The Disaster Event:
In September 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria crippled water, power and communications and damaged or destroyed thousands of homes in the U.S. Virgin Islands. On St. Thomas, one of the USVI's most populous islands with 50,000 residents, nearly 11,000 homes reported minor to moderate damage, and 545 reported severe damage or were destroyed.
Thousands need recovery assistance. Many people are living in homes without roofs and overgrown with mold. The storms' negative impact on tourism has meant elevated rates of unemployment - already 10.2 percent before the storm - and an increased cost of consumer goods in a territory where the cost of living was already 24 percent higher than the U.S. average.
As a small community more than 1,000 miles from the contiguous United States, with at least 40 percent of the population at or below the poverty line, the U.S. Virgin Islands are facing significant challenges following the hurricanes.
Debris Removal, Cleaning, Tarping and Sanitization on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Many homes remain untouched since the hurricane. The work begins with clearing away the debris inside and out. Water-damaged furniture, appliances and belongings need to be sorted through for what can be salvaged and what will need to be discarded. Homes had been tarped over by FEMA teams soon after the hurricanes, but many of the tarps were poorly installed or have already deteriorated and thus need to be replaced. The interiors of the homes need to be stripped to remove drywall, paneling and carpeting etc. so that the structure can be dried out, cleaned and treated to remove and prevent further damage from water and mold.
Volunteers need to be able bodied. The work will involve being exposed to a hot and humid climate, heavy lifting and climbing ladders, often while required to wear safety gear such as eye protection, safety hats, respirators and/or Tyvek protective suits.
- Preparation for the trip: "Mission Trips That Matter" by Don C. Richter, Upper Room Books
• On-Site Reflection: "Meeting God in the Ruins: Devotions for Disaster Volunteers." Free copies may be ordered from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America by calling 800.638.3522 ext. 2580 (ISBN 6-0001-6788-1); pay shipping only.
• Follow-Up Action: Help your local community prepare for possible disaster and response. Be sure your congregation has a plan in case of local disaster (see http://www.ucc.org/disaster_resources). Get to know your UCC Conference Disaster Coordinator and stay involved.
There are currently a number of small churches who are willing to host volunteers in their buildings. While they vary somewhat in their arrangements, most will be similar. The Volunteer Coordinators will communicate with the participating churches to identify housing for the week/s the group is interested in volunteering and ‘coordinate’ with the group organizer/leader regarding any specific details. Please understand that there are few individuals and no congregations who were not affected by these hurricanes, so many are in recovery themselves.
A minimum contribution of $10.00 per person per night is expected toward utilities etc. for the host congregation. Your group will have to decide how you are going to handle meal/grocery costs. Be aware that the cost of living on St. Thomas is 24% higher than Stateside.
Minimum Age: 16 years with Parental Consent Form
Group Size: 15 maximum
Adult to Youth Ratio: Each group must include a minimum ratio of at least 1 adult to every 4 youth of each gender.
Project operation will be Monday through Friday. Whatever your availability we expect that groups plan for at least a five-day work week. Often on work projects groups will arrive Sunday evening and depart Friday evening or Saturday by noon. Understanding that all volunteers will be flying, and flight arrangements are still a bit difficult to negotiate for St. Thomas, we will certainly work with you and, given the cost of transportation, do encourage those who are interested in volunteering for a longer term (up to three weeks).