In the days immediately following Hurricane Irma, Victoria Fine and Jon Vidar wanted to help. They launched Sailors Helping and began organizing volunteers to personally pick up supplies and send them to nearby islands via boats and planes. Here are just a few things the group accomplished in just one week:
- Coordinated two planes, three flights, and all associated clearances for more than 16,000 pounds of immediate aid to Anguilla and Tortolla (including more than $5,000 worth of supplies from Sailors Helping donations and in collaboration with Ameriflight and YachtAid Global)
- Coordinated two palettes of donations from the PR Navy onto S/V Manna bound for JVD, Road Town, Tortola
- Coordinated $2,000 of supplies from Sailors Helping donations and two free planes of immediate aid to Vieques in tandem with Boys and Girls Club of Puerto Rico
- Coordinated airplane evacuation for a group of American girls out of St. Martin
- Coordinated boat pickup evacuation for family in St. John
- Coordinated water and additional delivery donation from Jost van Dyke charity to be delivered to JVD
- Worked with PR Navy, sailing groups and Airbnb to provide details of free housing via AirBnB for displaced persons as people evacuated
- Met with Virgin Unite to help coordinate on-the-ground communications in Tortola
- Met with Banco Popular about providing matching funds for all donations raised
- Provided forum and up-to-the-minute information on clearances, safety and needs for boats and planes attempting to provide aid to the islands
- Secured table space at both the Newport (Booth C50 if you are there) & Annapolis Boat Shows
- Directly raised nearly $20,000 for Sailors Helping initiatives and more than $200,000 through our immediate sailing network of friend's fundraisers
Of course, that was all before Maria. Tory and Jon then had to switch gears to focusing on preparation for the second Cat 5 hurricane in the region to be a direct hit on their home in Puerto Rico. Luckily, the Sailors Helping community kept going strong and kept the momentum going through mainland awareness and direct support for those in need via an active Facebook group.
Now, as we begin to refocus, the dust is settling, and more large scale humanitarian aid has begun to come in, we are shifting our efforts to the long-term rebuilding efforts focused on the people and communities who make our sailing experience so special.
We’ve heard from hundreds of boaters in the last few weeks and the common thread is that we all want to help the communities we hold so dear rebuild. This winter, in conjunction with some amazing partners in the sailing community, Sailors Helping will be organizing the Rally to Rebuild.
The Rally to Rebuild will be a massive flotilla meets habitat for humanity.
Our goal is simple. We want to work with the local boating communities on each island to identify the people and local businesses that don’t have the support they need to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. We'll deliver the materials needed to get these individuals and independent businesses back on their feet.
Sailors Helping will be coordinating volunteer opportunities for the cruising community to pick up a shovel, a hammer, or a trowel and help our island friends rebuild, one brick at a time. In collaboration with Dockwa, we'll also provide information on fuel, water, safety and provisioning supplies.