For the past two months, executives, staff and volunteers at the Grand Bahama Children’s Home (GBCH) have been consumed with the task of rebuilding the facility which was heavily flooded as a result of Hurricane Dorian. For more than forty years, the Home has provided a safe haven for abused and neglected children and, at the time of the storm, housed thirty-two children ranging in age, from three-months-old to fourteen years. The children and staff had to be rescued as storm surge waters came in and have since had to be relocated to similar facilities in New Providence until the Home can be rebuilt.
As recovery efforts have progressed, the outpouring of support from both local and international donors and volunteers has been tremendous. “In the immediate aftermath of the storm, volunteers from all over North America flew in to assist us in the effort,” noted Sheila Johnson-Smith Executive Director of the GBCH. “Since then, we’ve had so many relief organizations and corporate entities rush to the aid of the home. It has been incredible to watch them provide us with the much-needed resources and support to get us back up and running in order to get our children back in their beds for Christmas.”
The Home’s most recent benefactor is world-renowned comedian and television host Steve Harvey. Through his outreach organization: The Harvey Foundation, Steve and his wife, Marjorie, have provided youth outreach services for children around the world with the sole purpose of cultivating the next generation of responsible leaders through educational enrichment, mentoring, life transformation skills and global service initiatives. Upon hearing of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Dorian’s passing, the couple leaped into action to help the Home which has sheltered the island’s most vulnerable residents.
On October 13, The Steve & Marjorie Harvey Foundation honored Sheila Johnson-Smith, the GBCH Executive Director, with the 2019 Harvey Hero Award and donated seventy-five thousand dollars towards recovery efforts at the Home. “I am honored and so grateful for the generous donation from the Harvey Foundation” gushed Johnson-Smith. “We still have a long way to go in terms of full restoration but this donation provides such an incredible boost to the work we’re doing.”
While major financial donations have helped propel the rebuild of the facilities, the Home has also received an outpouring of donated items from various international groups as well. In the days and weeks following Dorian, smaller organizations and NGOs have also done their part to help. Indian Princesses, an organization that can be found across the United States, seeks to encourage father/daughter bonding experience caters to girls between the ages of 5-14, allowing dads and daughters to spend time together by engaging in various community projects. Following Dorian’s passage, the organization’s South Florida tribes sprung into action. Using a specially curated amazon list, the group donated up to the 33 packages of items and has been working closely with officials at the GBCH to meet the ever-evolving needs of the Home.
“We immediately looked for ways to collectively help in Dorian relief efforts and each tribe in the group has done some really good work,” said Michael McGinn, head of the South Florida Dakota Tribe. “As the leader of our tribe, I wanted to do something impactful but with an organization that aligns with our purpose, and one our girls could relate to so this made the GBCH a perfect fit.”
Local NGOs like Friends of North Andros, in addition to providing a seven thousand dollar pledge towards the reconstruction of laundry facilities at the Home, the group has also donated thousands of dollars in goods ranging from bed sheets and towels, to gift items to be distributed just in time for the holiday season.
The Home has also been the charity of choice for two significant events in the USA, one held last month at the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show, Sea Soirée Charity Luncheon and Fashion Show, which featured the well known Below Deck cast and Joao Franco who was the master of ceremonies at the fundraiser. The second event will take place in Atlanta at the Commerce Centre on Peachtree Street, organized by the Caribbean American Cultural Arts Foundation to benefit the expansion needed to house the home’s expected new orphans from Abaco.
“The outpouring of support and care has been truly overwhelming,” said Sarah Kirkby, GBCH Executive Member. “We were invited to speak at the soiree and from that event, we have been able to reach other groups willing to help us. It’s a mammoth task raising 32 children, an expensive undergoing in regular times. Now that we know our numbers may double we need to be prepared to cope financially to raise more children and more importantly, doing so on our own” she explained, “as residents on Grand Bahama Island are already struggling. We realize that expecting our usual level of community and corporate support would be too much to ask at this time. These funds, this amazing help, will help keep us going, fully restore our Home, hopefully, help provide for a therapist on an ongoing basis and help safeguard our being able to provide this Home going forward for our children who have no one and nowhere else.”
For those wanting to help the GBCH with the ongoing restoration financial donations are encouraged via the organization’s GoFundMe account: https://www.gofundme.com/f/Rebuild-Grand-Bahama-Childrens-Home?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet To follow the Grand Bahama Children’s Home’s progress, connect with the Home via its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Grand-Bahama-Childrens-Home-110943278942070/.