Home to be Rebuilt Bigger and Better
FREEPORT, GRAND BAHAMA– The devastating loss of life experienced by the northern Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian will surely echo for generations. For the most vulnerable among us — the children — the impact from the storm’s passage has been immediate. With scores of people still missing, many children may likely have been orphaned, and the Grand Bahama Children’s Home (GBCH) is a safe space that they could call home.
The GBCH has provided a haven for abused and neglected children ranging in age from six weeks to fourteen years, for over 40 years. In the wake of Hurricane Dorian’s wrath, however, this institution, like countless other homes and businesses on Grand Bahama Island, now finds itself in need of a complete restoration. Rising floodwaters not only displaced the more than 30 children but also gutted the Home’s buildings.
“We sustained significant damage” explained Executive Director of the GBCH Sheila Johnson-Smith “What wasn’t totally destroyed is now mold-infested so we are literally starting from the ground up.”
Over the past three weeks, volunteers from all over North America, including Florida, Colombia, Mexico, and Trinidad, converged on the home’s back-of-town site to assist with the huge task of emptying the buildings of their soggy, moldy contents. While the home is unlivable, all 32 children have been safely tucked away in New Providence at the Ranfurly Home for Children and two other Homes there.
“This has been a harrowing and very traumatizing experience for our children,” said Johnson-Smith, “however the Directors of the homes have all been in constant contact with me, reassuring me that our children are being well taken care of. That has been a relief for our entire team and has made it a little easier to focus on the rebuild efforts.”
According to the Home’s executive team, the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian has led more Grand Bahamians to the Children’s Home than ever before, asking for assistance. For exactly this reason, noted Johnson-Smith, they are working feverishly to put their Home back together.
“At this time, we simply have nowhere to house anyone or take anyone in, which is why this restoration effort is so important. We understand that now, more than ever, our services will be in great demand and we are working along with the Department of Social Services to assist where we can until we are able to reopen our doors as a place of safety and protection for our children.”
Anyone interested in helping with the restoration of the Grand Bahama Children’s Home is encouraged to donate to the organization’s GoFundMe account: https://www.gofundme.com/f/Rebuild-Grand-Bahama-Childrens-Home?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet
“As our children are now in Nassau, we are not asking for any perishables,” said GBCH Executivezxsd Board Member Sarah Kirkby. “We are in need of money; it’s as simple as that. Sadly, we need to rebuild our three housing areas, our offices, and (build) two new wings in preparation for any additional children that the Department of Social Services may wish to place with us, following this horrific hurricane.”
Thanks to the overwhelming assistance from volunteers and because of the staff’s around-the-clock dedication, the Home has been cleaned, gutted, and had the moldy, water-stained sheetrock walls cut out and discarded. “Spartan Builders is already on-site; we have limited insurance to rebuild, but we are determined to get going right away,” Kirkby noted. “Our plan is also to use local builders, in order to support our Grand Bahama economy. It is the corporate entities here and the people of Freeport who have kept us open all these years.”