Visiting nursing students conducting survey for local Red Cross
By Cleopatra Murphy
Freeport News Reporter
The Bahamas Red Cross Society is attempting to extend its services to the eastern end of Grand Bahama by establishing a satellite center in the area.
Three nursing students from the University of Virginia are presently on the island doing the legwork for the organization and assessing the needs of residents out east.
"We have basically compiled this survey assessment to go into the homes of the residents who live on the East End and we have outlined the different communities there in hopes that we can assess the needs first of what they could benefit from an East End Red Cross office," Meghan Cronk said.
The hope is to better facilitate residents on the outskirts of the island in times of emergency.
The group that arrived on Grand Bahama on July 1 have carried out assessments in Gambier Point so far and have further plans to visit High Rock, Pelican Point, New Freetown, McLean's Town and Sweeting's Cay.
Cronk said they are starting to get an idea of some of the major needs of the community.
Among those, she said residents have expressed the need for a fire truck in the area because if a fire does break out, they have to wait for one to come from Freeport.
She added that when one does arrive it may be too late and residents have also showed interest in an ambulance for far out communities.
"It was pretty eye opening to me to realize that if something does go wrong they are very self reliant because they can't really depend on having other people come to them, so we can definitely address those needs or try to," Cronk said.
She added that she and the other nursing students are seeking to get a clear understanding of the communities for the Red Cross before the organization fully embarks on the initiative because the organization does not want to build a facility that would be under-utilized by residents.
Laura Wagner said from what they have been able to glean, the Meals on Wheels Program looks like it would be an option for the eastern end of the island.
"There are criteria that individuals need to meet set up by the Red Cross that we need to continue kind of checking door to door to see who might be eligible for that, but that definitely is something we are looking into," she said.
Wagner added that during the hurricane season residents run the risk of being cut off from the rest of the island, so some of the major concerns are getting dry food supplies into the eastern communities in times of need, getting electricity to residents when the power goes down, and having access to water pumps.
She said residents have suggested a center for the elderly for activities or a teen center where students can occupy themselves during the summer months.
"We are just trying to do a lot of the legwork while there are three of us who are eager to get involved, but ultimately the coordinators that we are working with would love this to be a self sustaining initiative within the community, so that the community is meeting its own needs and really propelling the project forward," Wagner said.
Marcelia Davis said the group has been going from door to door to residents and has determined that residents need greater access to a primary care center.
She noted that having someone out there permanently would be better than just once or twice a week.
Davis noted that community involvement would also be important at a satellite center.
"Another goal of ours is to kind of get the community involved and we are trying to find volunteers to keep this up and running," she said.
Cronk noted that they were surprised that residents have been so open with them, a drastic change from the United States where Americans would be more reserved or skeptical about persons who show up at their door.
"They are going to say no I don't want to buy anything. They assume that you are selling something, but what we found with the residents here is that they open up so much," she said. "They open up their homes to us, they are more than willing to talk with us and so it's a nice change. It's also such a nice sense of cohesion among all the residents in the neighborhoods that we have seen so far."
The nursing students are set to leave Grand Bahama on July 16 and while their first priority has been outlining their projects and ensuring they have time to meet the goals they have set, they have set aside time for fun.
Cronk said although they would have missed the American Independence at home, they are looking forward to The Bahamas' Independence Day celebrations.
"We were excited to find out that we still basically get to celebrate it here on the 10," she said.
Wagner added the group has set aside time to absorb the Bahamian culture.
"We have a wonderful host family that we are staying with that is very committed to making sure that we experience all of the culture on the island and get time to experience the nice beautiful scenery and the water, snorkeling. Sweeting's Cay will be amazing to see. She has offered up her neighbors to take us on boat rides," she said.
The group said they are trying to visit with as many East End residents as possible, but if they missed anyone that has any suggestions they would like to offer or who is interested in volunteering, they can be contacted at 533-9935.
© 2012 The Freeport News