Friends of the Environment: An Anniversary we'll never forget
ONE. YEAR. LATER.
The anniversary of Hurricane Dorian reminds us of Abaco's devastation, recovery, and resilience since
September 1st, 2019.
Take the journey with us...
Just two days away from
making landfall, Dorian stirs in the Atlantic before it makes landfall
first in Abaco. Image credit to NOAA.
September 2019 : I M P A C T
September 1st, 2019, Hurricane Dorian wreaked havoc on the Abaco
islands. It was the strongest recorded Atlantic hurricane, with
sustained winds at 185mph and gusts over 220mph. Some of FRIENDS' Staff
and Board members endured the wrath of the storm, while others became a
fundamental part in communications from survivors to their loved ones.
The days that followed the landfall of Dorian encompassed feelings of
overwhelming grief, indescribable loss and unbelievable realities, with
moments of relief as survivors were accounted for and devastation as
others were lost. No amount of words can be relayed to describe exactly
how those moments felt, but one thing remained: the evident resiliency
of our Abaco people.
Community destruction after Dorian in Marsh Harbour. Mountains of debris were left behind. Photo credit to The Atlantic
and below): Our office building encompassing staff offices, the first
Natural History Museum in The Bahamas and our classroom was decimated.
Executive Director, Cha Boyce, holds our Bahamian flag with pride in
her community of Hope Town, Elbow Cay just a few days after Dorian hits.
any docks were left behind after Dorian passed. Pictured are destroyed
boats and docks in Treasure Cay. Photo credit to USA Today
October - December 2019 : G R O U N D I N G
seemed to be over in the blink of an eye as days meshed into one.
Although we were still experiencing grave challenges in our personal
lives, we knew it was time to begin grounding ourselves in our
organization and determine what we could do in the midst of this
tragedy. We regrouped and realized that our mission at FRIENDS could be
fulfilled in a whole new light. With a positive attitude and strong
determination, this realization lead us to embracing opportunities that
were coming our way from all sorts of avenues.
Farren, realising early on that he would not be able to bring the
Combustion Music / Hope Town Music Festival to Abaco, pulled together a
successful event of music and fellowship raising funds in aid of Dorian
Relief. FRIENDS team members traveled to Nashville to support the event.
Over the years the Combustion Music / Hope Town Music Festival has
become an important fundraising event for FRIENDS, and we look forward
to the days when the event will once again return to Abaco. We are
grateful for the generosity of our Nashville friends.
YachtAid Global (YAG)
needs of the schools that suffered minimal damage from Dorian were even
more pressing as new students transferred to them from other
communities. The generosity of YAG lead to school supply donations to
schools in South Abaco and Green Turtle Cay - from textbooks to tablets
and more. FRIENDS helped YAG connect with teachers to find out their
needs, and with delivery of those supplies in October, just one month
is a nonprofit organization co-founded by Cristina Mittermeier and Paul
Nicklen in 2014. Their mission is to create healthy and abundant oceans
for us as humans and for the planet. They visited Abaco to document the
social and environmental devastation from Hurricane Dorian. We were
able to lend local knowledge and logistics adding to the impact of their
storytelling. This will be premiered in the near future on SeaLegacy
and NatGeo platforms. Stay tuned.
Rocky Mountain Institute, Solar Micro Grids and 60 Minutes
Renewable energy became a popular topic of concern within communities after Dorian.
had been in discussion with Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) about solar
projects in The Bahamas the summer before Hurricane Dorian. RMI is now
working with government and utility agencies to advance solar
micro-grids for critical facilities in Marsh Harbour. 60 minutes joined
the RMI team to document the possibility of a more resilient and
renewable power grid for the future, and FRIENDS lent our assistance to
their teams during their time in Abaco.
importance of access to freshwater in our communities became even more
relevant after this natural disaster. We joined with partners from The
Water and Sewerage Corporation of The Bahamas (WSC), UNICEF, Water
Mission, The Goodness Tour, and Samaritan's Purse at the water pumping
station in Marsh Harbour for the launch of the "Abaco Sunny Waters"
Initiative, which will solarize well fields in Abaco.
January - March 2020 : R E C O V E R Y
we were grounded with the many opportunities that came our way
immediately after Dorian, we moved toward the beginning of our recovery.
Each day, the needs of Abaco became clearer, and we gained a better
idea of where we could add our expertise.
Mermaid Reef Cleanup
partnered with Eco-Blue Projects and Dive Guana to clean up Mermaid
Reef, a reef near and dear to our hearts and many others. In the
process, we were able to invite some students from Long Bay School to
help pull debris onto the land. Thank you to the Bahamian Environment
Protection Foundation, the Devereux Ocean Foundation, The Nature
Conservancy, Global Giving and Moore Bahamas Foundation for making this
cleanup and continued marine debris cleanup and related recovery efforts
After School Club Volunteering
February, our education team began volunteering at RISE Academy to
teach their science after school club. We were able to reach about 60
kids for two days every week.
School Visits Resume
first school visits after Dorian began in South Abaco with marine
mammal presentations in partnership with the Bahamas Marine Mammal
Research Organisation (BMMRO). We also had our first field trip since
the storm to Snake Cay mangroves with Long Bay School.
