Virgin Islanders are used to being misunderstood, even ignored. It happens when you are traveling stateside and people do a double take before accepting your USVI driver’s license, when you go to pay for something online only to find no option for the VI when state is a required field, or when you try to order something and you’re told there is no international shipping.
The United States Virgin Islands is part of the United States, its residents are passport holding Americans, many of whom have served in the military and fought overseas. Yet time and again, we find the rest of the country and even the world is lacking a basic understanding of our geographic and political situation.
There is no greater time where this becomes apparent than after a major crisis, i.e. a hurricane. What is particularly unique about the current situation is that the Virgin Islands was hit by two Category 5 hurricanes within weeks of one another – devastating all three of the main islands of the USVI: St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John. To make matters worse, hurricanes Irma and Maria impacted most of the surrounding islands, including Florida and Puerto Rico – disrupting our aid and supply network. To make matters spectacularly worse, all of this happened in the wake of Harvey’s devastating impact in Texas and Louisiana.
Just to illustrate for you what we’re talking about here, look at CNN’s coverage of the different storms. On their website, when you type in “Texas hurricane,” 634 stories come up; for “Puerto Rico hurricane,” 459 stories come up; for “Virgin Islands hurricane” 140 stories come up; and for “St. Croix hurricane,” 19 stories come up. We understand a lot of this is likely based on population impacted and proximity to the mainland; but the residents of St. Croix are equally United States citizens and equally deserving of support in the wake of devastation. Being on a small island can be challenging, people can’t simply get in their car and evacuate, aid workers can’t drive down the freeway and lend a hand or deliver supplies, the electric grid can’t connect to a neighboring one.
What does all this mean for the Virgin Islands? It means we don’t get attention, it means aid comes in delayed or not at all, it means relief efforts are more scattered. It also means that a more targeted approach is necessary, and that is exactly what we’re doing.
St. Croix is our home, it is a wonderful little island overflowing with a rich cultural history and beautiful scenery. So we have zeroed in on helping St. Croix get back on its feet and helping the people get the aid they need.
It’s been more than a month since Irma and Maria passed over St. Croix, and 80% of the island still doesn’t have electricity, running water, a functional hospital or a public education system in place – and for many of the people there, there is nowhere else to go.
Help us spread the word about what is happening on the island and encourage people to support Cane Bay Cares, a targeted relief effort on St. Croix. After making a tax deductible donation to Cane Bay Cares, you get to see where your money goes – right into relief efforts for those most impacted.
The local media might not have as much reach as CNN, but they are working hard to get the stories out there. Many of the local reporters are themselves severely impacted by the storms, but still are out there every day telling stories of people suffering, of work being done and relief efforts underway. Check out our press page to get links to some of those stories.
And please, spread the word!