Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria battered the Caribbean with essentially back-to-back storms, leaving some of the world's most popular destination wedding and honeymoon spots almost unrecognizable. It will likely take months, if not years, to get these breathtaking islands back to their original splendor. With tourism being the Caribbean's largest economic resource, a lot can be done to help in the recovery efforts, from monetary donations to visiting where travel is permitted. Here are just a few ways that couples can show their support.
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Donate to Multiple Orgs
There are several charities and organizations collecting money for the Caribbean, so you'll want to do a bit of research before you decide where to donate your dollars. Perhaps you'll want to spread out donations to destination-specific causes such as United for Puerto Rico or the Barbuda Recovery & Conservation Trust Fund, or support charities with meaningful causes like UNICEF or Samaritan's Purse.
You can also donate to a single fund that supports the entire region, such as The Caribbean Tourism Recovery Fund, which was created by the nonprofit travel industry organization Tourism Cares in conjunction with the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association. Additionally, the Caribbean Tourism Organization is raising funds through a Go Fund Me account.
If you are planning your wedding, you can choose from various organizations to add to your registry, and rally your guests to donate. Another option is to cut back on wedding splurges such as favors, and put money towards a donation instead.
Make a Trip
While the initial period of recovery might not allow travelers to visit affected islands, don't rule out your dream Caribbean wedding or honeymoon just yet. One of the best ways to help the region is to visit, even if it's to one of the islands that remained untouched by the storms. Already booked for a destination that experienced hurricane damage? Don't rush to cancel arrangements, but do call to confirm if your designated hotel is up and running; perhaps preparations can be made to accommodate you at a neighboring location or sister property.
Volunteer for Recovery
If you're willing and able, consider volunteering on the ground to help with relief efforts. The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster Relief website offers a list of various reputable agencies, such as the Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity, which are planning trips and collecting donations. Opportunities include assisting with medical care; clean-up and repair of schools, churches and other public buildings; coordinating shelter for displaced families; distributing food, water and emergency supplies, and more.
Educate yourself about the hurricane relief efforts throughout the islands, and follow their progress. As the Caribbean continues on its road to recovery, new initiatives are certain to arise that you may want to contribute to. The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association created a website dedicated to real-time updates from all the islands; you can also stay tuned to the destinations, hotels and organizations on social media.
While some beaches might not be as pristine as you remember, or the hotel you envisioned for your dream honeymoon is temporarily closed for repair, the Caribbean is in fact open for business, and welcoming travelers with open arms. Whether you choose to support a charitable cause, visit now, or plan a trip for later, every little bit can help! Find out what's open for business, what's closed, and learn more ways to help right here.