Journalists launch fundraiser to help colleagues on Hurricane Irma hit islands

Sint Maarten after Hurricane Irma, 7 Sept 2017
Sint Maarten after Hurricane Irma, 7 Sept 2017Photo: @kon_marine / Twitter

The Association of Caribbean Mediaworkers (ACM) launched a wide effort to raise funds for their colleagues on the Caribbean islands that were hit by Hurricane Irma. Part of that effort is a crowdfunding campaign in the Netherlands, primarily focused on bringing aid and equipment to journalists on the Dutch island of Sint Maarten, which was hit hardest by the Category 5 hurricane on September 6th. 

According to Wesley Gibbins, president of the ACM, the campaign "is the least we can do at a time like this to ensure there are functioning media operatives in the islands most affected by the hurricane", he said in a press release. As the fundraiser continues, assessments are underway on the affected islands, to see what equipment and other things are needed for journalists on the islands to do their jobs. 

Marvin Hokstam, former journalist for Sint Maarten's The Daily Herald and currently running the AFRO Magazine in Amsterdam, is planning fundraising activities in the Netherlands and Europe for journalists on Sint Maarten, which forms part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. With YouToday, a foundation that focuses on diversity in Dutch media, he launched a crowdfunding campaign focused on raising at least 10 thousand euros for media workers in the Caribbean.

"There's fellow journalists I know back home in Sint Maarten who have lost everything during Irma. Their homes, cars, cameras and so on are gone, but these people are out there already bringing updates and news to their communities", Hokstam said. "They're doing what journalists do best in these situations, placing the story first. But of course, as we often also do, without thinking of themselves."

According to Hokstam, The Daily Herald hasn't been able to print a single newspaper since Hurricane Irma devastated the island, yet it is still serving its community. The newspaper opened its doors to local residents, inviting them to come charge their phones and use the WiFi. "There's hundreds of people there every day, jumping at the opportunity to contact their concerned families and friends abroad. That's amazing journalistic devotion and community spirit right there. The pride I feel for being able to call that place my former journalistic home is indescribable. Which is why I full heartedly support the initiative of the ACM; like Wesley said: it's the least we can do."

Hokstam hopes that the journalism community in the Netherlands and Europe will follow the example of the Dutch public, and reach out to help fellow journalists on the island. "It's heartwarming to see how the entire community of the Netherlands has come together to raise funds for fellow kingdom citizens in Sint Maarten. I hope that individual journalists, journalism organizations and institutions in Europe will help their brothers and sisters overseas to face their plight."