Almost 7 Months After Hurricane Irma - Here are 5 Ways on How You Can Still Help Florida (esp Florida Keys)

Hurricane Irma is the most devastating storm ever recorded in the Atlantic. Its Category 5 winds have a speed up to 185 mph. It’s so strong that it even ended up showing up on scales for measuring earthquakes. It already has left Antigua, Barbuda, St Martin, Anguilla, St Bart, British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Florida into a ruin that is compared to be ‘apocalyptic’.

 Photo by  Cayobo  CC BY 2.0

Photo by Cayobo CC BY 2.0

It hit Florida with a Category 4 storm. Although it eventually weakened into a tropical storm, it still left the state in a huge mess. Irma brought destructive winds that tore off the houses roofs and uprooted trees. It left Florida without power and running water. It took the life of at least 12 people accdg to the news.

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As some of you may know, we ‘built’ our home on a sailboat in Florida. We’ve been living there for months now and since then, we have considered Florida as our home.  We are safe, grateful, and still optimistic. Thanks to the Mandatory Evacuation and to Ate Kring and her husband Josh, and our friends from Lago Mar Resort and Club in Fort Lauderdale whose home and hotel became our refuge in these trying times. We will forever be grateful to you ❤

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Jonathan and I only have tourist visas-- so we are not really considered residents of the US. So we had to go to the Sheriff to explain to him that we ‘live’ on our boat which is docked in Florida Keys. Thanks to the US Government, they gave us a sticker to prove that we are ‘residents’ so we can come back immediately after the hurricane to look after SV Empress.  We have spent so much time, money and effort to keep her. The cost of refurbishing it is twice or thrice more than the buying price.

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A MIRACLE HAPPENED-- based on a satellite photo released by NOAA, Empress survived the hurricane and she is still there floating where we left her!! She is a 1971 boat and she made it through 41 years, storms and hurricanes included!! (There are 15 boats docked on our lane, only two boats made it!) WE ARE VERY THANKFUL TO GOD AND TO THE UNIVERSE FOR MAKING THIS HAPPEN!! Unfortunately, most of the boats didn’t make it. Out of 300 boats docked and on the mooring ball, there are only more or less 60 which survived. Some are by the mangroves and some are just totally taken away by the ocean. While we are happy that she made it, we still can’t help but feel sad for our friends who didn’t.

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Our hearts were broken to see the aftermath of the hurricane. It has left thousands of families homeless, and some people either dead or orphaned. But despite all of these, we are happy to be alive and to see people working hand in hand to get back what we once have-- the lively, fun, and beautiful Florida. Some people just give free coffee, bread or food and it’s open to everyone who needs them. These people are not asking for anything in return! The immediate response of our modern day heroes-- the ambulance drivers, the nurses, the military, the coast guard, the navy and other public servants are really commendable!  

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Once we go back to Florida, Jonathan and I will volunteer to do anything that we can to help. It’s impossible to go back for now as the roads are still closed. But we definitely will-- and you can also do something!

1. Be a volunteer!

One of the best ways to do it is by lending a hand. If you have the luxury of the time, please volunteer in NGOs and Government Organizations to help give medical, dental and legal assistance. You may also help by packing and helping in the distribution of relief goods to all those affected or cleaning the Florida Keys. If you are skilled in doing basic construction works, tree cutting, and heavy equipment operation, your time and effort will be highly appreciated.

Volunteer: www.volunteerflorida.orghttps://www.fema.gov/www.nvoad.orgwww.serve.gov, www.citizencorps.gov or Red Cross.

2. Do you own any heavy equipment, tree cutter or warehouse? Lend them!

Lending them for use of organizations or private persons will be such a BIG HELP. Almost everything is shattered by the hurricane, and cleaning things up and finding a place to store our belongings or relief goods is a huge challenge.

3. Donate-- Preferably In Cash

Cash is the most effective way of donating. It offers the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources and pumps money into the local economy to help businesses recover. There is only one way in and out of Florida and we seriously don’t want to clog them. There are also limited warehouses to store the goods. Aside from that, it would take a lot of work to sort out the in-kind donations.

Every single penny can mean a lot to those affected by the hurricane, especially those who have lost their homes and their loved ones. But we can’t help that some people would take advantage of the situation, so please make sure that you are giving only to a legitimate organization like those stated above. If you’re still unsure as to who to give to, the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster website has a list of major non-profits active in disaster work or contact your FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaison for guidance. (Source: fema.gov)

4. Donate In-Kind

If you’re donating in-kind goods to Organizations, please confirm what is needed and give only what is specially requested by them. Again, we don’t want to clog the warehouse with unnecessary things. You can also send them to the person directly affected, preferably for rebuilding and refurbishing of the house, sailboat and trailer homes  (but make sure it's not that useless stuff that you have in your storage unit).

Until now, we have friends who were left in Florida on the day of the hurricane, and some even sailed to Mexico. As much as we want to all take them with us on the day we evacuated, we just can’t because the truck that we rented is really full. So I’m definite that there’s a lot of people who need them!! (Let me know if you have things to donate and I can personally make arrangements)

5. Share This Post!

Sharing this post could mean a lot as this might end up in the eyes and hearts of anyone who could come across it. So please please please do!

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It’s just amazing and heartwarming to see everyone helping each other and lifting each other up after this catastrophe. Despite the suffering, anger, and hatred deep within us, we are still humans after all-- capable of loving and sharing without expecting anything in return ❤

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