Our thoughts remain with our members in the British Virgin Islands, Florida Keys and Puerto Rico who continue to deal with immense challenges in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. I have been in regular communication with District 11 Governor Charlene Rains who has personally reached out to all Zonta clubs in the affected areas. Below is an update as to what we know today.
In the British Virgin Islands, communication has been difficult, but Governor Charlene has been in contact with the president of the Zonta Club of Tortola. She confirmed that all club members were affected in one way or another by Hurricane Irma but they are all safe.
In Florida, many club members were affected by damage to homes, flooding and loss of power following Hurricane Irma; however, the Zonta club members in Marathon and Key West in the Florida Keys were the hardest hit. While members evacuated to safety during the storm, more than half of them returned home to find their homes completely destroyed and those who didn’t are still dealing with damage to homes and businesses.
News from Puerto Rico has been more difficult. Governor Charlene has been in contact with the president of the Zonta Club of Ponce who has confirmed that all members of the club are safe following Hurricane Maria; however, the situation remains very challenging there. Most still do not have electricity and food, water and supplies are hard to find. She is still waiting for news from the Zonta Clubs of Caguas and San Juan.
These updates leave us concerned for the well-being of our fellow Zontians and for all people affected by these devastating storms. Naturally, many of you want to know how Zonta can help. While we share your concern, Zonta is not a relief organization and is not set up to manage the complex and strategic coordination efforts that crises of this magnitude require, nor do any funds exist to be used for disaster relief or emergencies. Zonta International will, however, continue to advocate to ensure that governments respond to the unique needs of women in times of natural disasters. Please refer to the Zonta International Emergency and Disaster Funds Policy for more information.
If you wish to help as an individual member, we encourage you to send relief assistance through established agencies to ensure that the assistance is used properly and/or to act at the local level as a volunteer to an existing disaster relief agency.
We will continue to keep all affected Zontians and their families and friends in our thoughts and will update you when we hear from the other clubs in Puerto Rico. If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sonja Hönig Schough
Zonta International President