‘Help Desk’/Digitization Unit reconnect more than 400 persons with their families

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Former Deputy Director of Social Services, Ms. Marva Minns, works the phone lines while providing voluntary service at the Help Desk. Minister Campbell observes the process. (BIS Photo/Matt Maura)

Officials at the Help Desk, Department of Rehabilitative Welfare Services and the Digitization Unit, Department of Social Services, Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, have been able to reconnect more than 400 persons reported as unaccounted for in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, with their families.

Officials urged persons, who would have filed reports to the Help Desk and may have subsequently been reconnected with their family members but did not advise the Help Desk — to do so. They further said expectations are that a number of the persons who remain unaccounted for, may not have participated in the registration process upon arrival in New Providence.

The Ministry has committed to publishing the names of those individuals who remain unaccounted for as a further means of expanding the search network.

The work of the 8-Member Unit has been bolstered by the additions of three former, long-serving and senior social services officials who are serving as volunteers. They include former Director of Social Services, Ms. Mellany Zonicle, and former Deputy Directors of Social Services, Ms. Marva Minns and Mrs. Mavis Darling-Hill.

Their efforts have also been “greatly impacted” by the Digitization Unit, Department of Social Services, which is comprised of another 8-Member team, all of whom are volunteers.

Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell applauded the work, adding that the Help Desk and the Digitization Unit are providing a “tremendous service.”

“First, I want to thank the persons who have volunteered to participate in, and assist us with the Help Desk and the Digitization Unit; to help us with the calls; to assist with collecting the information, sorting it out and performing all of the cross-checks,” Minister Campbell said.

“A number of the persons providing voluntary service at the Help Desk are former social workers; persons who would have held high office and significant responsibility within the Department of Social Services, and whose presence is a clear indication that they weren’t in it just for the money as having retired, they are back helping where they can.  That said, I am happy to report that through the efforts and assistance of volunteers, we have been able to significantly reduce the number of persons who were unaccounted for post Dorian.

“We would have had an initial figure of 1199 persons who were reported unaccounted for in Abaco and Grand Bahama, and based on the most recent figures given by the Help Desk, we are just under 800 persons who remain unaccounted for and even that number is likely to be reduced with further cross checking,” Minister Campbell added.

Minister Campbell said the Help Desk, which has a fixed location from 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday, has a 7-day, 24-Hour presence through WhatsApp. The Help Desk also works in conjunction with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the Royal Bahamas Police Force, various shelters and all of the other volunteers groups assisting in the post Hurricane Dorian effort, to ensure wider coverage.

“Both the Help Desk and the Digitization Unit, through their hard work, dedication and determination, have done a wonderful job in helping to drastically reduce those numbers to the point they are at now and I expect further reduction in those numbers,” Minister Campbell said.

Mrs. Cheryl Carroll, Chief Probation Officer, Department of Rehabilitative Welfare Services (right), who heads the Help Desk, provides a progress report to Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell, during a recent visit. Also pictured is: Mrs. Lilian Quant-Forbes, Director, Department of Social Services, Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development. (BIS Photo/Matt Maura)

“The team has a great determination to see it through and I thank them for that. I also thank the public for their understanding, for their patience and for their willingness to continue to be persistent until all of the persons reported unaccounted for, are either reconnected or reunited with their relatives,” Minister Campbell added.

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