working across several islands in the Caribbean to help ensure that relief supplies move rapidly to where they are needed.
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 the public's help.
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