RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER

COVID-19 Caribbean Updates and How You Can Support the Caribbean Region Right Now

In my first #COVIDCaribbean Flash Update on Instagram Live yesterday, I shared that one of the most dire consequences of tourism coming to a complete halt in the Caribbean – in addition to all the hospitality workers being unemployed – is that the most vulnerable communities who live in or around the major tourist areas no longer receive day-to-day income for the most basic of needs: food.

Even though governments have enacted or are enacting unemployment subsidies and benefits for those who are laid off or whose salaries have been slashed, not everyone qualifies. The tourism economy in the Caribbean includes thousands of individuals who work informally, and whose families benefit day to day from those few tourist dollars. What’s more, these off-the-grid folks – like the beach and roadside food vendors, the motorbike taxis, the small boat captains, the hair braiders, and more – have no savings to speak of, because they have large families to support, as well as unsteady, small income.

Courtesy of Elvis Tours, a tour operator collaborating with Puerto Plata’s Rotary Club food baskets fundraiser.

In the Dominican Republic, for instance, even 100 pesos – or the equivalent of US$3 – goes some way at the local colmado or corner store, where they can buy in small quantities. What does one do when no one is visiting anymore and even the small tips disappear?

The fundraisers I list below – and the ones I will continue including in this post – will be those that prioritize vulnerable communities and families in tourism areas who are not receiving any benefit from their governments and are basically falling through the cracks.

While many of us worry about being bored at home, there are those who go to sleep hungry in the very areas we’ve all enjoyed visiting and were warmly welcomed. We can help prevent this tragedy, by donating what we can to one of these efforts. It doesn’t take that much at all, starting with $12. Below is an initial selection of projects you can donate to and support people in the Caribbean.

Respect to the locals and long-time residents on the ground for leading these projects.


I. Where to donate

A. Dominican Republic

The communities surrounding the tourism hubs of Cabarete and Sosua are particularly in need of support, both east and west of these hubs. There are two vetted places you can donate and it will directly go towards the purchase of food for a week for a family. Please consider giving even the minimum of $12 – people have gone literally from hand to mouth to nothing with the sudden stop of tourism on the North Coast.

1. Rotary Club of Puerto Plata: Food Baskets and Groceries for families

This effort is in its second week this month. So far, 30 families each received at least a week’s worth of groceries. This week, the Rotary Club is organizing almost 200 bags to deliver to seven rural communities on the North Coast. They are delivering 500 lbs of rice, 900 lbs of beans as well as cooking oil, for the members to cook in each community and share.

The effort includes delivery help from private tour operator Elvis Tours in Puerto Plata.

Grocery deliveries in communities on the North Coast – Photo courtesy of Club Rotario Puerto Plata

Through the use of a national database, and in collaboration with community leaders, individuals who are not receiving any government aid are identified in the communities along the North Coast.

You can purchase a box of food for just $12 per family. A $35 donation would maintain one family of seven for a week.

I love how the Rotary Club puts it: “Will you invite somebody to have virtual dinner with you?”

How to donate:

PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/rotarypuertoplata

Simply enter and process the amount you wish to donate.

Or if you are in the DR or have a Dominican bank account, you can wire to Club Rotario Puerto Plata
Banco Popular – Account: 805894961
RNC: 430-23699-3

2. Feed Fragile Communities Cabarete and East DR: GoFundMe

Run by Tracey Lantz, this entirely volunteer-run effort is really heartwarming to witness. They are serving the areas east of Cabarete: Islabon, Sabaneta, Gasper Hernandez, and Los Guao. When they last posted, they were set to deliver 63 food boxes that week; you can follow updates on their GoFundMe page.

A few words from the organizer:

This is a really hard time for many of our families here that lived a day to day existence before and now the hotels are closed, the businesses are closed, nobody in the street for the motoconchos, etc. At the store today, I saw lines of people trying to check to see if they were recipients of the card containing help from the government. Time and time again, I saw them being turned away, ‘No, I’m sorry you aren’t in the system.’ It’s heartbreaking. Please donate and/or share this post. Every donation helps. Doesn’t matter how much. Bless you all and stay safe.”

Each box, which adds up to about US$22, contains enough for families to stay fed for a week: salami, 10 lbs of rice, beans, oil, sugar, spaghetti, noodles, macaroni, bread, milk, sardines, corn, oatmeal, cornmeal, and crackers.

How to donate:

GoFundMe Campaign at gf.me/u/xuwrcz

or Paypal kalaki2@aol.com


B. Jamaica

1. Hope for Hunger – Negril

A group of Jamaican Diaspora as well as residents and locals coming together to raise funds to purchase and distribute “Blessing Bags” or food packages and groceries to vulnerable families around tourism hub Negril.

How to donate:

Visit their Facebook page https://www.japromise.org/jatogetherwestand

Instructions are in the first pinned post on that page. You can also choose to sponsor a family.


This is just an initial list, on the heels my first #CovidCaribbean live update. Each source will be vetted as much as possible and I only list to those I donate myself, but you should feel free to contact these entities directly for any further information about whether your donation is tax deductible and where your money is going.

C. Belize

1. Caye Caulker Soup Kitchen

My former home away from home and favorite caye in Belize for as long as I remember, Caye Caulker has been hit hard with the complete absence of tourism and the shut down of all economic activity while the Government controls the virus spread.

A dedicated resident couple along with numerous collaborating restaurants and volunteers, have set up a local soup kitchen, with the aim of feeding vulnerable communities on the island who currently have no income at all.

They’ve served over 2,000 meals so far and need help in keeping this momentum going since there is no end in sight for now, to this pandemic.

How to donate:

GoFundme Campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/f/caye-caulker-soup-kitchen-for-covid19-relief

Updated: May 7, 2020


I hope you are able to donate what you can. I know we are all home, and many of us are not working, but it takes as little as $12 to start. Things are going to get much worse in the Caribbean before they better; remember, this is the most tourism-dependent region in the world. All those blissful days we’ve spent there? It’s great to post those memories, but honestly – it’s not enough. Now is the time to pay it forward any way we can – until we can return to our favorite region.


II. #CovidCaribbean Flash Updates

If you missed my first #CovidCaribbean Flash Update, the full clip is below, To catch the next one, subscribe to my Instagram feed or stay tuned on Facebook. Subsequent episodes will be embedded in this post.

Each episode will highlight updates, stories and commentary from the various Caribbean destinations, followed by an update to this post with ways to support fragile communities and the tourism industry.


#COVIDCaribbean Flash Update 2: Eye on Guadeloupe Islands

#COVIDCaribbean Flash Update 3: Eye on Jamaica


Would you like to suggest a guest or destination to feature on my live updates? Do you know of donations happening on your island or territory in the Caribbean? Drop a comment or send me a message.


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