“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” — Willie Nelson
As the sun sets on the second decade of the 21st Century, and, even more important, as we celebrate the birth of the child who would be called Yeshua, the one who would personify hope and offer help and healing for billions of humankind for over 2,000 years, we thought that it would be appropriate to end the year on a positive note.
Over the past 11 years, this column has addressed disparate issues affecting our lives at home and abroad.
We have considered topical issues affecting us, including the good, the bad and the ugly.
We thought it appropriate in our final column for the year to focus on some of the positive things that have occurred during the year, some of which were very profound, but went quietly unremarked in our daily lives.
Therefore, this week, we would like to consider this — what are some of the developments that occurred this year that would enable us to end the year on a positive note?
In September, The Bahamas experienced the most devastating hurricane to affect us in a very long time.
Hurricane Dorian disrupted the lives of thousands of our residents in ways that heretofore were unimaginable.
Despite the official death count to date of fewer than one hundred souls, we are all aware of the many thousands whose lives were adversely affected by this killer hurricane.
Notwithstanding this reality, there were countless episodes of heroism that vividly demonstrated the indomitable and resounding resilience of the Bahamian spirit.
We witnessed, in real-time, the magnanimous spirit of altruism that was demonstrated by our residents and the overwhelming outpouring of support from the international community.
When the historical record of Hurricane Dorian is chronicled, future generations will be reminded that, despite the tremendous loss of life and property, we emerged from this tempest severely bruised and battered but ever thankful for the blessing of life and a second chance to rebuild our affected communities – to make them even better and stronger than the pre-Dorian realities.
Feeding the thousands
One of the most sustained charitable activities following Hurricane Dorian’s unwelcome visit to the communities of the northern Bahamas included the monumentally demonstrable display of brotherly love and humanitarian altruism that was reminiscent of the New Testament miracle that is chronicled in Matthew14:13-21 where Jesus fed his five thousand followers.
Humanitarian and world-renowned Chef José Andrés, whose organization, World Central Kitchen (WCK), has previously helped with food relief efforts in the wake of natural disasters all over the world, arrived in Nassau before Dorian hit and landed in Abaco and Grand Bahama just days after those islands were devastated by the powerful category five hurricane.
Chef Andrés formed WCK to provide healthy food to families and individuals affected by disasters.
Since its formation, this non-governmental organization has organized meals in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Zambia, Peru, Cuba, Uganda and Cambodia.
We recall WCK’s response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake and its amazing disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017.
His efforts were epic, and, despite encountering enormous obstacles from the United States Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) and government bureaucrats, Chef Andrés said, “We just started cooking.”
Chef Andrés organized a grass-roots movement of chefs and volunteers to establish communications, food supplies, and other resources and started serving meals.
Andrés, through his WCK organization, served more than two million meals in the first month after Hurricane Maria.
WCK received two short-term FEMA contracts and served more meals than the Salvation Army or the Red Cross, although his application for longer-term support was denied.
In January 2019, Chef Andrés opened a World Central Kitchen on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. to feed federal workers furloughed during the U.S. government shutdown. Today, his team is still here in The Bahamas, as well as helping disaster victims in Albania and California.
Chef José Andrés moved with extreme alacrity to establish his world-famous “kitchens” here, including enormous supplies of food, transportation and volunteers to assist those in The Bahamas who were devastated by Hurricane Dorian’s wrath.
Shortly after arriving in The Bahamas, Chef Andrés observed: “I’m not gonna lie … it’s been an exhausting day. I am so proud and inspired by our World Central Kitchen team and incredible local volunteers working tirelessly to prepare and deliver thousands of sandwiches and hot meals.”
For many thousands affected by Hurricane Dorian, in addition to World Central Kitchen, there were many other silver linings behind the bleak clouds of disaster that provided unparalleled positive encouragement to address and assuage this unprecedented tragedy.
Reagan Russell — helping Hands for Hunger
Then there is Reagan Russell, the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Barry Russell, who demonstrated how the positive impact of the contributions of herself and another Bahamian student could end the year on a high note for The Bahamas.
Reagan is an 11th grader and honor student with a 3.91 GPA at Suffield Academy, a private boarding school in Suffield, Connecticut.
Not only is she a resident assistant at that institution. She has also served as a school tour guide, a member of the academy’s volleyball team, a member of the drama and multicultural clubs and is currently writing a book.
She was also chosen twice to speak to the faculty and student body during Martin Luther King’s birthday recognition and has served as the class president of her 10th grade year.
Every year, Suffield Academy chooses to support a charity for an entire school year. All students have an opportunity to participate in a competition to present the charity that they believe the school should support for that year. In previous years, the school has raised between $30,000 and $50,000 for the selected charities.
In September, students and faculty voted for their choice of charities for the 2019-2020 academic year.
Reagan and her fellow Bahamian student, Rhian Jones, “pitched” the Bahamian charity, Hands for Hunger, as their desired school charity, which would contribute to the Hurricane Dorian relief efforts.
Reagan’s and Rhian’s choice was selected and their goal was set at $50,000.
On December 16, the school hosted a successful banquet to raise awareness for the selected charity, as well as for worldwide hunger.
Proceeds from the school’s efforts will be donated at the end of the school year.
Interested persons can contribute to this worthwhile cause by going to the Hands for Hunger website to donate under the Suffield Academy donation campaign. What an outstanding way to end the year on a positive note!
As we end what has been one of the most tumultuous years of the decade for The Bahamas, we prefer to accentuate the positive and commend those who contributed to the upbuilding efforts that continue to make this country one of the best among the community of nations.
During this Yuletide season, let us set aside the divisive distractions that often seem to inundate us and, more productively, focus on the things that unite and uplift us.
They far outweigh those elements that divide and depress us.
As we begin the third decade of this millennium, we should take a page from the examples of the year that inspire, edify, and encourage us to continue to build up the common good.
Let us do all that we can to end this decade and usher in a new one on a positive note.
On behalf of myself and my family, I would like to thank the readers of this column over the past year and encourage you to continue to comment on its contents.
I wish you and those who are near and dear to you a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for a happy, prosperous and successful new year.
• Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.