The Rotary Club of Freeport held its recent weekly meeting via Zoom and was delighted to welcome Rupert Hayward, Executive Director of the Grand Bahama Port Authority Limited (GBPA) and the Grand Bahama Disaster Relief Foundation (GBDRF), as special guest speaker.
Hayward, an active and vocal champion of Grand Bahama, shared an overview of the work the GBPA and the GBDRF have done to support island residents since the devastation of Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19.
Presenting to over 40 members via the online service, Hayward gave an overview of the work done by the GBPA after Hurricane Dorian to restore the island, discussed ongoing work to rebuild the utility system which was severely impacted, as well as reviewed the amazing quantity of donations that came through GBDRF.
“The GBDRF were on the ground from day one working with our partners like Nexus Global and Amazon to help reach and feed over 45,000 Grand Bahamians, from east to west. We then utilized our GBPA geo-mapping system, to successfully identify hundreds of storm-damaged properties and teamed up with various local and international partners including the Bahamas Red Cross, SPB-USA, and yourselves (Rotary).”
President of the Rotary Club of Freeport Othyneil Pinder noted: “It is heartening to understand the full scope of support the GBPA, in its service to Freeport’s businesses and residents, has provided since the passing of Hurricane Dorian.
“Since the implementation of the Government’s Emergency Order, the GBPA has suspended the collection of licensee fees as well as disconnections of water supply for those struggling to maintain their accounts. They leased a medical facility for use by GB Health Services for COVID-19 patients and donated x-ray machines used for COVID-19 screening as well as rapid-result test kits to the Grand Bahama medical community. These are hugely impactful efforts that are helping our community through this challenging time.”
During his address, Hayward thanked Rotary International and all the local Bahamian Rotarians for their service to the Grand Bahama communities. “Rotary members truly live their motto every day of ‘Service Above Self’ and the overwhelming service they have provided over the past year to those most in need has been remarkable. It is through partnerships, such as the one the GBPA shares with Rotary, that we have been able to provide needed donations of supplies to Grand Bahama’s homes for the aged and carry out an extensive home repair program, reaching over 800 homes to date, among many other initiatives that are benefitting the people of Grand Bahama.”
As Grand Bahama continues to evolve in response to the impacts of COVID-19 as well as Dorian, and as the economy slowly begins to recover, the GBPA continues to support residents and licensees.
“Along with Bahamas Red Cross, we announced a Grant Program for licensees, for up to $6,000 to stimulate economic recovery for micro-businesses on the island. We have also extended the RISE program for COVID assistance. Our combined economic stimulus programs and grants throughout this period total approximately $3 million,” continued Hayward.
“In partnership with Dudley Seide of Reach Out Ministries, needy families are being fed through an island-wide food distribution program. Through the GBDRF partnership with local pastors, supported by Pastor Eddie Victor, we have distributed bedding and furniture throughout the community of Freeport as well as East End and Eight Mile Rock.”
Thanking Hayward for his contribution, President Pinder noted: “Despite the many difficulties we have faced as a result of COVID-19 in our communities, we’re a resilient island and, together, we are recovering. With the help of the GBPA and so many organizations, local and international, and with the determination of residents and business owners, we will continue to rebuild and once again thrive.”
The Rotary Club of Freeport was the first Rotary Club in Grand Bahama, chartered on January 25, 1962. The Club meets Thursdays at noon and, due to COVID-19, meetings are being held virtually via Zoom. For more information, visit the Rotary Club of Freeport’s website at http://www.rotaryfreeport.com.