Like the 40 young residents for which it provides refuge, the Grand Bahama Children’s Home finds itself better equipped as it leaves behind Hurricane Dorian’s struggles in its rearview mirror.
“Out of every tragedy and bout of destruction comes an opportunity for something new and wonderful. Our rebuilding after Dorian certainly bears this out. Our facilities are more efficient and we all can appreciate what working in a new space feels like,” said Lesley Davies-Baptista, a board member and spokesperson for the home.
“Dorian brought even more extraordinary opportunities beyond this through some partnerships. Thanks to the support received, we have been able to rebuild, re-equip and, more importantly, elevate our level of care to help our children heal, from all of the trauma experienced, and thrive.”
In September 2019, Hurricane Dorian torpedoed the home with raising water forcing the emergency evacuation of all the children and staff in the middle of the storm. A very traumatic experience for everyone. The facility’s buildings – which includes an administrative office and three residential homes – totalling approximately 15,000 square feet were ravaged by storm surge, leaving behind debris, sewage and mould in its wake. Not even the surrounding outdoor areas were spared.
According to Mrs. Davies-Baptista, the task of rebuilding the residences and offices, furnishing the homes and offices, replacing equipment, household goods and supplies, “simply would not have been possible without the generous support from benefactors like Lombard Odier.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, Lombard Odier & Cie (Bahamas) Limited – a leading global wealth and asset manager based in Nassau – pledged their commitment to the home and its rebuild efforts.
“The work carried out by the Grand Bahama Children’s Home is invaluable to the community, caring for children who have endured trauma at such an early stage of their development,” said Renaud Vielfaure, Lombard Odier Bahamas’ Managing Director.
“Just as the facility strengthens the children’s resilience and help them to thrive, we wanted to do our part to provide similar support to the home itself. This is not work for one company or select groups, but if we all work together, we can collectively help each child reach their full potential,” Mr. Vielfaure went on to say.
Currently, the home has 28 children in its care but has a maximum capacity of 40 youths. Residents generally range in age from birth to 13 years old.
“Our children come to us after having to be removed from their homes as the result of abuse, abandonment and/or neglect, and become wards of the state,” said June Hutcheson, the home’s new Executive Director.
There were several challenges and delays experienced throughout the rebuild exercise due to material shortages, setbacks in sourcing materials and lockdowns brought on by the COVID-19 global pandemic, which resulted in the children being housed in New Providence for a longer period than expected. Finally, the buildings were completed at the end of summer 2020, and the children were able to return home in October 2020, 13 months after their relocation in 2019.
“It was an emotional return – and they love their ‘new’ home and their furnishings. We are so humbled and grateful for the support we received to make it happen,” said Mrs. Davies-Baptista. “Dorian was certainly devastating but it brought new opportunities and a renewed focus to help our children thrive in every way they can. Our goal remains ensuring they always have a safe refuge to help heal, thrive and leave stronger – emotionally, mentally, physically – and better equipped than when they first arrive.”
She added: “We can’t change the circumstances which brought them to our doors, but we are committed to doing whatever we can to make a difference in their lives – not just while they are with us but in a way that will positively impact all of their days.”
The Grand Bahama Children’s Home launched a donor funded mental wellness initiative after the storm. It focuses on the children’s holistic well-being through the provision of a full-time mental health therapist who conducts individual and group sessions. There are also professional academic evaluations for school-aged children and advanced training for their caretakers.
Mr. Vielfaure noted that it takes a village to help care for the children. Months after the storm has faded from the headlines, he said Lombard Odier Bahamas, “remains committed to partnering with the home in any way it can.”
From the home’s perspective, the more partners the better positioned it will be to offset the tremendous costs of around the clock care. Donations, both financial and in-kind, have tremendously decreased year-over-year. The shortfall in annual funds for operations hovers around $350,000-$400,000.
Still, Mrs. Davies-Baptista’s outlook remains optimistic, even as the Atlantic hurricane season officially began on Tuesday, June 1.
“We have reopened, better than ever before thanks to the efforts of our staff, wonderful donors like Lombard Odier and others as well as our tireless volunteers. We have solid strategic plans at both the board and operational level for our children and execute each purposeful endeavor with much hope and love.”