Hurricane Irma was one for the history books. Most of us witnessed the storm from afar, glued to the news and social media coverage of both the threat by and destruction left behind by the storm—one of the most powerful ever recorded—after it wreaked havoc in Florida.
But for me, Irma’s impact was personal. I was born and raised in Virgin Gorda, one of the 4 small main islands that make up the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which took a nearly direct hit.
A BVI native, I felt compelled to help. Though I have lived in the United States since 2006, I still have family living on the island. Due to power and cell phone service outages, it took me several panicked and nerve-wracking days to make contact with them after the storm.
Once I did, I learned that almost everyone on the island was affected by the hurricane in some shape or form. Nearly every building was damaged or destroyed. Fortunately, my parents’ home is still intact, but the roof of my father’s auto-body shop was completely ruined. Food markets are now open, but looting is still rampant. It will certainly be a long road to recovery for Virgin Gorda and the rest of the BVI.
To aid in the relief and recovery effort, I coordinated a supply drive out of the Aspen Dental-branded practices in Peoria and East Peoria, IL, where I work as an associate dentist. Through the drive, I hoped to gather supplies, tools, water, and non-perishable food for victims in the BVI. Between September 12 and September 30, members of the community dropped off items at both of our Peoria and East Peoria locations.
As a result of the drive, we raised more than $1,250 to use toward shipping costs and gathered multiple boxes of relief items—enough to fill 3 large shipping barrels! In addition to supplies, tools, water, and non-perishable food items, the community also donated toiletries, clothing, pillows, and blankets for the Irma victims.
I’m now sorting and vacuum sealing donations and am aiming to send the shipping barrels soon. The barrels will be sent to Miami first, where they will then travel to Tortola via cargo ship. Tropical Shipping, a cargo transportation service that operates primarily in the Bahamas and the Caribbean, is offering discounted “hurricane relief rates” that I will be able to utilize.
I’m beyond grateful to the Peoria and East Peoria communities for their generous donations, to my friends near and far for their gracious monetary contributions, and to my Aspen Dental family for their incredible support during this time. It truly takes a village. While it may be a long road to recovery, where there’s a will, there’s certainly a way.
To learn more about the various ways to contribute to ongoing relief efforts for the British Virgin Islands, please visit BVIrelief.com.
Originally from the British Virgin Islands, Dr. Andrews is an associate dentist at an Aspen Dental-branded practice in East Peoria, Ill. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University, he completed the dental post-baccalaureate program and then received his DMD from Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine in Cleveland. He relocated to Peoria, Ill, to complete his general practice residency, staying local upon completion. He is the only dentist in his family and was drawn to the profession after a traumatic accident as a child.