Saint Barth is one pretty lucky island! We had the good fortune to be spared hurricanes of any serious magnitude for the past 10 years, expect last year’s Omar, which caused damage to the docks due to high waves (please keep your fingers crossed for future seasons…). But here we are just a few hundred miles away from Haiti. The contrast was already striking: one of the richest islands in the Caribbean VS the absolute poorest. An average visitor to Saint Barth would spend more in a week than the average annual income in Haiti. But there was always hope for Haiti, hope that the country would pull itself together and emerge in a new light. Have those hopes been permanently extinguished by the massive earthquakes that hit the island in the early weeks of 2010? Over the past 15 years, the Saint Barth Film Festival has hosted numerous guests from Haiti and shown many Haitian films. Raoul Peck, Monique Clesca, Arnold Antonin, Michele Montas. Showing the intellectual, artistic, and cultural excellence of Haiti. Yet a film called “Port-Au-Prince, Ma Ville” illustrated the difficult conditions for hundreds of thousands of the islands eight million inhabitants, 80% of whom live under the poverty level. And those conditions have just worsened beyond anyone’s worse nightmare in the wake of the seismic shocks that have flattened much of the island’s capital. So what can we do to help? In the days following the earthquake, many service organizations in Saint Barth stepped up to the plate. The Lions Club went to the bank the very next morning and opened two accounts, one in dollars and one in euros, in the name of the Saint Barth Haitian Disaster Fund, so that residents and visitors alike can make donations. Most of the money will go directly to Haiti via Sister Jeanne Maurice, a nun who serves as a contact for the Lions Club, while other funds will go to NGOs in the field. In addition, the Rotary Club immediately ordered three Shelter Boxes for Haiti. Invented by Rotarian Tom Henderson, a former Royal Navy search and rescue diver, these survival boxes cost 750 euros each ($1000) and contain a tent for 10 people, rugs, blankets, a gas or kerosene stove, kitchen utensils, Jerrycans, a water purification system, and tools: saw, axe, shovel, ropes, and mosquito netting, and activity packet for kids. The Rotary will also collect funds to finance additional Shelterboxes. Other activities are also on the drawing board so that those of us lucky enough to live in Saint Barth can share some of our good fortune with those who need all the help they can get. So let’s all do we can to help. You never know, the next massive earthquake could come our way, and we’d be looking for help ourselves.
More to come,