Puerto Rico Conference
Executive Director, Cha, and Outreach Coordinator, Lianna, were invited
to attend the Clinton Global Initiative's Disaster Recovery meeting in
Puerto Rico. Here, they made a plethora of connections with
environmental and philanthropic organizations and learned about
strategies for disaster recovery. Cha joined the Bahamas panel
discussion highlighting the impact on youth and environmental needs in
the wake of Dorian.
Palm Beach Reef Ball
to the generosity of many of our partners and donors, we were able to
have our annual Reef Ball in Palm Beach. Here, we were able to mingle
with many of our donors and friends of FRIENDS who are supporting our
recovery. We are thankful for a successful event and for everyone who
made this possible. The event was so much fun that we look forward to
future Palm Beach events, while also 100% committed to bringing the Reef
Ball home to Abaco.
WASH Curriculum Development
NEW Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Disaster Recovery (WASH & DRY)
program curriculum was developed to teach students about the importance
of freshwater in an island nation. This ties in with the "Abaco Sunny
Waters" project happening on our island. We are planning to implement
this program virtually in Abaco schools in the upcoming months. WASH and
DRY is supported by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy's 2019
Atlantic Hurricane Season Recovery Fund, and curriculum development
supported by Samaritan's Purse.
April - June 2020 : R E S I L I E N C E
resilience was proven once we began taking on projects in the midst of
the continual hardship surrounding life on Abaco post-Dorian. We
connected with national and international partners in efforts to begin
restoration of natural resources.
Mangrove Restoration Project
40% of mangroves were lost in Abaco from Hurricane Dorian. FRIENDS is
partnering with Bonefish Tarpon Trust (BTT), the Bahamas National Trust
(BNT) and MANG to develop a Northern Bahamas Mangrove Restoration
Project post-Dorian. We have committed to being a nursery site at our
location in Marsh Harbour, as well as implement the education component
with local students.
100k Tree Planting Initiative
has formed a partnership with The Sustainable Lifestyle to plant
100,000 trees in The Bahamas before 2030. The goal of this initiative is
education, community involvement and of course, planting more trees!
The goal for Abaco alone is to plant 17,500 trees.
Social Media Earth Day
COVID lockdowns, we advertised a multi-day "Earth Day Challenge" on our
social media platforms. This included doing a plastic audit, going zero
waste for a day, arts and crafts and even planting a tree! Seeing the
responses from a lot of our former students was encouraging.
July - September 2020 : G R A T I T U D E
we moved into the summer months, we began getting back to our roots.
Educational programs like our virtual summer camp were developed as we
endured new COVID restrictions, we re-established ourselves in the
Kenyon Centre and received a generous donation to aid in implementation
of our future programs. These months felt like a great period of
encouragement, with an overwhelming sense of sincere gratitude for the
progress we were making.
Virtual Summer Camp
education team compiled our first ever virtual program for this year's
summer camp. We provided activity kits for each camper beforehand and
ended up reaching over 40 kids, ages 3-16. This was a great experience
for us and we loved seeing familiar faces and meeting new campers!
Moving back into Kenyon Centre
has moved back into the Kenyon Centre and we're using it as a temporary
office and program facility. Our next steps are to replace our solar
array, as well as continuing to repair damages caused by Dorian. We are
grateful to Samaritan's Purse who were our amazing tenants from October
YachtAid Global Supplies for Future Programs
mentioned earlier, YAG has been a huge part of relief efforts since
right after Dorian, helping to source and deliver school supplies to
those in need. In late summer we received a generous donation of
supplies that will help us to be able to implement our programs once
again. We are grateful for this donation that replaces what was lost in
Dorian, and has additional materials to enhance our
In the Upcoming Months: R E B U I L D
we continue to move forward, we are hopeful for the future of our
organization. In the upcoming months, we will be taking action to
rebuild our home base in Marsh Harbour while continuing our programs and
ongoing engagements with partners. We are so grateful for the many
partners, donors, and grantors who have helped us get to this place. We
value each and every one of you and we look forward to continuing to
make positive change for Abaco's environment and people. Our founders
have inspired us to be stewards of our environment, spreading awareness
in our local and national communities to protect our natural
resources. With pride for our island we will stay true to our mission of
preserving the environment of Abaco, The Bahamas through education,
conservation, and research facilitation.
Photo credit to "The Christian Science Monitor"
A letter from our Executive Director
I reflect on this past year I feel a bit emotional, and those tears
that were once frequent are again finding their way back as I remember
those days of complete overwhelm following Dorian.
were confusing times; emotions that so many of us shared as we faced
personal loss and the devastation of our beautiful island
home. Confusing, because in the face of adversity, as we pulled together
and regrouped, the greatest emotions were of hope and gratitude. With
the outpouring of care and concern from so many, it was impossible not
to be hopeful and feel grateful.
have been extremely thankful for all of you, our FRIENDS' family, who
reached out and supported us. This past year will not be
forgotten. There has been tremendous growth in the organisation with an
amazing team embracing the challenges of moving forward. Opportunity
became my word and action of choice, and knowing that Abaco needed
FRIENDS, maybe more than ever before, we were able to embrace
opportunities that helped with relief, recovery and now rebuilding
are alchemists of our future, transforming “what is” for the better. We
are excited for all of you to join us on this journey forward as we
rebuild with the determination of transforming “what was” and making it
you from the bottom of my heart and soul for “being there”. Because of
all of you, our dedicated FRIENDS' family, we know we will come back
stronger, continuing to teach the next generations about the importance
of conservation and ensuring the protection of Abaco’s incredible and
diverse environment that we all love.