September ​marks two years since Hurricane Irma struck the BVI – causing widespread devastation to local communities and the natural environment. 

Recorded as the strongest hurricane in Atlantic history, the impact was immense and relief efforts were critical. It’s devastating to see history repeat itself with the impact of Hurricane Dorian. If you would like to support relief efforts, you can find more from Virgin Unite’s partner - Rocky Mountains Institute.

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Ocean, Irma

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Virgin Unite and Unite BVI (the Branson family’s foundation based in the territory) were heavily involved in relief efforts.

Two years on and the teams have turned their attention to the long-term recovery of the BVI and are making an incredible impact. We'll unpack this impact in details in a three-part blog series but, firstly, here's a look back at the immediate relief efforts.

In the aftermath of the devastation, the BVI Community Support Appeal was established and raised over $2.7 million US dollars for recovery efforts.

Hurricane Irma Anniversary 2019

To date, Unite BVI has invested over $2.3 million into immediate disaster relief, building resilient schools, homes and community spaces, and providing opportunities to the children and families who lost everything. In addition to the appeal, further donations were leveraged from other funders for specific projects - demonstrating a true community spirit.

The funds dedicated to immediate hurricane relief efforts and the incredible partnerships formed made possible: a professional disaster response, critical infrastructure, aid and ​critical supplies ​distributed to vulnerable communities, housing repairs, transportation of shelter boxes, a free lunch programme and ​transportation of Christmas ​gifts to school children. Here’s a look at the impact in numbers.

Unite BVI Hurricane recovery impact deck

The Virgin community gathered together – with Virgin Atlantic transporting aid aid such as ​shelterboxes and the crew volunteering to repair infrastructure damage at one of the local public high schools. Despite the devastation, the spirit of the community proved stronger than the storm.

Sam Branson captured this spirit and some of the incredible human stories that emerged from the debris in an insightful documentary. 

Following the immediate relief efforts, Unite BVI and Virgin Unite turned their attention to the long-term recovery plan and the government’s vision to vision to build a ‘stronger, smarter, greener, better BVI’.

The foundation established three key areas to guide their efforts, investments and initiatives:

  • Community Enrichment.
  • Environmental Conservation.
  • Entrepreneurship Empowerment.
Unite BVI

Over the past two years, Unite BVI has invested most of the remaining Community Appeal Funds alongside other donations into the long-term recovery of the BVI. The long-term projects have already left an extraordinary impact on the community, environment, business, entrepreneurship and education in the BVI. Look out for the next blog in this content series for further details about the impact of these projects and plans for the future.

There’s still a long way to go in the BVI, but if the critical relief efforts and the progress made over the past two years are anything to go by – a stronger, smarter, greener and better BVI is certainly in sight.