Kiama resident Roger Carter is busily preparing to fly to the Caribbean to #walkthebvi.
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) was destroyed by Hurricane Irma in September 2017 claiming many lives. Thousands were homeless and overnight, thrust into abject poverty.
The community on the island and around the world is now rallying to aid the recovery and rebuild the islands, which will take many years.
In days after the strongest Atlantic storm in history, a group of friends set up a Facebook Page called “BVI Abroad” to help get messages around the globe of family and friends.
With the local government out of action for days, the social media page became the default disaster management, creating lists of missing persons, medical emergencies, evacuations and dropping of supplies.
At 1am in Roger’s kitchen in Kiama Heights he received a message, a plea for help, two brothers, one diabetic who had lost all his insulin, and one boy who is paraplegic in a wheelchair.
He picked up the phone to call the US Coast Guard, the US State Department, the UK Foreign Office, and put a cry for help out to the now 25,000 members on the Facebook Page.
Between the international and local community, the boys were rescued and evacuated to safety. It is thought a message went out on the shipping radio VHF channel which was picked up by the British Navy.
All of that was coordinated from a laptop in Kiama and demonstrated the power of social media and modern telecommunications.
“When you are responding to a life or death situation suddenly you have a sharp focus. We had been dealing with similar situations through facebook for a few days, so we knew what we had to do,” Mr Carter said.
“Ultimately using power of social media to utilise the 25,000 members was the key. In such a situation you simply have to find a way.”
The New Year brings new hope, so at 8am on January 2, Carter will commence a walk around all the main islands of the BVI, an event he assisted to create and will take seven days to complete.
Starting in Road Town he will walk around Tortola with his friend Sophie Leroy, stopping by some of the places personal to their hearts, and visiting the communities who have done it so tough. The walk will continue to Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and conclude back in Road Town, before one last leg in Anegada
“To be honest physically I have not done much preparation but I do have a good base level fitness,” he said.
“Emotionally I am not sure what to expect seeing my former home destroyed. But there has been a mountain of work to get the event organised from so far away. I am just looking forward to now doing the actual walk.”
Mr Carter said aside from raising money, the most important goal for him was for the community to join them and embrace the walk.
“Three months on and 60 per cent of the island do not have power, many are homeless, thousands have no jobs and living on relief and aid,” he said.
“If we can bring a little bit of joy to the people that would be great. And to inspire people from the international community to start their own walktheBVI events in their own backyards would be amazing.”
The Little Blowhole Art Bar will be holding a Caribbean Night on Friday, March 23 to help raise funds for the Virgin Islands. Roger will be there to tell his story, please email rogercarterbvi@gmail to register your interest.
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