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  • Writer's pictureField Ready

Rapid Assessment, Rapid Impact in our Hurricane Response

“The winds blew so hard, they ripped off my roof,” Jerry explains, pointing to the sunshine in his living room. A native of St Thomas, he tells us how he was waiting out the storm, playing dominoes with his family. “After we heard the loud crack, we ran into the bathroom and waited out the rest of the storm.”

This story is typical of the ones we hear on our assessment of the US Virgin Islands following the damage brought by the two Category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria. Field Ready was preparing to deploy in response to Irma when Maria came roughly a week later (and then had to change our website to include the second storm).

Across the islands, the 185 mile per hour winds damaged lives and property. Buildings are ripped in two. Power lines snapped and are left strewn about like unwanted wet spaghetti. The winds were so strong that every leaf was stripped from trees; some once-green hillsides are brown and barren as a late autumn November.

Within a day of our assessment, we have identified good partners and many potential projects. We start by working alongside the local non-profit My Brother’s Workshop. Our aims and methods align closely: they make practical things and pass that knowledge on to at-risk youth.

On a site where roof repair is underway (shown above), we discover that simple jig can improve the speed and quality of replacing the angled roof beams (shown in the photo below). That night a unique design is made, a prototype is manufactured and then shown to the workers the next morning. They like it and we agree to make more. Several other ideas are hatched which are now being worked on for their ongoing repair work.

Following discussions of various issues regarding water, health and their intersection with electricity. Power repeatedly comes up as an area of concern because it affects so many sectors. We learn of an older women who lives alone and does not have access to power or water.

We visit “Diane” who lives at the bottom of a long, twisty and steep road called “Suicide Hill.” Like Jerry, part of her house is ripped apart. She does not have a generator and she lives too far from town to have her electrical mains repaired anytime soon. As a result, she cannot power the water pump to gather water from the underground cistern beneath her house. She collects rainwater instead.

“I’m living in the 1850s,” she tells us. As we talk to her, she asks to sit down because of poor health.

“If we can fix this issue, we’ll be able to bring you back to the 1950s,” we reply with a mutual laugh.

In our assessment, we find that there are thousands of damaged solar panels around the islands. If we are able to make them operable, we be able to help many people like Diane.

In the coming days, we plan to continue to expand our response efforts to other islands devastated by the recent hurricanes. Our program will involve a multiple-pronged approach growing out of the immediate assistance we are providing now to include training and support to reach larger numbers of people.

Meeting with potential partners at the My Brothers Workshop space

Meeting at My Brother's Workshop in St Thomas, USVI

We wish to thank the VITEMA (Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency), the St Thomas Reform Church, My Brothers Workshop and Building Momentum for their support during our initial response and to the many donors who have made it possible.

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