Eckerd College’s Bahamian community leads the way in Hurricane Dorian relief efforts

Published September 4, 2019
Morgan Bower '22 gathering donations in box

Morgan Bower ’22 collects items to provide to Hurricane Dorian victims.

Bahamians at Eckerd College spent Labor Day weekend watching a slow-moving Category 5 hurricane ravage the northern region of their home nation—and deciding what they were going to do to help.

Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the northern Bahamas on Sunday, Sept. 1, and caused devastation across the region with 185 mph winds and more than 20 inches of rainfall over a 24-hour period.

Parallel relief efforts by Eckerd students and staff were launched on campus the next day to collect items and provide aid to the Hurricane Dorian victims who need it most.

Sophomore Morgan Bower spent her summer working on the Abaco Islands of the Bahamas and returned to Eckerd before the storm.

“I’ve gotten in touch with some of my friends and I’ve seen the videos on my timeline of what has happened,” said the environmental studies student from Nassau, Bahamas. “I knew we had to do something.”

Morgan reached out to the International Student Association, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of Service-Learning, the Center for Spiritual Life and Eckerd alumni from the Bahamas to start a relief drive for much-needed items for the people affected by Dorian’s slow-moving devastation.

“We tried not to focus on food,” Morgan explained. The group is collecting towels, washcloths, paper towels, cleaning supplies, clothing, shoes, hats, feminine products, new socks and underwear, hygiene products, blankets, baby supplies, first-aid kits and hand sanitizer, batteries (AA and AAA), flashlights, lanterns, insect repellent, hair products, work gloves, big garbage bags and water purification tablets through donation boxes at the Office of Service-Learning in Brown Hall, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion in Fox Hall, and Wireman Chapel. Morgan plans to end collections on Sept. 29 to make a shipment.

Kat Robinson, Ph.D., Eckerd College’s fellowship and scholarship advisor, has experience with offering relief to her country via her husband’s involvement with Hope Town Volunteer Fire and Rescue (HTVFR). He currently is operating as Incident Commander U.S. for the organization. Robinson is also collecting aid for the rescue effort via the St. Petersburg–based charity flight organization Sol Relief and another organization in West Palm Beach.

“During Hurricane Floyd, my husband was the incident commander for emergency operations,” said Robinson, whose husband’s hometown, Hope Town, took a direct hit last weekend. “I am working with Professor Heather Vincent and Dean of Faculty Suzan Harrison to cover my classes if he or I am needed on the ground.”

Her husband’s families (Malone) have lost homes—one that was built in the 1860s—and much more to Dorian’s howling winds and floods. “My parents-in-law sheltered in their grocery store, but their home is gone,” she said.

Sol Relief and HTVFR will send donated items based on the needs expressed during a reconnaissance mission this week. The charity also offers evacuation flights, Robinson said. “There is a population of undocumented migrants from Haiti that the government will not evacuate. So there are a lot of issues on the ground right now,” she explained.

People who wish to donate items can bring them to collection areas on campus or to Robinson’s office in the Bevan Center for Academic Excellence—or visit solrelief.org/dorian.

The Presbyterian Church, which maintains a covenant with Eckerd College, is also collecting disaster relief funds.