Irma, Now Maria: U.S. Caribbean Communities Rush to Send Aid

By Hajela, Deepti | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 22, 2017 | Go to article overview

Irma, Now Maria: U.S. Caribbean Communities Rush to Send Aid


Hajela, Deepti, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


NEW YORK * From parties where the price of admission is a donation, to fundraising drives and online wish lists for collecting needed supplies, West Indian groups around the United States are stepping up to get help for the islands of the Caribbean ravaged by the wind and waters of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, including those in places in the southern United States that were hit hard themselves.

Irma, once the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic, wreaked havoc in parts of the region Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla and St. Martin, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and parts of Cuba leaving more than three dozen people dead and turning vacation island paradises into devastated landscapes. There was no respite for the Caribbean, either, as Maria slammed into Puerto Rico on Wednesday with heavy wind and rain, causing at least 15 deaths across the Caribbean.

"What Irma didn't do, Maria went and finished," said Jean Alexander, executive director of the Caribbean American Center of New York, a social service agency in Brooklyn. "You don't know who to help because everybody needs help."

"I've been an emotional basket case because you want to do everything for everyone," said Nicole Bertrand Nixon, 39, who lives in Rockville, Md., but grew up in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where her parents still live. She helped gather toiletries and other items for an initial collection of necessary supplies and spread word about organizations that people can support with their dollars.

The desire to help has brought together people who trace their roots all over the Caribbean, not just from the affected islands, Alexander said. There are almost 3 million people claiming West Indian ancestry in the United States, according to the U.S. Census.

"It's an interest of anyone who lives in the Caribbean," said Alexander, who hails from Trinidad and Tobago. "I haven't heard of anybody not taking this seriously."

Nixon agreed, saying that those who come from the Caribbean understand that those whose home countries weren't affected as much this time around could be hit in another storm. "Wherever we can help, we do," she said, "because we know our time will come."

That extends to Caribbean Americans who are dealing with the fallout of Irma themselves.

In South Florida, Caribbean groups organizing relief efforts for the islands found themselves targeted by the same powerful hurricane. …

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