Bahamas Emergency Response: Documenting the aftermath of hurricane Dorian with DoGoodFilms

I’m once again re-united with DoGoodFilms since our recent trip to Jordan earlier this summer to document the #NoLostGeneration Tech Summit in Amman, after which we went on to create a pilot of Around the World and Black.

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This re-union however is on much more emotional grounds – documenting the aftermath of hurricane Dorian – the most powerful tropical cyclone on record to strike the Caribbean islands of The Bahamas which saw powerful winds, rain and surges of sea water caused by the category five storm pummelled the islands for three days.

Call out bad journalism…

Last night I read a CNN article online (In this crippled part of the Bahamas, US medics can smell more bodies than they can find) which I found extremely triggering and sensationalised of situation in Grand Bahama, where I’m currently writing this post from. The article opened with; “It takes just seconds here to be overwhelmed by the stench of death…” painting a picture of war-torn carnage, as opposed to a natural disaster. Continuing to read the article it becomes clear to me it’s written from a ‘safe distance’; full of misleading assumptions on what the situation might be like. ‘I think there will be a lot of dead bodies…”

Widespread devastation, communities destroyed – yes. But stench of dead bodies – NO! It’s understandable for that there will be swifts of unpleasant smells however I feel it’s far fetched to place it solely on human bodies.

Then I scrolled down to the bottom of the CNN article; “Rosa Flores reported from East Grand Bahama, and Holly Yan wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Nick Scott contributed to this report.”… Not all the writers were even there! Do better CNN!

I took this example of bad journalism to heart, especially being on the field personally and speaking to local people. These are real people’s lives! Painting an image that there are dead bodies lying about is extremely triggering and disrespectful to those who’ve lost loved ones or still missing family members. I’m witnessing people of east Grand Bahama trying to bring some normality back into their lives despite being neglected by their Government who wants them to evacuate. I witnessed a pride in salvaging what’s left of their broken homes…

Back wearing my travel journalist/producer hat…

I flew out to The Bahamas a few days ago to join DoGoodFilms director and filmmaker, Ivo Belohoubek on commission for Splunk and NetHope focusing on ‘connectivity’ to areas hardest hit by the hurricane. As my first emergency response I was expecting it to be emotional.

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Yesterday we visited Sweetings Cay on the Eastern part of Gran Bahama island and witnessed the strength of the local people doing what they can to bring some ‘normality’ back to their community, despite Government warnings to evacuate… These are islanders at heart!

The hour-long drive took us on a long stretch of road from Freeport Eastbond via High Rock where Nethope and partners have set up connectivity for IMC (International Medical Corps)’s field clinic. We stopped off at a petrol station in Freeport before heading on the journey, and even the assistant I’d got talking was skeptical about us doing the trip with our Nissan car rental. Thankfully the roads had been relatively cleared, however the evidence of the wreckage a vivid motion picture through the screens of our car window. The further east we went the more intense the damage.

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Prior to arriving at Maclean’s Town Cay, we stopped by Turtle Reef bay to join Team Rubicon and NetHope with supplies for Sweetings Cay – one of the cluster of islands East Grand Bahama only accessible by boat. Arriving at Maclean’s Town Cay port we were greeted by a group of tail-wagging dogs who clearly missed human affection in what looked like a deserted ghost town. The NetHope guys left some pet food and water for them… These didn’t look to me like street dogs, but rather someone’s pet with a name who’s used to being shown affection.

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Hurricane Dorian survivour
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DoGoodFilms in documenting

I met Joseph, a Sweetings Cay resident and conch cracking champion (I spotted one of his trophies sticking of of the rubble in front of what was his 8 bedroom home) who shared with me his experience of surviving #hurricaneDorian, and the impact internet connectivity provided by NetHope has had on him;

“After this house get filled up with water I moved through the go up top onto the split level, and tied (myself) with a rope… I tagged on there from about 10 o’clock till 6 in the morning when the water started going down… It wasn’t easy. It was terrible. I’m so glad I didn’t have none of my family – if my family was here they woulda been gone, coz I only could have saved myself… Since @nethope_org put up the signal, I talked to them (family) yesterday. They could hear my voice, make them feel better so they know I’m alive… Right now that’s what we really need – communication.” – Hurricane Dorion survivor, Joseph Tate. Interview conducted for Splunk DoGoodFilms

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NetHope setting up connectivity for Sweetings Cay community
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What’s left of Joseph’s home.

Thanks to NGOs such as Sea Shepherd we met distributing food and other necessities to this isolated community, Team Rubicon who joined us to set up tents provided by SOS Attitude, And of course – NetHope for working tirelessly that day to bring internet connectivity to Sweetings Cay residents.
๐Ÿ“ธ All my own @travelmakerkai
Myself and filmmaker Ivo Belohoubek are available for commissions @makingkai @dogoodfilms email travelmakerkai@gmail.com

Kindly excuse typos. Limited internet connection so unable to re-edit.

Kai

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