Hurricane Maria virtually destroyed Dominica as it passed through the Caribbean on September the 18th, leaving 71,000 people displaced that relied on charities such as YachtAid Global for day-to-day necessities.
From the moment the hurricane passed on the international community stepped in with overwhelming support, and Tim Forderer, general manager for YachtAid Global, was contacted by UK-based Caroline Blatter, director of Superyacht Services Guide to help coordinate gift-giving for the children over the Christmas period.
Blatter originally raised $700 USD with British school children and knew she would need help in coordinating the deliveries in the Caribbean. In turn, Forderer called Dominica member of parliament Denise Charles and discovered that this was exactly the opportunity she had been hoping for.
“This year we weren’t able to have our normal fundraiser for Christmas. So this news blessed my heart deeply,” Charles said.
Forderer then contacted the Senior Pastor of the Pentecostals of Cooper City, Commander Mark Hattabaugh, who he knew from experience would be up for the challenge of not only further fundraising but shopping, cataloguing, wrapping and transporting gifts from Fort Lauderdale to Dominica in under a week.
“Absolutely,” came the response, and Commander Hattabaugh, who rallied the community to get the job done on time, and the toy stores where the children’s gifts were purchased were so moved that they sold the toys at cost. Additional gifts were dropped off at the church, and community members began to wrap the hundreds of presents, cataloguing them by age. One woman donated 169 backpacks, and each came with a hand-written note from a student to the future recipient.
Meanwhile, further funding flowed from Caroline Blatter, Rachel Tanner, Ditcham Park School and the Superyacht Services Guide in the UK and the cost of the presents for Dominica children aged between 1 and 11 was met.
The last stage was transportation and delivery, and for this step, Forderer contacted Sea Shepard Captain Locky MacLean and his crew, who agreed to a small detour to bring the gifts to the Dominican children.
Even when transporting the gifts to Sea Shepard, the community rallied around, and Cooper City Fire Department, led by a police escort, made the delivery.
“The love and selflessness of the people who got behind this project so quickly have left me in awe and inspired,” said Forderer.
“There really are no traditional distance barriers anymore. Anything is possible when you’re working to help others alongside likeminded people with a shared vision to create action and results.
“If you can think it, you can create it through collaboration; all turbocharged by social media and story telling apps.”
In total, 355 gifts and 151 backpacks were delivered when Sea Shepard reached the island thanks to an internationally coordinated effort.
“YachtAid Global is dedicated to using the resources we have at our disposal, which include: yachts, yacht owners, logistical crews, community civic leaders and liaisons, to provide humanitarian opportunities that promote resilient and sustainable development in these communities to encourage them to bounce back quickly,” Forderer commented.
YachtAid Global has quickly become a leader in aid delivery through upholding the ideology that by working with other NGOs and agencies and combining resources, the best outcome is achieved for those who need the aid. The aid agency coordinates with a global network of volunteers, vetted NGOs and disaster relief experts for the delivery of humanitarian aid to coastal communities via superyachts and other aid vessels, reaching communities cut off from aid by road.
The situation in the Caribbean is vastly improving and tourism from luxury yacht charters over the winter period continues to boost the local economy. The vast majority of local businesses are back up and running while some hotels and restaurants have used the closure to undergo comprehensive renovations before reopening in time for summer 2018.