This past week I was on the ground in the Bahamas helping distribute aid to those who have lost everything to Hurricane Dorian.
I cannot put into words the devastation I saw. Toppled buildings, flipped cars, downed power lines, yards full of trash and rubble.
I climbed on top of a shipping container that had blown in from the storm so I could get a better look at the damage in a community called Mudd. It was unbelievable. Nothing was spared, and bodies were still trapped under the debris.
As the president of a humanitarian aid organization, I talk a lot about “rescue.” But that word takes on a whole new meaning in the midst of a crisis the scale of Hurricane Dorian and the devastation it left behind.
People are dealing with the loss of loved ones along with the sobering reality that they have nowhere to sleep tonight.
I knew that out of the 78,000 people who lost their homes in the storm, many of those had to be boys and girls. But the reality of that fact didn’t sink in until I met Johnero, a boy who — at just 9 years old — is now homeless.
Johnero was in his room playing with his toys when Dorian hit. He said he remembers his sister running in to tell him their front door had blown off and they needed to get to safety. The next thing he remembers windows were breaking, the wind was screaming, and pieces of the house started crumbling.
Finally, the eye of the storm passed over, allowing Johnero, his parents, and his sister’s family to run to his grandmother’s house for safety. However, when the eye was gone and the storm returned, that house began to flood.
The only thing Johnero and his family could do was climb up into the ceiling rafters to escape the rising waters. For three hours, they huddled together in the highest beams of the house and waited out the storm.
Like any 9-year-old boy, Johnero tried to bravely tell me that he wasn’t scared during the storm, but I knew better.
I asked Johnero’s mom if their house was at least livable, hoping they could restore it while still having a place to live. She replied, “We’ll have to knock our house to the ground.”
This family has lost everything — their home, their jobs, and even the school for their son.
The Bahamian people have lost so much, and there’s pretty much nothing left to salvage. But the one thing many people have not lost is their hope.
“My family is all together,” Johnero’s dad said. “We’re thanking God for life.”
The resilience of these people continues to amaze me. Despite everything, they’re doing their best to remain strong in spite of their circumstances. And this has only inspired me more to help these people as much as possible.
Our organization, World Help, has already shipped food, clean water, generators, clothing, and shoes to families like Johnero’s, and we are preparing to send more. But it’s going to take all of us working together to help the people of the Bahamas recover from this historic tragedy.
Many Bahamians pride themselves in how quickly they are able to bounce back after hurricanes, but Dorian was unlike anything they had ever seen before.
“It was like a massive tornado with lots of mini tornadoes coming through,” one Bahamian native said, referring to the 185 mph sustained winds and gusts of over 200 mph that destroyed homes. Whereas previous storms such as Hurricane Floyd in 1999 tore apart people’s roofs, Dorian tore apart entire houses and leveled communities.
Despite the Bahamians’ courage and bravery, we still need to come alongside them, support them, pray for them, and help them in any way possible.
Families like Johnero’s will have to start over from scratch. They have a long road ahead of them, and I intend to try to be there with them every step of the way.
Noel Yeatts is an active advocate for social justice and humanitarian needs around the world. With over 20 years of experience in humanitarian work, Noel is an author, speaker, and the President of World Help, an international, Christian humanitarian organization serving the physical and spiritual needs of impoverished communities around the world. Noel regularly takes the stage for speaking engagements and advocacy events around the country and has been widely recognized for her groundbreaking book, "Awake: Doing a World of Good One Person at a Time." To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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