Tampa Bay volunteers helping rebuild Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian


NASSAU, Bahamas (WFLA) – Hurricane Dorian slammed into the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas on Sept. 1.

When it hit the outer islands of the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm, it was one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded. The storm slowed to a crawl as it made landfall, making the impact even greater.

Hope Town on Elbow Cay is a community with a long and rich history. Colorful Colonial-style homes are a signature feature of the island.

Dorian devastated many of the homes. The storm sent boats from the harbor far onshore and ripped apart buildings as island residents sheltered for cover.

Weeks after the storm, debris litters the streets, power lines have been torn down and the only electricity on the island comes from generators.

Jenn Walker is a volunteer from Lakeland, Florida working with a group called “Operation 300” in Hope Town, helping to clean up.

“We’ve been cleaning up churches, people’s homes, distributing food (and) clothes to families, working with kids, getting them bikes,” said Walker.

In the hot Bahamian sun, Walker and others with her volunteer group are working up a heavy sweat, knowing they are helping people they don’t even know.

“People’s lives have been completely uprooted. Homes, communities have been flattened,” she said. “But I will say this: Despite it all, they all have a smile on their face and they all say we survived, it’s a new day and we are going to be stronger.”

Justin Higgs is a native Bahamian. His wife grew up in Hope Town and they are both thankful for the help from Walker and her group of volunteers from Florida.

“We could not do this without the help they are providing. We just don’t have enough manpower right now,” said Walker.

There are no large relief organizations offering aide on the small island. There are only small groups like “Operation 300.”

“The government is overwhelmed, to say the least. They are doing what they can, but we are hugely dependent right now on volunteers and the groups that are coming in to help us,” said Higgs.

Walker says the lives of people in Hope Town are not the only ones that have been changed by Dorian. Her life and the lives of the volunteers have also been changed by what they’ve seen.

“It is different going back home and you can turn the light switch on or open up the fridge, but you really appreciate what you do have and I don’t think any of us are going to take things for granted,” said Walker.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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