#OnAssignment with President Clinton in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Dominica

This post is part of a recurring series of perspectives on the impact of our work by staff and partners of the Clinton Foundation

At the invitation of local leaders, President Clinton recently traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Dominica to visit communities that were impacted by two devastating Category 5 hurricanes last year and highlight the need for continued attention and engagement from the international community. On the ground, he visited sites that are building back better through the work of the Clinton Foundation and its partners, meeting local leaders and residents along the way.

The trip followed an announcement that the Clinton Foundation will be launching a new CGI Action Network on Post-Disaster Recovery to address the ongoing immediate response needs as well as long-term recovery in the region.

President Clinton’s press secretary Angel Ureña filed this report from the trip:

First Stop: St. Thomas

The trip began with a stop on the island of St. Thomas, where President Clinton met with fellow Americans who are working together to rebuild.

President Clinton began his trip with a visit to My Brother’s Workshop, which has received support from the One America Appeal through the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands. My Brother’s Workshop is a local St. Thomas nonprofit organization that works with at-risk youth, helping them to become positive members of society through mentoring, training, education, and job placement.

In September of 2017, all five living former American presidents joined together to issue the One America Appeal to ask their fellow citizens and friends around the world to support the staggering recovery needs from Hurricane Harvey. Just a few weeks later, after Hurricane Maria devastated much of the Caribbean, the appeal expanded to include Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In total, the One America Appeal raised over $41 million from more than 110,000 donors, and recently announced that it has discontinued accepting donations.

Delivering Much-Needed Medical Supplies

Next, the president joined U.S.V.I. Governor Mapp and Congresswoman Plaskett for a tour of the badly-damaged Schneider Regional Medical Center in St. Thomas. While there, President Clinton joined another NGO, Direct Relief, to donate $100,000 worth of medical supplies the hospital currently needs. This donation is part of a larger partnership between the Clinton Foundation and Direct Relief, through which 500 metric tons of medical supplies were airlifted to Liberia during the Ebola crisis in 2014 and over 75 tons of medical supplies were airlifted to Puerto Rico since the hurricanes last fall.

Across the island, we saw needs for climate-resilient rebuilding:

Quick Ferry to St. John:

The group then took a ferry over to the neighboring island of St. John, where President Clinton met with local residents to hear more about what’s needed and how he can continue to be helpful through the new CGI Action Network on Post-Disaster Recovery.

Next Stop: Dominica

On September 18, 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Dominica as a Category 5 storm, bringing torrential rainfall and 160 mph winds to the island. The storm left 31 dead and 37 missing. Approximately 65,000 people, about 80 percent of the population, were directly affected. More than 80 percent of infrastructure was destroyed by the hurricane, the most powerful storm to ever strike the Caribbean island nation. The Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, once the youngest head of state in the world, gave an impassioned speech last September about the hurricanes and boldly declared Dominica’s ambition to become the world’s first truly climate-resilient nation.

The day began with a 90-minute drive through the island, enabling us to see the cataclysmic destruction: entire forests destroyed, homes ripped apart, and schools flattened. President Clinton toured the island, visiting communities that were impacted by the devastating hurricane.

Then, President Clinton met with Dominican President Savarin, Prime Minister Skerrit, and their Cabinet Ministers, to learn more about the challenges they face and how we can help advance their climate-positive vision for their country.

President Clinton and the Prime Minister then drove for an hour to visit Pichelin, a town that was destroyed by Hurricane Maria, and then drove another hour to visit the Soufrière school, to spend time with families and children who were an inspiration to us all, with their warmth and resilient spirits, amidst enormous destruction.

Building Back Better

In Dominica, President Clinton and Prime Minister Skerrit also announced a new Clinton Foundation partnership to assist Dominica with an integrated resource plan for the energy sector, helping Dominica become the first climate-resilient country in the world.

The Clinton Climate Initiative is an initiative of the Clinton Foundation that works at the invitation of island governments to reduce their reliance on diesel, improve their energy efficiency, and expand their use of renewable energy — dramatically lowering their energy bills and freeing up their national budgets to spend more on schools, hospitals, roads, and other vital infrastructure. Sadly, although islands aren’t the main drivers of climate change, they are the frontline victims of rising sea levels and extreme weather.

Whether addressing immediate response needs or long-term recovery, the Clinton Foundation’s ongoing work in the Caribbean is an inspirational reminder of what can happen when you expand opportunities everywhere.

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