Grand Bahama residents continue to recover from the extraordinary impacts of Hurricane Dorian. Sadly, with extensive damage to the Grand Bahama Children’s Home (GBCH), thirty-two youngsters experienced some of the storm’s worst impacts.
“Thankfully, full restoration of the Home is underway,” said Sarah St. George, Acting Chairman of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, Limited (GBPA).
The Grand Bahama Children’s Home, which was submerged in the rising floodwaters caused by Hurricane Dorian, was officially opened on November 4, 2003. It was built by the GBPA at a cost of $2.5 million, under the Patronage of Lady Henrietta St. George. The Government of the Bahamas and other donors also contributed funds toward the facility.
The Home has been providing a safe haven for children ranging from 6 weeks to 15 years for over four decades. Thanks to the bravery of the Royal Bahamas Defense Force, the Home’s residents and staff were safely evacuated after the storm. Due to the massive damage to the institution’s buildings, all of the Home’s children were relocated to Nassau.
“We sustained significant damage and the Home was in need of a complete rebuild,” explained Executive Director of the GBCH, Sheila Johnson-Smith. “What wasn’t totally destroyed by the three to four feet of water was mold-infested, so we discarded everything and started from the ground up.”
For Mrs. Johnson-Smith and her Board, the sigh of relief was audible when the GBPA assured them that the buildings were indeed fully insured, and they would be rebuilt at a cost of $850,000.
“As part of our commitment to our island’s children, the GBCH and our community, we have supported, and will continue to support, this refuge for neglected and abused children,” added Ms. St. George. “Insuring the Home’s buildings meant that funds would be available to rebuild the Home’s structures and provide handicap access upgrades. The Home has a very dynamic and independent Board of Directors who is responsible for the running of the Home and the well-being of our children. This excellent partnership is what makes the Grand Bahama Children’s Home the successful model of which we are all so proud.”
The Home, located in the ‘Back of Town’ in Freeport city, and surrounding structures are being renovated by GBPA licensee Spartan Contractors, along with the One Bahamas Fund and Albany, who made a donation in the amount of $130,000 towards the Home’s upgrades not covered by insurance. With permission to work during the Government’s Emergency Order (COVID-19), they can work through to completion in July.
“We are all hands-on deck now to bring our children back home,” added Mrs. Johnson-Smith. “The community is in great need of this facility right now as many Grand Bahamians struggle to recover from Hurricane Dorian and need our assistance with their families. As the GBPA helps us complete our structural repairs, we are extremely grateful to the hundreds of local and international donors who are helping us furnish and restock the Home.”
“Hurricane Dorian not only devastated the island of Grand Bahama, but it also destroyed the GBCH,” said Lady Henrietta St. George, Patron and Honorary Chairman of the GBCH. “By God’s grace, the children and staff were evacuated at the height of the storm with no loss of life. The children were welcomed into Nassau’s Children’s Emergency Hostel, Ranfurly Home for Children and the Nazareth Centre where they have remained while the restoration of their Grand Bahama home continues. The care they are getting is great, as I saw when I visited the Ranfurly Home, but they need to come back to Grand Bahama so that their families can visit and they can re-join their community.”
When the GBCH reopens, the team will also look to care for needy children from the Northern Bahamas who are need of placement and care as a result of Dorian. “We are all looking forward to welcoming our children home and to thank those who have taken care of them for over nine months,” added Ms. St. George. “We were saddened to learn that many children from the Northern Bahamas lost their families, but we will be ready to welcome them in the Home as a safe haven.”
To follow the GBCH progress or connect with the Home, interested persons can visit their website and social media page. Donations are still being accepted for the refurbishments, via their GoFundMe page with the SBP USA.