On September 1, 2019, Hurricane Dorian made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane in The Bahamas with wind speeds in excess of 185mph, lashing The Bahamian islands of Great Abaco (pop. ~17,200) and Grand Bahama (pop. ~51,000). After striking The Bahamas, Dorian’s traveling speed slowed to 1 mph over Grand Bahama, prolonging the island’s exposure to life-threatening storm surges of 18-23 feet above normal tide levels. Dorian is the strongest hurricane on record for The Bahamas and has tied a record for the strongest Atlantic hurricane to make landfall.
Our Bahamas Extension Program began in late November, with immense support from our local and global partners, we’re committed to performing continuous work in The Bahamas through March 2022.
We have been supporting the communities of Great Abaco since Hurricane Dorian devastated the island in 2019. In addition to clearing hurricane wreckage and putting roofs on homes, to date we have reconstructed eight school campuses culminating with the completion of Little Darlings Academy in the summer of 2021. 1,300 students have been provided with a safe, disaster-resilient and engaging place to learn and thrive. The immense support from The TK Foundation last fall has enabled us to remain in the community, where we are now intensifying our focus to the lagging housing recovery. Our decision was two-fold: 1) schools have been greatly supported by the government and non-government organizations, whereas home recovery had been neglected, and 2) Bahamian government funds have been depleted and the cost of home repairs is not commensurate with local salary. For more than two years, many homeowners have not been able to return home.
Although two years have passed, the level of need on the island is still large with over 75% of all homes damaged or destroyed by Dorian. The overarching goal of this program is to get families back in their homes. We will focus on 17 scopes of work that can be divided into three areas: roofing, interior response and interior rebuild. Roof repair and replacement work is one of the highest and more expensive needs for residents on Abaco, so we continue to run our Resilient Roof Repair & Rebuild Program to support the needs of as many homes as possible. We’re also engaging in response work, including mucking/gutting, debris removal, and mold/sanitation work in homes to prepare them for additional support. Finally, we’ll be supporting families with long needed interior repairs, doors and windows and rebuild scopes to help bring homes up to a liveable standard.
Our teams are currently hard at work on seven residential homes and recognize the importance of getting families back in their homes for winter. The three areas of work, roofing, interior response and rebuild, are often interdependent and teams first will focus on protecting homes from the elements before moving on to response work, such as muck and guts, debris removal and mold sanitation, and finally preparing the home for interior repairs and rebuilds.
We are currently working on doors, windows and interior repairs on the home of Mr. Gary Lewis, a teacher at Every Child Counts (school rebuilt by the AHAH Marsh Harbour Recovery Program). Mr. Lewis Lost his home in Hurricane Dorian and has been living in temporary housing for more than two years.
As with so many on Great Abaco, the process to rebuild has been prohibitively expensive for a variety of reasons, none of which are within the control of homeowners most in need of assistance.
After mold and sanitation on the structural components, we’re making steady progress towards turning 4 walls and a roof back into a home. The program team has nearly completed wrapping/siding the exterior of the house, interior structural retrofits and installing drywall.
Mr. Lewis continues his work teaching at ECC, making a lasting impact on the students as they grow into young adults. He radiates warmth and passion even when faced with his own adversity, says the staff and volunteers who have had the good fortune to know him. We are honored to be working for such an inspirational person, and we look forward to turning over the keys to Mr. Lewis in the coming weeks.