'We Feel The Pain': Caribbean Community In South Florida Mobilizes To Help Hurricane-Ravaged Islands

Sep 21, 2017

Marlon Hill, a Miami-based attorney, stepped to the microphone on Wednesday evening at Holy Family Episcopal Church in Miami Gardens, a longtime hub for Miami’s Caribbean Community, and urged action.

“People at work, people at your church, people at your backyard fete, tell them that you are part of the Caribbean Strong Relief Fund and organize supplies. Get them to us,” he told the approximately 100 people gathered there.

They came to learn about the US Caribbean Strong Relief Fund which Hill -- along with a coalition of community leaders -- established last week with the help of the Miami Foundation. The fund was created to provide money and supplies throughout the Caribbean in the wake of Irma, and now Maria as well.

“There are three things we’re trying to get the public to really understand,” said Hill. “We want folks to give where they can, we want them to donate relief supplies where they can and we want them to donate their time and their talents where they can.”

Most of the people at the meeting were born on one of the Caribbean islands. They came to connect with each other, and find out what they can do to help. They included long-time church members like Kathleen Prince.

“I’m from Antigua originally,” she said, “I’m so sad to hear our whole sister island Barbuda has been washed away, so I came to find out how we can help.”

And newcomers like Denise Danvers.

“This is my first time being moved to come to a meeting here,” she said.

Read more: Hurricane Bonding: Did Irma Finally Make Us Care About The Caribbean?

Community leaders stressed the urgency and breadth of the need, and organizers for upcoming Carnival events pledged portions of their proceeds to the fund.

Jessica Richards Daley, originally from St. John and representing a shipping company, offered discounts to transport supplies, and gave a moving personal account.

“My dad lost his house; my brother lost his house. They have no roof; they’re sleeping in cars,” she said to the crowd. “I feel the pain.”

The overriding message was that no action or donation was too small. And the overriding spirit was one of solidarity: The idea of the Caribbean islands as one in trying times. Denise Danvers, who is from Jamaica, which has largely been spared the wrath of the recent storms, summed up what I heard so many here say.

“This could be your island,” she said. “This could be your home island. Next week I could be here for something that’s happening in Jamaica, so I just wanted to lend my support."

To date, the fund has raised $125,000. More information about the Caribbean Strong Relief Fund can be found at sflcaribbeanstrong.org