In September 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria tore through the British Virgin Islands, causing devastation to all that lay in their path. People’s homes were ripped from beneath them, livelihoods lost and all sense of normality destroyed.

However, at just one year on, we are looking at a very different picture. In fact, just days after the worst of the hurricanes had hit, the spirit of the BVI people shone stronger than ever.

In what can only be described as a desperate situation, communities spurred into action to help one another. Efforts to support the BVI and wider Caribbean region in the immediate aftermath were far and wide, and we are truly grateful to everyone who donated to the BVI Community Support Appeal – your generosity has helped provide invaluable resource.

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Since then, we have been working tirelessly alongside Unite BVI, local communities and many other partner organisations, to ensure the long term recovery, development and future of the BVI. To do this we are focusing on three key pillars; entrepreneurship, environment and community & education.

Six months ago we announced our commitment to investments in education and youth engagement and since then, have seen great progress.

One of our larger projects was to support the government in the rebuild of Bregado Flax Educational Centre structure, a public high school in Virgin Gorda. Bregado Flax that provides education for over 400 young people on the island, and is a centre-point for the community.

Demolition and clear-up work has been completed, many hours of approvals and planning for the architectural repair have commenced, and we are now ready to begin construction work on the rebuild of the main classroom block at the secondary school.

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Another project mentioned previously, is the Chromebook project. Established in partnership with the Guana Fund, the Jarecki Family, the McLain Association for Children (MAC) and the Bitter End Yacht Club, the project was created as a innovative solution to the territory-wide challenge of destroyed classrooms and lack of resources, like textbooks and printers. 

In May 2017, the BVI was in distress trying to figure out how to conduct the highly standardised and monitored regional CXC examinations. These are the BVI equivalent of the more familiar US standard SAT examinations. The Chromebooks provided a secure way of e-testing and formed a regional standard across the Caribbean in paperless form – a solution that integrates technology into the everyday classroom. To complement this project Unite BVI and collaborative donors have partnered with the Ministry of Education to provide teacher training and ensure there is support and success.

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While getting young people back into school is one of our main priorities, we have also been investing in projects that support education outside the classroom. The Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) and Mentoring Anointed Leaders Everywhere (MALE) for example, are two fantastic youth engagement and empowerment organisations in the BVI. To ensure their work continues, we have provided funding for summer programming and to purchase minibuses so the projects can expand their reach across the BVI.

Summer programmes in the BVI have also been invaluable in providing a safe environment where young people can feel positive, empowered and united.

Both YEP and MALE have been running summer programmes, alongside STARC, BVI Archery Association and Write to Read – all of which focus on ways in which they can serve the community, protect the environment and participate in revitalising the BVI.

We have also been working closely with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to develop plans to provide psycho-social support and counsellors. We want to provide employers with leadership and access to therapists on the ground so they have the tools to aid staff and support government initiatives.

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Developments like these don’t just help rebuild the physical look and feel of the BVI; they provide communities with the tools to regain some normality in every day life and take control of the future of their home.

As the year anniversary approaches, while there is much more to be done, we have much to celebrate too – not least the unfaltering resilience and determination of the BVI community throughout.

Thank you to everyone who has supported our work and the long term goal of building a stronger, greener, more resilient BVI.