Heads of local Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) met with His Excellency the Governor Augustus Jaspert yesterday, June 9, to address plans being made for the hurricane season.
Governor Jaspert commended the Heads for their commitment to the communities throughout the Virgin Islands following the impact of hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“I saw the strength of the community organisations. We must therefore continue to encourage this and build a stronger alignment among the NGOs and with the DDM,” Governor Jaspert said.
Representatives discussed the efforts that are being put forth in the preparation process and defined areas of focus which the various NGOs will support in getting the Territory ready for the peak of the hurricane season.
“We are focusing very much on the need for greater community partnership and we’re obviously in the open season,” Governor Jaspert said.
He added, “We are more vulnerable than we have been in the past, not just because of weather systems that may come, but more vulnerable because of the state of the Territory on a whole as a result of the unprecedented events that occurred last year. Some persons are still not living in homes and there aren’t as many shelters prepared as last year, so the level of vulnerability is higher.”
The Cabinet of the Virgin Islands has approved $3.9 million to assist in the prioritisation of the Disaster Readiness Programme being implemented through various ministries and coordinated by the Department of Disaster Management (DDM). However, there are many other gaps which the NGOs have pledged to support.
The meeting also discussed the NGO partnership approach that is being facilitated through the SMART Communities Project.
Following the passage of hurricane Irma, the project paid greater attention to the issues that arose in the targeted communities of East End/Long Look, Jost Van Dyke and Sea Cows Bay.
Chairman of the initiative and past President of the Rotary Club, Ryan Geluk commented on the importance of partnerships with other NGOs.
“Right now, it is quintessential in this programme to start bringing the NGO partnerships together as a more structured model here within the BVI. Before Irma everyone knew their areas and worked in their own periphery but in the past 10 months, we see that working together in a more collaborative effort is more desired. We can do a lot more together than we can do apart.”
The SMART Communities Project is fully funded through a grant agreement provided by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and administered through a partnership approach involving the BVI Red Cross, BVI Rotary Club, Jost Van Dyke Preservation Society and direct support from Adventist Development Relief Association (ADRA).
Mr. Geluk said the SMART Communities project does not just focus on community resilience but on bringing everyone together.
He added, “It has the potential to revolutionise how we, within the BVI, respond and work together on disasters that may impact us in the future and how local NGOs can play a more defined role in the Territorial Disaster Management Programme.”
The meeting concluded with the NGOs agreeing to support several key areas, namely, Health and Sanitation; Community Emergency Response Training; Public Awareness; Provision of Contingency Stocks; Shelters and Shelter Management; Relief Distribution and Community Clean Up initiatives.
Funding for the areas will be derived from approved Government funds, financial contributions from NGOs and support from external partners.