Nine flights with over five tons of supplies have been flown to the Bahamas, and more donations are on the way from local charity Giving 4 Hope.
President and founder of Giving 4 Hope, Egda Avila, is focusing the charity efforts on the Bahamas, where citizens are still trying to recover from the powerful Hurricane Dorian that devastated the island in September.
“We got a code to let us in when a lot of people were not being let in,” Avila said about how Giving 4 Hope was able to donate aid to the Bahamas due to one of the pilots owning a home there.
In an Oct. 11 press release by the national emergency management department on the official Bahamamian government website, the death toll after Dorian was listed to be at 61 with more expected, and it has six shelters in New Providence.
“When the pilots come back, they tell us this story in the conference room about when they were unloading stuff from the plane, and a little boy who came and tugged on his shirt looking like he was wearing his Sunday shirt, a little dirty but his best, with one little backpack, and he said, ‘Please take me with you,’ ” Director of Operations Gisela Alvarez said. “And the pilots were tearing up telling us this story. … Sometimes we think if we are really making an impact, but even if it helps just one person, what if they are the person with the spark that the world needs later on?”
Giving 4 Hope, which began in 2009, had their planes filled with donations scheduled to leave for the Bahamas on Oct. 16, Oct. 21, and Oct. 26.
The charity is made up of about 18 people working closely together to help areas close by through gathering donations and flying them out personally. Giving 4 Hope volunteers are all either airline pilots or flight attendants and their families.
“We are into pretty much building the trust in people,” Avila said. “I have seen governments taking things, so my deal now is if I brought it and I don’t give it to the people myself, and somebody is trying to be my middle point or the government wants to take it, I am happy to take it all back.”
The small six-seater cargo plane donated by pilot Sindelar Scott can only carry so much weight; therefore, the only two people who actually make the one-hour flight from Orlando Executive Airport to the Bahamas are the pilot and a liaison or someone who knows the area. The rest of the plane is filled to the brim by volunteers with generators, building supplies, food, baby items, first aid supplies, cleaning supplies, flashlights, batteries, air mattresses, and small camping size propane grills.
“A round trip for us in fuel costs $500, so if you can do $5 and you find more friends, then the amount doesn’t seem so insurmountable,” Alvarez said. “Because the plane is small, we can load it with 1,000 pounds, and we can land it in smaller little airports, so the water weight is so much we can’t take it, but there is a water filtration system that’s about $2,500, and it can filter water for 500 people a day and weighs 30 pounds instead of the bottles of water which create trash.”
The best way to help the Bahamas is to donate money or the specific items listed on the Giving 4 Hope website, www.giving4hope.org, or to visit the islands that were not heavily impacted by Dorian. Also listed on the website are updates on the annual gala Giving 4 Hope hosts. The next gala is set to help the Bahamas rebuild structures and estimated to be held in October 2020.
“It’s addictive to feel like you are doing something and making an impact,” said Oswald Brown, first officer, volunteer, and Bahamian. “It’s what keeps fueling Giving 4 Hope.”