We appreciate the coverage St. Croix and Cane Bay Cares received in the Miami Herald this past week. It’s important to highlight the unique position U.S. territories are in, not being fully incorporated as states or nations. Communities on the fringe often are overlooked, particularly during critical times such as these.
“If Puerto Rico, where the hurricane death toll now stands at 51, suffers from an invisibility problem in the minds of many Americans, then multiply that many times over for the U.S. Virgin Islands, with its population of only about 110,000,” the Herald article, “Neither states nor nations, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands face rocky storm recovery,” states.
Being part of the United States has many perks indeed, but being an unincorporated territory means rights are limited. And during times like these, relief arms of the United States are already stretched thin with responses to recovery in Texas and Louisiana from Harvey, Florida from Irma and Puerto Rico from Maria. But the fact remains, the Virgin Islands took a direct hit by both Irma and Maria at the storms’ full strength. While the USVI’s population might be comparatively small to these other areas, two back to back direct hits by category 5 hurricanes is devastating for these small islands.
“While the media is now focused on Puerto Rico’s destroyed power grid and ongoing shortages of food and water, many U.S. Virgin Islands residents are facing similar deprivations but without the attention. Power has been restored to less than a third of St. Thomas residents, to 16 percent of St. Croix customers and to hardly anyone on St. John although the power authority hopes to re-electrify portions of Cruz Bay by the end of the week,” states the Herald article.
With the federal government doing their best being spread thin, and the local government dealing with the fact that most of the local infrastructure was decimated and they themselves deeply impacted, much of the recovery and aid has fallen on the private sector and individual citizens to chip in and do their part.
“So while they wait for more substantial help, Virgin Islanders are trying to start the recovery themselves. ‘Distance and remoteness is something the USVI has had to live with. At the end of the day, we have to help ourselves,’ said Andrew Clutz, who works for the territory’s Economic Development Council’” states the Herald article.
The article mentions the Cane Bay Cares relief effort and quotes both founders of St. Croix-based Cane Bay Partners, David Johnson and Kirk Chewning.
“’We have Americans in this territory, no power, limited access to food and water, leaking roofs, no real hospital facilities and it will be like this for some time,” said David Johnson, a co-founder of Cane Bay Partners. “Because we’re such a small community, we don’t get the attention. But it does frustrate us.’”
“’It’s our own response in the private sector to step up,’ said Chewning. ‘The focus is on, how do we rebuild?’ They contributed their own funds and are asking others to donate as well,” states the Herald article.
And that’s it right there – where do we go from here? The needs on island keep changing and we keep adjusting our strategy to be more effective. One thing we all can do is to keep the discussion going, keep St. Croix on people’s minds.