Although it has been an amazing year implementing the J.A.M.I.N. program, a piece of my heart has been swept away with Hurricane Dorian. For the past four years, I’ve been working in partnership with Friends of the Environment in Abaco, The Bahamas to implement our B.A.M. program at Forest Heights Academy and Patrick J. Bethel High School. By August 2019, we were in full swing, planning the first phase of the new academic year and discussing how we were going to celebrate our five-year anniversary. These plans came to a sudden halt when, on September 1, 2019, Hurricane Dorian wreaked havoc on the Abaco Islands.
My heart aches for Abaconians, and for those in my B.A.M. family. Their lives changed drastically overnight as the storm bore down on them, flattening and flooding parts of Abaco Island. There was so much loss and devastation to the island’s infrastructure that people no longer had a place to live and work, and children were unable to attend school. Both schools where we implemented the B.A.M. program, Forest Heights Academy and Patrick J. Bethel High School, were completely destroyed during the hurricane. As a result, most of the B.A.M. family has been displaced to other countries and other Bahamian islands.
There are signs of hope. Despite Mother Nature’s wrath, Abaconians are rebuilding their island. Our partners at Friends of the Environment, whose office was destroyed, are once again conducting education programs for the students who remained or returned to the island. They are also trying to open a temporary office. We are looking at how to relaunch the B.A.M. program in The Bahamas during the next academic year (2020-2021). Overall, progress is being made.
Although there are many challenges ahead, optimism remains high. The Executive Director of Friends of the Environment positively states, “Dorian may have changed our path, but it did not destroy the program. It’s just a fork in the road, and as we redefine our direction, we are discussing new opportunities for mangrove restoration to keep B.A.M. alive.”
To my B.A.M. family: I want you all to know that I think of you often. During your long road to recovery, I am filled with hope every time I hear of progress being made by the resilient Bahamians. And even though most people have been relocated, we are still the B.A.M. family. As one of our former students from Forest Heights Academy, Jerai Bremen put it, “B.A.M. for life! Once a BAMmer, always a BAMmer!!!”