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It’s been less than a week since Hurricane Irma carved its path through the Caribbean and Florida, and communities are still struggling to recover. Forming before the murky water engulfing cities and towns hit by Hurricane Harvey had the chance to drain, Hurricane Irma, though in some ways less damaging than many had feared, caused a vast amount of destruction. Whole islands in the Caribbean are all but destroyed. In the Florida Keys, it seems as if only Hemingway’s cats have emerged from the hurricane unscathed. Over 400 miles up the coast, roads and parking lots in Jacksonville were transformed into a network of rivers and lakes.
Long after the national media move on, communities in the Caribbean and Florida will be doing the hard work of rebuilding. Here’s how you can help.
Donate to Organizations on the Ground
Barbuda was one of the first islands to face Irma, and the hurricane rendered it nearly uninhabitable. According to Prime Minister Gaston Browne, upward of 95 percent of the island’s buildings have been impacted and the hurricane has inflicted roughly $200 million of damage on the small island country. To help the residents of Barbuda rebuild their island, you can donate to the Barbuda Relief Fund, which was created by the American University of Antigua.
Irma did not hit Puerto Rico dead-on, but the hurricane tore the territory’s coastal town of Loíza to shreds and powerful winds pushed the island’s already outdated and underfunded utility company to its breaking point. Largely because of austerity measures and a debt crisis sparked, at least in part, by the United States’ colonial control over the territory, Puerto Rico is in a particularly weak position to respond to this crisis. A Puerto Rican nonprofit called Iniciativa Comunitaria is currently gathering funds for the roughly 80 families in Loíza who have lost their homes. Iniciativa Comunitaria will be receiving donations until Monday, September 18, when it will bring much needed supplies to the community. Although their website is currently down, you can donate using Paypal by sending money to firstname.lastname@example.org. When you make your donation, make sure to mention that you want the funds to go to Loíza.
Although the US Virgin Islands are not buried as deeply in a debt crisis as Puerto Rico, they were hit much harder than their neighboring territory. Tim Duncan, a retired NBA star, created a relief fund for the US Virgin Islands and has promised to match donations up to $1,000,000.
The central and western provinces of Cuba were also devastated by Irma, as strong wind and torrential rain laid the country bare and led to 10 confirmed deaths. To support Cubans in urgent need of medical attention, you can donate to MEDICC. MEDICC is a US-based nonprofit that works to promote US-Cuba health collaboration. They are currently working with the Cuban health system to ensure that the hospitals, community clinics, maternity centers, and senior homes damaged by Irma receive the supplies required to continue providing aid.
If you want to support stateside communities harmed by Irma, you can donate to Florida’s Hurricane Irma Community Recovery Fund, which distributes money to local organizations dedicated to providing aid to devastated communities and rebuilding neighborhoods. You can also donate to Feeding Florida, which supports families who have lost access to food and water in the wake of the hurricane. The Hurricane Irma Solidarity Network is providing aid to black women in South Florida. All donations will contribute to the organizations’ efforts to meet the long-term needs of women made vulnerable by the hurricane, including ensuring that these women have the resources required to continue to pay rent and rebuild their homes.
Additionally, to continue to support women whose lives were dismantled by Hurricane Harvey, you can donate to the Stigma Relief Fund promoted by Whole Woman’s Health. All proceeds go toward ensuring that the hurricane does not further restrict reproductive rights in Texas. In light of the fact that it is more difficult to access abortions in the wake of natural disasters, Whole Woman’s Health is providing no-cost abortions in communities impacted by the hurricane through the month of September.
Irma has created an even more urgent need for blood after a shortage caused by Hurricane Harvey. You can locate your nearest blood drive here. If you are a resident of Florida, you can donate blood through LifeSouth as well.
Register to Volunteer
Despite tales of heroism in Houston, volunteers have been encouraged to stay away from hurricane-stricken areas until the more intense moments of crisis have passed. Many organizations have created registration forms so people can be notified when volunteers are needed. If you would like to participate in post-Irma rebuilding efforts, you can sign up to receive volunteer updates from Habitat for Humanity and National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD).
Become a Host
Are you a resident of an area impacted by Irma whose home weathered the storm? You can open your house up to relief workers and neighbors in need of shelter through Airbnb.
Confront Climate Change
Climate change did not directly cause either Harvey or Irma, but it strengthened both. Warm seawater nourishes hurricanes like Irma, which quickly became one of the strongest of its kind ever recorded. As Mark Hertsgaard recently observed in The Nation, decades have passed since scientists began warning us that climate change would spark increasingly intense weather extremes, and “it is past time to call out Trump and all climate deniers for this crime against humanity.” So yes, climate denialists should shoulder blame for the fact that nearly 1.7 million American children could not begin school last week because of catastrophic storms. And they should take partial responsibility for the fact that islands considered by many to be slices of paradise have been transformed into swampy wastelands.
You can resist climate-change denial in your corner of the country by requesting that your governor and mayor join the coalitions of elected officials who have vowed to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement agreement. Climate Mayors work to ensure their cities meet the Paris accord’s goals, while governors can join the US Climate Alliance. If your city is not on this list or if your state is not listed on the US Climate Alliance’s home page, call and demand that your elected officials change that. You can find contact information for your mayor’s office here and for your governor’s office here. As meteorologist Eric Holthaus wrote, “We’re not talking about far-flung creatures and concepts like polar bears and melting ice caps anymore. We’re talking about the destruction of lives and places where many of us live or have visited.”