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WCE Senior Mike Harris Aids in the Rebuilding of Barbuda

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Once the secluded and peaceful home to 1,800 fishermen, farmers and tourism workers – and a favorite vacation destination for individuals like Princess Diana looking to escape from a commercial world – the little-known Caribbean island of Barbuda was devastated by Hurricane Irma on September 6. An estimated 90 percent of buildings were destroyed and the entire population was forced to evacuate. Rebuilding efforts have been slow. Nearly three months later, the island remains largely uninhabitable and most residents are still displaced.

WCE senior Mike Harris is a native of Barbuda. He has decided to delay his internship to devote full energy to aiding with rebuilding efforts on the island in the spring of 2018.

“Barbuda is a tight-knit community,” Harris said. “Although many of us now live in the United States, we still have family there, we have memories there and we are proud of the island’s history. We want to help rebuild Barbuda so our families can go back, live well and raise children in this beautiful place.”

Harris is a former U.S. Marine. He is partnering with Sean Charles, a fellow native of Barbuda and U.S. service member, to organize a grassroots effort.

“People are still traumatized and confused,” Harris said. “We’re hoping to find a way to inspire them to come back and work together to rebuild homes on the island.”

Harris and Charles are using their military skills to plan the mission. They envision the creation of a tent city to provide temporary shelter, and are working to establish logistics channels for supplies like food, water and fuel. To date, they have a commitment from more than 100 fellow Barbudans living in the U.S. and Antigua to help.

“Barbuda is a special place,” Harris said. “We’re independent. We’re not part of a large country and people here don’t have mortgages and insurance. If we want to rebuild our homes, we’re going to have to do it ourselves.”

Harris and Charles have a goal of rebuilding 76 homes in just a few months. Once the mission is complete, Harris plans to return to Wilmington to complete his internship semester and earn his Middle Grades education degree. After graduation he plans to teach in the U.S., to hone his skills as an educator. He also hopes to help improve education in Barbuda. His first education mission on the island will involve the creation of educational summer camps for children, he said.

Harris and Charles hope to raise $15,000 to help cover the cost of supplies and transportation for the rebuilding efforts. To read more about their mission and fundraising campaign, visit their Go Fund Me page. 

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