[Opinion Editorial by Rep. Shevrin Jones]
My family in the Bahamas — including cousins, uncles, and aunts who call Pine Wood, Nassau, and Freeport home — is grappling with extensive flooding and property damage following Hurricane Dorian, but are thankfully all safe and accounted for after surviving the worst storm in the island nation’s history.
Our family’s faith has always brought us through the darkest of times, and I pray daily for my nearly 400,000 people brothers and sisters in the Bahamas because they face a long road to recovery.
Dorian, a Category 5 storm, made landfall in the Bahamas with 185 mph winds and gusts of up to 220 mph, making it the strongest landfalling Atlantic hurricane on record. It then stalled over the northwest Bahamas for roughly 48 hours, causing absolute devastation on Abaco and Grand Bahama Islands, home to 70,000 people.
The monster storm destroyed and damaged tens of thousands of homes, crippled hospitals and shelters, leveled communities, and killed at least 20 people.
It’s not an exaggeration to describe Dorian’s destruction as apocalyptic for my family’s country.
Thoughts and prayers won’t be enough in the aftermath of such a massive storm. Our state and nation must aid in this developing humanitarian crisis. I’ve urged the Trump administration to waive U.S. visa requirements for Bahamians seeking refuge post-Dorian.
State Rep. Shevrin Jones said his extended family in the Bahamas survived the worst storm in the island nation’s history, but suffered extensive flooding and property damage. He’s urging South Floridians to contribute what they can to relief efforts.
I have spoken with Sen. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio, as well as U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, who agree that swift action must be taken before more lives are lost.
This is not about political partisanship. It is a moral failing to stand idly by while thousands of human beings are left to languish without drinking water, food or shelter. South Florida is home to many Caribbean immigrants — Bahamians, Haitians, Jamaicans, Cubans — who make our communities stronger. We must step up because this is our family.
One of my cousins works for the Bahamian government and served as a first responder this week in the aftermath of the storm. She and her rescue team have mostly seen heartache, destruction, and deeply upsetting things, including a family, curled up together, all deceased.
I know others who are still searching for their own family members. We cannot just look the other way.
This week, I’ve worked closely with local residents and community leaders who are eager to help our brothers and sisters in the Bahamas. We are actively collecting water, food, medical and hygiene supplies, and will take these to the islands as soon as we are cleared to do so.
I am inspired everyday by all of the hard work I’ve seen from friends, family members, neighbors, and community activists. I hope our government will follow the lead of the people and take action as well.
There are numerous charitable organizations in the area who continue to do great things and are mobilizing to help those in the Bahamas. I encourage people who are looking to help to consider giving to Smile Trust, a Miami-based non-profit focused on disaster relief and homelessness.
If you are able to donate any items, such as water, tents, portable toilets, food (dog and baby), please bring or mail these things to: 4900 West Hallandale Beach Blvd, Pembroke Park, FL 33023.
It’s incumbent on all of us to pitch in any way we can to help our community and our island neighbors.