Williamsbridge church aids Barbuda hurricane victims

The Ebeneezer Pilgrim Holiness Church collected about $20,000 and packed and shipped 100 large shipping boxes with at least 50 barrels of supplies, according to Pastor Harris.
Photo by Jewel L. Webber

The island of Barbuda needs your help to rebuild.

Like the many independent and public individuals and organizations who continue to come to the aid of those affected by the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean, the Ebeneezer Pilgrim Holiness Church, in the north Bronx, has sought to help the small island of Barbuda, an independent British Commonwealth country that is part of the nation of Antiqua and Barbuda.

When Hurricane Irma passed over the island earlier in September, it stripped the land of almost all of its vegetation and leveled so many structures that the island was unrecognizable.

The island of Antigua was spared by the historic storm.

The total population of Antigua and Barbuda, in July, was estimated over 94,000, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Hurricane Irma forced the Barbuda population to evacuate to Antigua.

Barbudans are still trying to clean up three months after the storm, but still have a long way to go.

The Ebeneezer Pilgrim Holiness Church in Williamsbridge, whose congregation includes many members from the Barbudan diaspora, decided they needed a way to help their immediate families and friends in Barbuda, and those of their neighbors’.

So over the last few months the church has been deeply involved in fundraising.

“We’re getting the ball rolling because some families (in the church) who are from Barbuda or who were going back and forth to clean up their homes (on the island), didn’t have lights, they didn’t have running water,” said Jewel Webber, a member of the church who is from the island.

“My mom’s roof is off her house. The animals they’ve had in their hog pen or in their yard, some are dead.”

As telephone lines are still down and there are no commercial flights allowed to the island’s only airport, the Barbuda Codrington Airport, many family members in the Bronx said there is not much they can do in person.

“It’s just a lot of fear, a lot of concern, a lot of anger too,” Webber continued.

One of the members of the church was able to travel to Barbuda since the storm.

Pastor John F. Harris said on his trip he was able to bring some supplies, but it was not nearly enough.

“I had heard of the destruction, but actually being there and seeing the devastation really was a surprise to the highest point,” Harris said. “I’m able to verify … there wasn’t even structures in some places.”

Pastor Harris’ 38-year-old grand nephew, Ricky Michael, who still lives on Barbuda, is commuting between islands to help with the rebuilding process.

One supermarket has reopened on Barbuda, but with shelters in Antigua potentially closing in December, the one market will not be enough to support the island’s returning population, according to Michael.

Ebeneezer Pilgrim Holiness Church, 708 E. 216th Street, will continue to accept donations of food, clothing, batteries and other tools and supplies, as well as financial donations or call (718) 655-2873 for further details and information.

These donations are held in the church where they are packed into larger shipping containers and given to the Antigua and Barbuda Consulate to ship out.

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at svalenzuela@cnglocal.com.

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