Barbuda Irma Relief Update

Dear Friends of The Coco Point Fund:

We are excited to provide you with an update on what The Coco Point Fund is doing to help our friends on Barbuda recover from Hurricane Irma. First of all on behalf of our board, and me personally, we thank you for your generous donations, which currently total approximately $750,000. This is a very good start… but more on that later…

Traditionally, since our inception in 1978, The Coco Point Fund has focused on three areas; scholarship funding, medical supplies and facilities, and local school support. As you know, Hurricane Irma devastated Barbuda’s infrastructure, educational and medical facilities and housing stock. The good news is that there is a significant effort underway to support the reconstruction of the island infrastructure, and plans to rebuild the educational and medical facilities. These efforts are complicated by the remoteness of the island, bureaucratic impediments and the political arguments regarding land ownership.

Your Fund is fortunate to have a board that has deep and long ties to the Barbudan community, which when combined with a broad spectrum of business experience, allows us to navigate these issues and apply our funds judiciously and effectively with full accountability.
One or more members of our board have met with the Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, the Director of NODS (disaster relief), the Education Ministry, the CEO of the Waitt Foundation, The Clinton Foundation, and Rev. Billy Graham’s Samaritans Purse. All are actively staffing volunteers in Codrington. Our efforts are informed by these meetings and interactions and we will continue to coordinate with them when appropriate.

Scholarship Funding. The board has resolved to continue our scholarship funding and meet our existing scholarship commitments. We are also actively prepared to support future qualified applicants.

Medical facilities, equipment and supplies. We are currently evaluating what the Antiguan Red Cross, the Antiguan government and the other charitable organizations on Barbuda as to what they are doing in this area before we make a commitment. We are prepared to be involved but we will require more clarity and accountability before committing funds.

Local School needs. The Mill Reef Fund has informed us that the rehabilitation of Holy Trinity School, the grade school, will be fully funded by a family charitable trust from Barbados. It is also our current understanding that the high school, Sir McChesney George School, will be reopened by the government in coming months, and in the interim serve both grade schoolers and high schoolers on an expanded daily schedule. Lastly, the preschool, William Cody Kelly School, was severely damaged and we are considering collaborating equally with the other active relief funds on Barbuda to rehabilitate or rebuild it. Over the next 6 weeks one or more board members plan to meet with Education Ministry personnel and make a personal site visit to develop an appropriate action plan.

Due to the devastation Irma wrought to the island’s housing stock, we have added a fourth major priority, housing reconstruction. After extensive information gathering and feedback from trusted residents of Barbuda we felt we needed to provide much more assistance to the Barbudan people, beginning with the employees of Coco Point Lodge. We hope to follow that with wider individual relief in partnership with the island’s other active relief funds.

The direct assistance we have provided to date is as follows:
In November we delivered relief checks of $500 /EC1350 to each of the 90 Coco Point employees who were employed by Coco Point Lodge last season. This was meant to supplement the Red Cross distribution providing additional daily living resources. It was greatly appreciated. We also co-sponsored, along with the Waitt Institute/Blue Halo, a swimming and soccer program on Antigua for all Barbudan children. To date, we have approximately 80 Barbudan children participating and we have gotten terrific positive feedback. In the new year, a second session of 80 children will begin. In addition, we will be delivering much needed sport shoes to these children within the next month.

Last week, with the superb assistance of Home Depot, we shipped a 40 foot shipping container load of much-needed building materials to Barbuda; including 2 x 4’s, plywood, corrugated roofing, nails, screws, tools, etc. (see the photo below) Our priority is to help rehabilitate damaged and reconstruct destroyed homes, categorized by the UN’s assessment of all buildings on Barbuda as level 1 or level 2 (salvageable with work). In order to facilitate this effort, we hired long-time Coco Point Lodge team members Bentham Lewis and Anne Marie Gore to help us locally to coordinate, receive and distribute these materials to Coco Point employees. We are regularly updating our assessment of the specific needs of this group and we anticipate sending several more similar loads of building materials and tools over the next few months. It is our understanding that there will be volunteer workers (carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc.) arriving early in the new year to help island residents rebuild their homes using the materials we/you and others are providing. We are currently assessing how we can hire local skilled Barbudan’s to perform work for our first priority constituents who the volunteers cannot get to.

In executing all of these current and expected actions, you should know that a guiding principle the board is following is to channel all our resources directly to the people in need. We will not contribute funds to other relief organizations, nor pass any funds through Coco Point Lodge related accounts or government or local council accounts. For example, if we get involved with the preschool project we will stipulate that we pay contractors directly. In addition, every member of our board has either made or pledged a meaningful financial contribution to the Fund. The Fund’s board has held nine conference calls to date and each board member has spent numerous hours individually gathering information, planning strategy and executing. We have also agreed to personally cover our own expenses when we make visits to Antigua and Barbuda. We are seriously committed to executing on the Coco Point Fund’s mission. We will have a Facebook page soon which will be useful in disseminating updated information. In addition, we are revamping our website to be more informative, and will update it as soon as we can. If you have any questions, suggestions or comments please feel free to contact any member of the board, or me if you don’t know one. All of our contact information is contained on a page at the end of this letter.

