By Christopher Tobutt
Cayman’s Columbian community might be small in size, but it has a huge heart. As soon as they heard of the terrible devastation caused by Category Five Hurricane Iota on the Columbian coastal islands of Providence, San Andreas and Santa Catalina, where many of their relatives still live they formed themselves into a group with a mission to help in any way they could.
That help has turned into one of the biggest Christmas gifts ever. After engaging the help of Hon. Speaker McKeeva Bush who got the group connected with all the right officials, the Columbian government sent a huge military jet to Owen Roberts International Airport on Saturday 12 December. The aircraft loaded up with emergency supplies and building materials, tents and tarps, and 17 Cayman/Columbian construction workers and engineers who are volunteering their time to help rebuild Providence, the worst hit of the three islands, before flying away again on their mission of love and mercy.
A small mountain of love, in the form of cardboard boxes full of canned food, dried milk, tools, and tents waited at the side of the runway, as the fork lifts set to work getting them onto the plane. There is more to follow, a gift of lumber and bulky goods, which will be sent on a ship later in the month.
It’s a dream come true for Germaine Jackson, one of the members of Cayman United for San Andreas, Providence and Catalina, the name of the committee. “I was born and raised in Columbia but my Daddy is a Caymanian so after I finished school I came by to live here, and I stayed here,” he said. “The Columbian community is small, and basically everybody is in contact with everybody else. We decided we needed to form some sort of committee to assist our people there, because a lot of people still have family connections,” he said.
Fergie Downs, another committee member said, “When we realized the damage that the hurricane caused in Providence Island, we came together. We realized that that island was devastated and they needed help. They had to evacuate a lot of people from there to the other islands, so now the people need help in St. Andreas as well. There was total devastation in Providence. The houses were older houses so all the houses got destroyed there, with people living in tents, so we try to get all the help we can to the people living there. This is the first one we are sending and we are planning to make the organization a long-term thing, where we can continue to make donations and get things to send to the people on the islands. Mr. McKeeva Bush is giving us all his support, and helped us reach the right people so that we could get this through. If people want to help, my phone number is 324 7910 so they can give us a call or send us a WhatsApp message. We receive all donations and if they want us to pick up the donation we can do that as well. My email is email@example.com
Mr. Bush was there to see the things being loaded onto the plane. “I’ve been helping to organize the humanitarian efforts for San Andreas and the Columbian Islands and Honduras and Nicaragua,” he said. “People are still giving, because there is tremendous need. Cayman is a blessed place. We had to organize with the Columbian government for this flight, which went through the Governor’s office and through the Honourable Deputy Premier’s Office,” he said.