Sean Welsh and his wife cruise the East Coast on a trawler named Vector. They are Red Cross volunteers. He made this plea after reports of people from the U.S. trying to take their boats to the Abacos and Grand Bahama to help the recovery. It was incorrectly stated in an earlier version that he had been deployed for the Dorian recovery effort. He emphatically has not.
The storm is moving on, and the reports are coming in: Widespread destruction. Critical shortages. Inoperative infrastructure. Injury and even deaths. And we all want, desperately, to help, in any way we can.
I am a disaster relief worker. I have hundreds of hours of training, and thousands of hours on the ground. I have been deployed to dozens of disaster relief operations, including multiple Category 5 hurricanes. And I can tell you from experience: If you truly want to help the Bahamians, do NOT go to the Bahamas to help, and do NOT send unsolicited goods to the Bahamas. We in the disaster relief community call this “The Second Disaster” (Google it).
Able-bodied workers with no special training or experience are not needed in a place where the entire population is now out of work, with nothing ahead of them except recovery. And goods and materials sent without a plan to offload them, warehouse them, guard them, care for them, transport them, distribute them, and ultimately dispose of them not only will not be effective, but they will, in fact, divert critically needed attention and manpower from more urgent or effective tasks. I’ve seen it firsthand: piles of donated goods rotting in the weather.
The infrastructure does not exist to support your presence in the affected area. Even if you believe you are 100% self-sufficient, the background support network that all of us take for granted does not exist: if you so much as puncture yourself with a rusty nail you will become a burden on an already overtaxed system. Well-organized relief agencies understand this problem extremely well, and it is why you do not see even trained relief workers flooding into a disaster area the second the storm moves out, whereas genuine first responders, such as the military or Search & Rescue task forces, bring their own ability for self-rescue.
If you truly want to help the Bahamian people, send money. There are a number of vetted relief organizations already on the ground or en route to the Bahamas for relief and recovery (see links below). Dollars spent by those organizations are always more effective than dollars spent by individuals outside of the disaster area on things that are sent in.
If you must send materials (say, because you own a lumberyard or a generator dealership or a bottling company), partner with one of the existing agencies that is collecting them, and only provide what they have asked for (see links). They are building the logistical pipeline to get those materials to where they are needed. I know you read someplace that they need generators, and you have that Honda you haven’t used in two years, but it will be more effective for you to sell it on eBay and donate the proceeds than it will for you to try to send it to the Abacos. Really.
A special note for my fellow captains, credentialed or not: Yes, boats and captains will be needed to provide relief and recovery in the Bahamas. But here again, unless you are partnered with an established relief agency who has explicitly asked you to bring your boat, do not go to the affected area. The Association of Bahamas Marinas has issued a statement imploring private boaters NOT to come. There are no docks or other facilities, the waters are choked with debris, bathymetry has changed, and uncharted hazards abound.
The Bahamas needs your help. Please respect their wishes and help in the ways they’ve requested.
Relief organizations, identified as legitimate, by the Association of Bahamas Marinas:
Many of you have been asking where you can donate. These are legit relief campaigns and websites that take donations. We thank you for all your love and support!!!
Bahamas Red Cross:
Matt Winslow GoFundMe, who will match donations
Patrick Davis Songwriters in Paradise GoFundMe
HTVR PayPal: HTfirerescue@gmail.com
*When U.S. citizens are donating to HTVFR please remember that you can make your contribution of $250 or more tax deductible through PERC. https://www.percabaco.org/
Mark and Patti Gonsalves – Proud Owners of Cruise Abaco