There’s a natural, human outcry whenever a natural disaster strikes. People around the world mourn, albeit often from afar.
Witnessing a catastrophe’s aftermath firsthand, however— walking amongst the rubble of homes and storefronts—can affect someone profoundly. The immediate presence can spring someone into action.
“I just happened to be in Key West,” Stop Off and Drop Off Campaign organizer Barbara Evans says, when Hurricane Joaquin swept over the central and southern Bahamas. Joaquin was the strongest Atlantic Basin storm since 2010. Evans and her friend Captain Ed Thompson called her friends on San Salvador, one of the hardest-hit islands, before finally losing their phone connection. The hurricane battered the islands for three days.
“We knew something had to be done,” Evans said. The next day the two friends loaded a private airplane with groceries and building supplies and flew into San Salvador.
“The changes were devastating,” Evans says. “The islands [looked] like a war zone—not a green leaf on a tree that had not been uprooted. Most houses lost their roofs and had substantial damages. Fishing boats had been relocated, by Mother Nature, to land.”
The duo’s supply run gave Thompson an idea: letting southbound boats know the Bahamas needed their help.
Visiting captains and anglers could bring aid—rebuilding supplies, foodstuffs and home goods—on their boats to donate to local volunteers and needy families. The Bahamas Stop Off and Drop Off Campaign was born, and Capt. Evans would see it through.
“At this point, [Ed] was emotionally beat,” Evans says, “and he asked me to take over in promoting the efforts.”
Evans created a Facebook page for the new campaign, unsure of what to expect. Before long the group has 1,200 members, and Evans was connecting with people in the Bahamas to organize supply drop points for each island. Evan’s guidance and the help of numerous local volunteers have put hurricane relief and building materials in the right hands.
“The response [has] been overwhelming,” Evans says. “I have made friends that I have never met personally, but I feel very close to them since I could feel their frustration of being a ground zero and dealing with the aftermath of the nightmare. I just felt that I needed to help.”