Hurricane Irma: How to Help Storm Victims in the Caribbean and Florida

by Jessica Montevago
Hurricane Irma: How to Help Storm Victims in the Caribbean and Florida

Floridians settle in at a shelter for residents with special needs in Jacksonville, FL. Photo: Master Sgt. William Buchanan/U.S. Department of Defense


The Caribbean and Florida are only beginning to assess the damage left behind in Hurricane Irma’s wake and while the road to recovery will be a long one, travel agents can help relief efforts by donating money, goods or their time to the cause.

The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) set up a hurricane relief fund to help families and destinations rebuild. Money donated will go toward relief efforts in any of the CTO’s member countries. The CTO will disburse any money collected to the ministries of tourism in each country. So far, it has collected $5,000 of its $100,000 goal.

Tourism Cares and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) partnered to create the Caribbean Hurricane Tourism Recovery Fund. The fund will focus on “investment support for the most severely affected areas and to help hoteliers and their staff get back to business,” as well as projects including the physical restoration of damaged attractions and cultural tourism nonprofits, including historical monuments, beaches or open spaces and visitor centers. The CHTA and Tourism Cares aim to have the affected areas of the tourism-dependent Caribbean ready to receive tourists for the spring and summer seasons of 2018. Twelve travel associations have supported the fund, including ASTA, CLIA, USTOA, and USTA.

Choice Hotels is donating 1,250 free hotel nights to the American Red Cross and Boys & Girls Clubs of America to help first responders, volunteers and families displaced by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Members of the Choice Privileges loyalty program can use points to contribute to the American Red Cross – 1,000 points equal a $5 donation.

The New York Offices of the Government of Antigua & Barbuda created the Barbuda Relief & Recovery Fund with 100% of donations going toward rebuilding efforts. Over 95% of the island's homes and infrastructure are uninhabitable; the population was evacuated to sister island Antigua.

The consulate is also accepting goods, including non-perishables and toiletries. Most needed items include: canned goods, flashlights, batteries, diapers, toilet paper, sanitizer, toothpaste and toothbrushes, baby powder and soap. Drop off points can be found here.

St. John Rescue, a local, all-volunteer organization, said it needs immediate funds to help get rescuers, supplies and equipment to the island. They are already mobilized and on the ground and will be able to do more with more funds. All of the proceeds from the Go Fund Me will go directly to the people of St. John.

In Florida, volunteers are needed to staff the hundreds of emergency shelters set up. You can sign up with the state’s lead agency, Volunteer Florida.

Donations made to the American Red Cross provide food and shelter. The Salvation Army is accepting money to feed thousands of victims and emergency first responders. Save the Children keeps vulnerable kids and babies safe, whether providing a crib for securing safe space in shelters. Oxfam America will put 100% of funds designated for Hurricane Irma to support relief and recovery efforts for affected areas of the Caribbean.

Our four-legged friends need help too. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is putting 100% of donations to the ASPCA’s Field Investigation and Response Fund, used to support life-saving efforts for animals in disaster situations. Additionally, the South Florida Wildlife Center will put donations toward rescuing and rehabilitating imperiled wildlife.

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