Published On: Mon, Sep 18th, 2017

Community strength in the Caribbean

post_irmaWILLEMSTAD - The Caribbean is a special place, appreciated by its residents and citizens around the world for each island’s unique identity and community strength. In the past week, many of the Caribbean OCT islands have dealt with extreme weather conditions and the devastation left by Hurricane Irma.

Island territories and countries like Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, St Martin/St Maarten, St Barths, Saba, St Eustatius, British Virgin Islands and US Virgin Islands have such small populations it’s like living in a small town. Having the honour to be a resident in one of these small Caribbean countries offers the comfort of knowing a large portion of the people in your community. That comfort includes niceties such as seeing a familiar smiling face when out for dinner, at the grocery store or simply walking.

When devastation strikes, these same small communities have the opportunity to show their strength and work together as one strong community. Helping each other rebuild broken homes, sharing a pot of rice cooked on the only working BBQ, even helping clear the way to hotel entrances and beach walkways. It is the community’s neighbours, family and friends that work, own and built these establishments, and together they can pool their strength to revitalize their community’s well-being and set the foundation to a brighter future.

COSME, a programme funded by the European Union, with the mission to improve the business environment for Caribbean OCT SMEs, has been training entrepreneurs. By doing this, COSME builds on the existing community strength benefiting SME business development and entrepreneurship. This not only helps strengthen the economy but also strengthen the social network required to rebuild in the aftermath of hurricane Irma.

All of the Caribbean islands have a stake in tourism; approximately 70% or more of economic activity comes from the tourism sector. The business skills that COSME has taught serve as great facilitators in working together, both in the immediate communities and in regional OCT countries.

The neighbouring island locations are being used as coordinating destinations to provide help to those islands who felt the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma. Curacao is a coordinating location helping the Dutch OCTS, Cayman is assisting the British OCTS, and Guadeloupe is coordinating efforts to assist the French territories. Help is coming in many forms including entrepreneurs who are pulling together to bring supplies and manpower to help get things functioning.

The European Union continues to support the region with today’s announcement of releasing the initial humanitarian assistance of €2 million for the most affected islands in the Caribbean. This will help support key sectors such as water and sanitation, health, waste management and logistics.

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