One Love BVI (OLB) today announced the successful launch of the world’s first international aid and volunteer organization focused solely on the British Virgin Islands.
Following the unprecedented devastation of Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in history, global activists leveraged the combined power of Facebook, Squarespace and DonorBox to harness the outpouring of support for the tiny, virtually unknown archipelago.
Sophie Leroy, an administrator of the grassroots Facebook group, “BVI Abroad – Hurricane Irma” and former resident of the B.V.I., said, “We never expected this to go viral — we thought we were just connecting a few friends who were desperately trying to get news about our loved ones in the B.V.I. Honestly, our entire admin team has been blown away by the response.”
The Facebook group exploded to over 32,000 members in just three weeks.
Members of the group rapidly began searching for ways to help. OLB’s Chief Operating Officer, Lauren Taylor, another former resident of the the B.V.I. and now a tech entrepreneur, recognized the need to create a volunteer database and launched BVI Volunteers in 15 hours using Squarespace.
Ms. Taylor said, “In the immediate aftermath of both Irma and Maria, we had thousands of passionate people who were ready to fly, sail or swim to the B.V.I. and roll up their sleeves and help. But the islands were decimated, food and water was scarce, and the U.K. and B.V.I. governments had no alternative but to declare a state of emergency and enforce a curfew. As hard as it was to stand by, we knew that more people coming in would have just added to the burden.”
“We didn’t want to lose the energy of over 30,000 B.V.I. fans,” Ms. Taylor added, “So getting willing volunteers into a database and preparing and staging them for volunteer opportunities was the first priority. We were able to provide a list of 40 trained medical personnel offering relief staffing to the team at Peebles Hospital in just 48 hours. That team is now over 100 people.”
In the B.V.I. business community, Cameron McColl, Chairman of Nanny Cay Marina, witnessed firsthand the need for an organization focused solely on the B.V.I.’s relief and recovery. Mr. McColl said, “Operating a large business in the B.V.I. and being closely connected with the territory for many years, I realized there was a need for a dedicated and efficient structure through which all that positive energy could be quickly channeled to where it was most urgently needed.”
OLB’s president, James “Jim” Scott, a former B.V.I. resident and co-founder of Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR), and former B.V.I. country manager for Tropical Shipping, agreed. “Realizing my own background held many of the components necessary,” Mr. Scott said, “and agreeing with Cameron that there was no obvious catalyst for all the incredible supportive energy that was flowing, it became clear that we had to form a new, B.V.I.-dedicated nonprofit.”
Mr. Scott added, “Knowing and loving those islands as I do, and having two B.V.I.-born children living there when Irma hit, I felt helpless, utterly frustrated as each story of catastrophic destruction reached me. So many good friends, members of my own family had just had their lives so brutally torn apart. I felt I had to do something.”
“With the tireless help of Lauren Taylor,” Mr. Scott said, “a friend and expert in the world of humanitarian aid nongovernmental organizations in Washington, D.C. we decided to create that catalyst, and One Love BVI was born.”
OLB has already garnered support from prominent B.V.I. citizens. Colin O’Neal, CEO of JOMA (Properties) Ltd., said, “As a British Virgin Islander who, like so many others, has suffered devastating personal and community loss from the hurricanes, I recognize the enormity of the journey to full recovery that lies ahead for us all. When I learned of plans to create One Love BVI, dedicated solely to helping us along that journey, I had no hesitation in supporting their efforts. We need help. They can get this done.”
Ms. Taylor added, “It made perfect sense to merge BVI Volunteers with One Love BVI. Now we’re adding tech capacities as fast as we can — in the next few weeks haveaheARTBVI.org will come online, a collection of B.V.I.-themed works donated by artists around the world, as well as our peer-to-peer fundraising platform. Organizations will be able to adopt schools, churches, community centers and small businesses in the B.V.I. and help them get back on their feet.”
Environmental and economic sustainability are key to OLB’s mission. Dalan Vanterpool, a B.V.I. citizen and private banking professional said, “If there is one clear opportunity for us that arises out of this challenge, it’s that we can make strategic changes around how we rebuild our infrastructure, homes and communities. We are in an ideal position to implement the most appropriate green technologies, and the B.V.I. can become a model for sustainable development throughout the entire Caribbean basin.”
Mr. Vanterpool added, “I believe my generation wants to see a green B.V.I. — and I don’t mean just having leaves on the trees again. We want to know that we have a thriving, healthy future ahead for all.”
About One Love BVI (OLB)
One Love BVI (OLB) is a U.S.-based nonprofit dedicated to the relief, rehabilitation and recovery of the British Virgin Islands. OLB provides aid, supplies and volunteers to help families, communities and businesses get back on their feet and build a thriving, environmentally and economically sustainable future. OLB’s core program, BVI Volunteers, leverages the professional skills of over 600 volunteers from around the world, with 22 teams including medical personnel, pilots, security, supply coordination, shipping logistics, architects, engineers, solar technicians, contractors, construction workers and more. Since its founding in September 2017, BVI Volunteers has responded to dispatch requests for relief physicians, supply coordination, evacuation support, communications, volunteer pilots, media content, interviews, database administration and geo-location support. Every penny OLB raises is going toward helping the B.V.I. rebuild better, smarter and stronger than ever before. For more information visit www.onelovebvi.org and www.bvivolunteers.com.
One Love BVI
+44 7717 717901
SOURCE: One Love BVI
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