How can I try to explain something so fundamentally life-changing in a few words in a blog? I lived through Hurricane Mitch in 1998. 19,325 people didn’t. Irma by comparison, also a Category 5 hurricane, has killed less than a hundred.
The level of destruction though, is absolutely comparable.
Mitch changed my life in so many ways, mostly for the better. It wasn’t until a couple of years after that it really hit me, I broke down in tears in a restaurant after a mate of mine asked me ‘how was it’. I guess I’d never really processed quite what happened in the days after the hurricane hit. Or what it was for me to get out of the country knowing that I was leaving millions behind to start to rebuild their lives. I guess I still feel guilty about that – and in many ways that’s what led me to start One.
I talk about armageddon level destruction when people ask about cat 5 hurricanes. I’m sure everyone will know what I mean about that having seen the devastation caused by Irma. But what you don’t see from those images, is what it’s like for people in the days, weeks, months or years after. For me, the lack of food, clean water and electricity was immediately felt – even having to ‘smuggle’ a litre of water out of a US military base. The lack of infrastructure, roads and bridges made it almost impossible to move about. A lack of fuel made that doubly challenging.
Honestly, I struggle even to comprehend how people rebuild their lives. But I know it can be done. I ended up in an Oxfam tent one night in a place called Morolica. Although it was called Morolica, in truth it was wiped from the map during the hurricane. The people were adamant that they would get back on their feet, but at time they were still in shock.
Humanity does that. Gets back on it’s feet. Sometimes people just need a helping hand. And that’s what we try to do.
We’ve done it for over 3.2 million people. So thank you Mitch, what you took from me, I’ve given back in spades.
The One Foundation has donated £50,000 to provide an immediate WASH response in the Dominican Republic to protect the life, dignity and recovery of 1,500 families (7,500 people) affected by the damage caused by Hurricane Irma.
Photo credit: Fran Afonso/Oxfam