“What we’ve experienced is something like what you’d see in a horror movie.”
“It was the most devastating experience in my life.”
That’s how residents of the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda describe deadly Hurricane Irma that ripped through their small country last week.
As Terry Somerville, from his 88.7 Spirit FM studio, watches video clips of the devastation, he admits it’s hard to watch. He has a personal connection to these people.
Last September, Somerville, manager of the Campbell River Christian radio station and a trained pastor, travelled to Antigua and Barbuda to teach at a church there and help the country with its struggling prison system.
He connected with and became good friends with Bishop Charlesworth Browne, pastor of the country’s Christian Ministries Centre.
After the massive category 5 hurricane wiped out most of the island of Barbuda, the first thought going through Somerville’s mind was, ‘what can I do to help?’ As it turned out, he wasn’t the only one.
“I got calls from people in Campbell River asking if there was something we can do to help the hurricane victims,” Somerville says.
So the charitable organization behind Spirit FM, Total Change Ministries, decided to take action. It’s just launched its own fundraiser to help with whatever the people of Barbuda need. Currently, the island has been evacuated to the other side of the country – the neighbouring island of Antigua. The country’s prime minister has reported that 90 per cent of the homes in Barbuda have been damaged and roughly 60 per cent of the island’s population are now homeless.
Somerville says that miraculously, Antigua was largely spared, suffering some heavy winds but getting back to normal within 24 hours.
“They’re just 30 miles from the eye and they came out with minor damage, it’s a total miracle,” Somerville says.
All eyes are now on Barbuda, with recent estimates of $50 million being reported to re-build the island.
Somerville says his goal in Campbell River is to raise $10,000 and that money will go towards a program in Barbuda to help get the island nation back on its feet.
“We’ll have this money, if they say we need construction materials or mattresses, that’s what we’ll buy. We don’t know what they need yet, it’s too quick,” Somerville says. “It could be clothes, they’ve lost everything.
“We’ll put it into something that really helps people and we’ll be working with Bishop Browne who’s on the ground and knows what’s going on and what the needs are and how soon they can get back to the island.”
Somerville says he intends on going to Barbuda himself once the island is habitable again to see how he can help. He says he believes the country can use all the help it can get.
“Barbuda is just a small place. You tend to hear about Florida but Antigua and Barbuda is out there,” Somerville says. “That’s my concern, that it will tend to be forgotten. Their GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is low, it means they don’t have a lot of money to deal with it. It’s the people with less means, they won’t have insurance and all that.
“It is an out of the way island, it’s relatively unknown and they don’t have a great means to re-build,” Somerville adds.
Anyone who would like to donate to the cause can do so in a couple of different ways.
Donations can be made directly to Total Change Ministries via cheque with a note on it for hurricane relief mailed to: 100 Jones Rd., Campbell River, B.C., V9W 2V1. Donations can also be made in person at the Spirit FM studio in the Campbell River Common Mall or by going to Total Change’s GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/barbuda-rescue