The Grand Bahama Children’s Home has had two very busy, challenging years – beginning with rebuilding the homes that house their children, destroyed by Hurricane Dorian, with the Grand Bahama Port Authority. Followed by the global COVID pandemic that brought delays in the rebuild and return of the children. These challenges, of course, have brought significant financial strain and concern, necessitating a reevaluation of what survival looks like for the Home in a post-Dorian and Covid world. Thankfully, a donor group has shown a tremendous interest in the Home – not only in our rebuilding efforts but in assisting the Home by providing new buildings and vehicles, staff training and a full-time therapy program and help establish a network to build sustainability in uncertain times.
SBP, Saint Barnaby’s Parish, well-known in Grand Bahama now for their bright yellow ‘light bulb’ shirts, seen repairing many homes for those in need, showed up after Dorian to assist the Home. The SBP team brought with them a wealth of disaster recovery experience in clean up, rebuilding, mold remediation, and international funding support. They have also been assisting the Home with charity development support, generating GoFund donations and other support among its network, site inspections and, just last month, donated a minivan to the Home for the children as well.
SBP recognized an opportunity to help the Home with similarly aligned benefactors and, in turn, introduced the board to Kate Rose, Chairman of the Kate & Justin Rose Foundation (KJRF), who wanted to impact the lives of the homes children with therapy and support – something the Board had wanted for many years. The KJRF fundraised over $700,000 to fund and develop a therapy programme inclusive of a full-time, onsite therapist, along with staff training program, for the 40-year-old facility.
It was via this connection with the Roses’ in The Bahamas that the third donor, Albany / One Bahamas Foundation, joined the team and immediately bridged a funding gap to speed up the rebuild as well as finance the construction, by Spartan Builders, of a much-needed separate laundry and storage facility, due to be completed by Christmas 2020. In addition, SBP has stepped in to provide walk-in refrigeration and industrial laundry facilities and replace the generator lost in Dorian. This all will help the Home more efficiently operate and manage inventory at the same time.
One Bahamas has also purchased a new bus for the Home and is slated to build a new therapy building in the new year. This addition is a great relief to both the Government of The Bahamas and the Board, who are expecting to house more children at the Home, which takes care of children, who are wards of the Government, from Abaco, Bimini, and Grand Bahama.
“If you can say there is a blessing from Dorian, these donors would be it for us,” said Mrs. Jean Hivert, GBCH Treasurer and Board Director. “Funding has always been a major challenge for the Home and, after Dorian, we knew we would need more help. This, of course, has been made all the more the case with COVID – these are very difficult times for everyone,” she explained.
“SBP has been there from the beginning,” said Sarah Kirkby, GBCH Board Director. “SBP helped us raise funds via a GoFundMe account and introduced us to international donors who were able to assist us and are still helping keep our doors open. We know reaching out to our local community is so difficult with so many in Grand Bahama struggling to survive. With this incredible team behind us, we can provide for our children in ways we had not been able to before,” added Kirkby.
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/.
Let the Renovations begin! After the storm had subsided, and the floodwaters receded, with the children safely bundled off to their temporary new home in New Providence, The Children’s Home was left with a big, soggy, smelly mess. Wonderful, generous volunteers from The Freeport Rugby Club, Bahamas Adventures, The Rotary Club, and so many more showed up with supplies to make certain the children were cared for. Teams of volunteers from far and wide arrived with face masks and work gloves, to empty the buildings of their ruined contents: The Scientology Volunteer Ministry, a huge, great gang from Bahamas Relief Cruise, the Trinidad & Tobago Defense Force, Cristina Zenato from Unexso and some good, strong arms who accompanied her, as well as many local friends and family of the Children’ Home. It took days and days to empty the buildings of everything from school bags to beds to refrigerators. There are not ample words to express our great appreciation for all of these fantastic human beings. But we hope that every single of of them understand just how thankful we are for their assistance.
And now we’re on to the real destruction, before the rebuilding can truly begin – Huge thanks to d’Sean Smith and Spartan Builders, for ridding the Children’s Home of the mouldy sheetrock and ruined floor tiles. One step closer to getting our kids back in their beds! #backintheirbeds
There’s still a long way to go, and so much to replace; please help by clicking on the link below, and donating to our GoFundMe page! There is no contribution too small or too big!
Since 1977, The Grand Bahama Children’s Home has been committed to helping children who, through no fault of their own, are unable to be raised in their own homes.
The Home provides these beautiful little boys and girls a safe place to thrive; an anxiety-free home where their bellies are full, they have full access to daily education, a big yard to play in, wonderful, loving people who care for them, and cozy beds to sleep in at night.
The Children’s Home was ravaged by Hurricane Dorian.
Thirty-two children (12 girls and 20 boys, ranging in age from 3 months to 14 years) had to be bundled up and evacuated to a shelter late at night, in the middle of the storm, as floodwaters rose around them at an alarming rate. Thankfully everyone made it to safety.
The children have lost everything.
The structure of the Children’s Home buildings is sound. But the contents are a total loss. The entirety will need to be gutted. The children have lost everything; from clothing to toothbrushes to books and toys. The Home itself lost all its possessions as well; fridges, stoves, freezers, sofas – everything is gone. As a result, the children have been moved over to another home on a different island, until we can restore The Grand Bahama Children’s Home.
First and foremost, we are grateful that the children and staff of the Home are all safe. Although we prepared well for hurricane Dorian with food and water supplies, generators, and battery-powered lamps, we were not ready for the sheer force of the storm, and we were helpless against the rising floodwaters.
We need your help.
We will restore The Grand Bahama Children’s Home as quickly as possible so that the kids can come back home. But we need help. Lots of help. We are reaching out to the kind, good, and generous spirit we find every day in our community, and from cities around the world, to come to our rescue through donations of all kinds.
We have created an emergency fund to assist with the reassembling of The Grand Bahama Children’s Home. We make this urgent plea for donations – please help us get our children back in their beds!