BVI's Emergency Employment Programme Provides Hope

Mar 8, 2018

In September 2017, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) was subjected to two category 5 hurricanes. Hurricane Irma, the first, being the most powerful hurricane recorded over the Atlantic, caused massive destruction across the small island developing state.  The situation further deteriorated as Hurricane Maria hit the country less than two weeks later. 

In response to the needs of impacted communities, The Government of the British Virgin Islands through the Department of Waste Management with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) initiated an Emergency Employment Programme for impacted families, funded by the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). Through this initiative, residents directly benefited from the emergency employment programme in  debris and waste management activities across four islands in the BVI: Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, and Anegada.

Daniel Fligelstone Davies witnessed the roof of his neighbor’s home being ripped off and rescued them from their destroyed home. His neighbors, who have four children -two under ten - had witnessed Irma make an attempt on their lives as it tore off their roof.  Daniel believes that the program has helped some of the participants regain confidence and hope for a brighter future. He expressed his wish for the program to go on longer as the families in the programme are in desperate need of stable income.

Louvina Williams, an Emergency Employment Programme beneficiary, was particularly impacted by the hurricanes as her home was described as “totaled.”  As a result, Louvina along with her three teenaged children now reside in a communal shelter in Tortola. Having been laid off following the hurricane, the programme was timely for Louvina and her children, two of whom are also employed within the programme. Louvina and her children  work each day with a smile as the Emergency Employment Programme has allowed them access to resources for food and other basic necessities.  

Jermaine Wharton, another resident made unemployed by the hurricane said, “Irma frig up my mother roof.” He has been staying with a friend since. While Jermaine seeks permanent employment, he expresses his gratitude for the Emergency Employment Programme because it has allows him to “get by” as well as meet new people. Jermaine said he is, “proud to be given the opportunity to help the community by cleaning up the BVI.” Having lost everything, it is encouraging that Jermaine finds fulfillment in the programme. Single mother, Shantelle Dickenson, expresses similar sentiments.

Anegada, one of the BVI’s small islands, was spared the brunt of Hurricane Irma, however there was still devastation abound. According to Anegada’s District Officer, Shirley Vanterpool, many persons on the island lost their jobs and homes and experienced great hardship. Shirley said that the Emergency Employment program has assisted some members of the Anegada community who were in need financially. Other members of the community who saw the work being done were extremely impressed by what was being accomplished and as a result have expressed their willingness to participate in future cleanup programs as volunteers.

Though the storm desolated the BVI, it did not destroy the resilient spirit of the people; and through initiatives such as the Emergency Employment Programme, the country continues to recover at a great pace. The programme has brought stability, confidence and hope into lives and has built bonds that will last a life time. Participants all express their gratitude for this opportunity and are sincerely grateful to the United Nations Development Program and its donors.

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