With respect to donations and the “good start” noted above… On behalf of our board, I am personally asking you all for additional contributions as the needs are substantial. If you have already made a contribution I hope you find our commitment, process and direction compelling enough to consider increasing your gift. If you have yet to contribute to the Irma relief Fund please do so before year end. We have years of work ahead of us, and our success depends upon having the needed financial resources. There is no doubt in my mind that our Barbuda brethren have made a real difference in our lives, so please help us make a real difference in their lives!

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Michael Smith, Acting President, The Coco Point Fund

Hurricane Update

Dear Fellow Guests and Friends of Coco Point Lodge:

As promised, we want to keep you in the loop regarding progress on Barbuda and the information we have gathered since Irma. A few weeks ago, a board member, Kemper Pierce, traveled to Antigua to meet with Coco Point employees, Barbudans, the Barbuda Council and the Prime Minister.

He also had the opportunity to go over to Barbuda and see firsthand the damage to both Codrington and Coco Point Lodge. Here is where things stand to date:

Current Coco Point Fund Initiatives

Distribution of EC$1350($500US) to all ~90 Coco Point Lodge employees, particularly in light of their A&B Red Cross support running out on Dec. 15th.

Enrollment of ~80 Barbudan children living in shelters in soccer and swimming programs on Antigua, providing a structured way for displaced children to interact and play with other Barbudans – in conjunction with Waitt Institute

Sourcing badly needed building materials (corrugated, lumber, block) for delivery to Barbuda for home rebuilding

Commitment to rebuilding either Holy Trinity School or the Hanna Thomas Hospital; based on where the government deems our help most needed

We now believe there may be an even bigger joint effort with similar organizations, including the Mill Reef Endowment Fund and Jumby Bay Fund. We have connected with them and will have more information on our cooperation in the future

We are coordinating with other endowments and aid organizations as well, including the Red Cross, Robert DeNiro and Blue Halo to facilitate rebuilding in a coordinated and productive way

The Board maintains regular contact with Lodge staff members, Ray and Denise Doherty and each other

Status of Codrington & Rebuilding Efforts

Cleanup and fumigating of the island is ongoing, with most roads in Codrington currently clear

An infirmary is functioning on island, with support from the Canadian Red Cross and other agencies

The Antigua Barbuda Utility Authority (APUA) is working to bring electricity back online; water is returning for those connected to the public grid; Digicell service came partially online this week

Lincoln Burton’s market is open and local civic organization “The Block Club”, of which many staff are members, has been providing meals to relief workers during cleanups

Barbudans have begun returning to the Island in small numbers and many continue to make trips to clean and rebuild, most indicate a strong desire to return though schools and jobs remain a long-term necessity for large-scale repatriation

This article in the LA Times effectively frames the challenges Barbudans face in returning home.

Coco Point Lodge

Coco Point Lodge was severely damaged with most rooms and the lodge either significantly or completely destroyed

Power, water and fuel infrastructure all seem to be in good working order although there wasn’t any insurance, so rebuilding is questionable at this time

The Fund remains very interested in the reopening of Coco Point Lodge given its importance as an economic driver for the Barbudan people and a revenue source for the local government

We have come to realize that the logistics of Barbuda’s recovery are exceptionally daunting and we continue to be 100% committed to making sure all funds go directly to the Barbudan people. The Board is working to come up with a meaningful, significant and actionable plan and as we gain a better understanding of the work ahead we will continue to solicit your feedback and support.

Once again, thank you for reaching out, showing your care and concern and giving generously to a place we all have come to love as a home away from home.

Best wishes,

The Coco Point Fund Board

Hurricane Irma Update

Dear Guests and Friends of Coco Point Lodge and Barbuda:

The outpouring of care and concern has been, in a word, incredible. As members of the Coco Point Fund Board (CPF) we think it is important to keep you updated on the information we know and decisions that are being made.

As many of you know, immediately following Hurricane Irma, we sent out a solicitation letter with a number of ways in which people could contribute, including a link. We have heard from many people who would like to help the people of Barbuda. As stewards of the Fund we want you to know that our commitment remains strong. We have commitments through 2017 for scholarships we have granted, and they have already been paid in full. There are remaining 2018 and 2019 scholarships which we hope to continue to fund from past donations.

We have been in contact with Denise, Ray and Patrick. We understand that all Barbudans are on Antigua, are being housed and well cared for, and as of today all Barbudan children are being registered in Antiguan schools. This was encouraging to hear, and we are happy to share this news with you. It was also relayed to us that this meant there isn’t an immediate need for emergency funding from the Fund. However, the Board discussed the desire to honor our wish, as well as the wishes of many others, to reach out and show the Coco Point staff and families that we are all here for them, to show our care and desire to help. We want to do what is best and most helpful. To that end we are continuing conversations with Denise and Ray, who are in touch with most of the employees, and understand the situation and the needs. Once we have a clear understanding of the best way to move forward providing funds in a responsible way we will do so.

To date the amount received by the Irma Relief Fund is approximately
$85,000. We encourage you to continue to be as generous as possible, knowing that although immediate needs are being met by outside groups, there are substantial mid and long term needs that we can address. The Funds’ priorities are first and foremost the employees of Coco Point Lodge, followed by our scholarship program and assistance for the local Codrington schools and hospital. The CPF board has agreed that your contributions to the Irma Relief Fund will only be used to meet these priorities and not for other purposes, such as rebuilding Coco Point Lodge.

Once again, thank you for all your care and concern…it truly makes a world of difference.

The Coco Point Fund Board

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