Both Hurricane Irma, and then Maria, have been tremendous teachers. These ladies have taught me things I would never have dreamt they could: gratefulness, patience, resilience, trust, preservation, conservation – the list goes on.
They were not dreams, they weren’t even terrible nightmares – they happened, and life now goes on in the BVI. As I wake every beautiful morning, for the first second of consciousness, I lie in blissful ignorance, forgetting the kooky days before. For that one second, I forget the mayhem, chaos and wreckage that they caused. I forget the fear and terror that I held onto as I lay patiently in the empty bathtub waiting for their tenacity to run out.
Nonetheless, I've never really been one to dwell on the past. I can forgive and forget. The times are really trying - it's a test my inner strength - am I a warrior?
The BVI, once known as nature's little secret, is now exposed to the world. The lush green rolling hills, and tall, graceful trees, now appear as though a burning fire has raced through at lightning speed. Underneath the rubble, lies something worse – homes and shelters lost, families broken, devastation, hunger, thirst, and poverty.
What I also see amongst this entire muddle are great opportunities, like never before. Each day I look around and what I see is satisfying progress. I think to myself, we shall not be defeated. We will rebuild these little delightful islands. We will no longer be a secret, and we will be known for the greatness we have both suffered and achieved.
Irma and Maria have brought us together with the community. During Irma, I took cover with just my partner. For Maria, we had the company of six other adults, five dogs and three cats. We've met many new faces along this journey. Basic human interaction at its finest. I’ve seen the very best in people. Offerings of generosity, even when there may be nothing to give in return. Sharing stories, knowledge, hugs, smiles (sometimes laughter), warmth, comfort, and understanding. Community spirit fuelled with love and unity.
During this, the first weekend that has passed without a threat of a storm, we joined forces with other like-minded individuals and re-built one of our Branson Centre entrepreneurs' roof. The open ceiling is now blanketed with plywood and tarpaulin - she's now the only one on the block with a roof,but I know the community will rally around to rebuild the other homes too.
To all entrepreneurs in the BVI – I urge you to grab this opportunity, and pay it forward. There are so many basic things that the islands need right now and I truly believe that it's the social entrepreneurs that can reshape the future and the lives of the BVI – paying it forward in new, innovative and sustainable ways.
When we combine financial assistance from the global markets, along with sweat and work on the ground, I feel assured that the BVI will rebuild itself to an even more magical paradise than before. It really is time for the BVI to hit the reset button on nature's little secret.