As one of the first cruisers to arrive on the island of Dominica after hurricane Maria in 2017, we saw firsthand the destruction and devastation the hurricane had caused. The island looked like a brown rock, the town looked as though it had been flattened by a bomb, it was devastating. Proceeding to the British Virgin Islands, we were faced with equal desolation from hurricane Irma. Knowing we wanted to do more to help the ravaged islands, where more than 90% of homes were damaged and many people were killed, we founded the Sailing Santa – Kids of the Caribbean Campaign, managing to raise $1500 USD in 2017 and providing gifts for over 200 children.
In 2018 we were determined for the Sailing Santa Campaign to be bigger and better. Engaging the help of cruisers and businesses alike, we were able to raise just over $3500 USD and purchase 700 gifts. Unsure of how to best deliver the presents, I was put in touch with the Feed My Sheep (FMS) Youth & Crisis Centre in Dominica. FMS is responsible for providing food, counselling and crisis shelter to over 3000 people annually. Their building was in poor condition prior to the hurricane, afterwards it became a shanty town of cots, rubble, crying children and adults in shock.
So what does Sailing Santa mean to FMS? The campaign is about more than gifts, it’s about raising morale and creating awareness. It’s about hope, joy and kindness at a time when it’s needed most. Sailing Santa means the children can receive gifts and experience the joy of Christmas, something that would otherwise be unattainable for these children suffering from abuse, abandonment or neglect. For one day, the children are able to forget about their displaced families or drug addicted parents. They forget about their cramped rooms and lack of privacy. Instead, they simply get to enjoy being a child at Christmas time.
In addition to providing presents to the orphanage, we also donated both food and money to assist the severely underfunded organization. We then sailed north to the British Virgin Islands where we handed out even more presents to the equally underprivileged children. We're aiming to make 2019 our best year yet, with the hope of delivering presents to even more islands. To help bring a smile to the face of a child this Christmas, please donate, every little bit helps.