16 November 2016

WHEN Hurricane Matthew (a category four hurricane) hit Grand Bahama Island in the Bahamas on 5 October it left behind a trail of devastation and damage. Many houses were damaged, with some being completely destroyed. Trees were uprooted and most electricity poles were broken, leaving the island without power for several weeks, 

The Salvation Army has had a presence on the island for 31 years. In terms of numbers it may appear fairly small, with only one officer couple serving the island's 50,000 inhabitants. However, there is a tremendous breadth of ministry, including a corps (church), a thrift store and a broad range of social activities such as income-generation training courses, homeless feeding programmes and the provision of food support to low income families.

Captains Cheryl and Roger Compton, who are responsible for The Salvation Army's work on Grand Bahama, had put in place preparations before the hurricane hit to help set up evacuation centres. 

As soon as they managed to get the van out of their garden after the hurricane passed they went out to the community to assess the damage and start relief activities. Supported by several plane loads of food from MFI (Missionary Flights International) and donations from the Rotary Club, Samaritan’s Purse, the captains and a team of volunteers provided almost 1,000 hot meals, many of them to people in evacuation centres. They also distributed more than 500 food parcels and more than 20,000 items of clothing, tarpaulins, water, generators, batteries, flashlights, tools and other items.

Even today, six weeks after the disaster, The Salvation Army in Freeport is giving out food parcels to families twice a week. In particular need of help are the many people on Grand Bahama who rely on tourism or the cargo port for their livelihood – both of which were affected badly by the hurricane, leaving people without income since October.

While still dealing with the most urgent needs of food and shelter, The Salvation Army is registering families who have suffered significant damage to their houses. In coordination with the Port Authority, NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency), the Bahamian Red Cross and others they are planning to provide shelter support for many people. Sarah St George, Vice Chairman of the Port Authority, told the captains: 'People trust and respect The Salvation Army. They know that if you donate to them the money will reach the affected people.'

Donations to The Salvation Army's Hurricane Matthew Disaster Fund can be made via a secure online server.

Tags: Americas and Caribbean, Hurricane Matthew