Many Hands Expanding into the Caribbean
- Many Hands is expanding into the Caribbean in 2023.
- The organization was invited to establish itself on the island of Great Abaco in the Bahamas.
- Many Hands will serve low-income Bahamians and Haitians in the nation.
- Three staff members are part of the Abaco team.
- Many Hands will continue working in Haiti.
Many Hands’ expansion into the Bahamas will operate out of Camp Abaco on Abaco island
Many Hands is excited to announce its plans to expand in the Caribbean. Many Hands has been invited to establish its community-based initiatives on the island of Great Abaco, located in the northern islands of the Bahamas.
Working in partnership with the local government, churches, and international non-profits, Many Hands plans to help address some of the nation’s challenges. The island has many unseen issues in food security, housing, and education. Many struggle to provide necessities for their families, particularly single parents. Approximately 14% of Bahamians live in poverty, with 37% of Haitians in the Bahamas falling below the poverty line.  Many Hands believes its Love in Action programs can support these communities.
“The problems we are addressing are greater than the borders of Haiti.”
“Since 2019, we’ve been asked to explore working in Abaco,” comments Tim Brand, CEO of Many Hands. “When we did our evaluation in May 2022, the needs were evident and the willingness to collaborate with so many organizations like Convoy of Hope, Assemblies of God, and Bahamas Youth Network, led us to saying yes. We’ve always felt our model for growing communities was designed for more than Haiti alone, but we didn’t know the timing. That time is now.”
The Bahamas has a growing Haitian population. An increasing number of Haitian refugees are fleeing a worsening crisis in Haiti, making the Bahamas their home. They take the dangerous and illegal journey overseas to seek a better life in places like Abaco.
“The catastrophic issues in Haiti are forcing difficult choices for families. We will continue to strengthen families in Haiti, as we aren’t going anywhere. At the same time, we see the great need for building community and strengthening families in places migrants are landing. The problems we are addressing are greater than the borders of Haiti,” notes Brand.
Haitian shanty towns exist throughout the Bahamas
Initially, Many Hands’ expansion will focus on the newly rebranded short-term mission trips, now known as IMPACT trips, beginning with the Bahamas. IMPACT teams will be a strategic part of their effort to meet the immediate needs of the island while building trust to deepen their work in the community. They will serve alongside the people of the Bahamas and the growing Haitian population. The first IMPACT teams will be boots on the ground starting January 2023. Leading these teams is IMPACT Manager Laura Nicholson, who will be based out of Abaco.
“Inviting people on an IMPACT Journey has always been in our DNA. I am a byproduct of one of those trips. For the past four years, we haven’t been able to fulfill that part of our mission. With the team we have in place and the years of experience to draw upon, these trips can change lives,” explains Brand.
Many Hands has also hired two staff to prepare for the future launch of their initiatives in Abaco. Sam and Lisa Berg, originally missionaries in Haiti, are now living on the island. Sam is the Lead for Ministry and Benevolence, while Lisa is the Lead for Education and Early Childhood Development. By establishing education and sports programs, they have begun connecting with the community with the long-term goal of establishing a Love-in-Action Center to serve the community.
“We came to the Bahamas knowing there was a Haitian population here, knowing they were recovering from a horrific hurricane that destroyed their island in 2019. Three years later, there’s still so much need, so much work to be done,” shared Lisa Berg. “They need more people willing to come in long-term to sustain and educate. There needs to be some long-term sustainability here. And God just really laid in our hearts that the Bahamas is where He wants us.”
Lisa Berg visiting with a family in Abaco
Many Hands has also been working with local consultants during their assessment. This includes Pastor Ryan Forbes, presbyter for the Assemblies of God churches of Abaco. A Bahamian native, he provides a unique strategic insight as Many Hands works to establish its community-based initiatives.
“I am beyond excited as I hear what Many Hands wants to do in the country,” shared Pastor Forbes. “The initiative and the programs that would help [with] education and agriculture. This would help single parents to raise their children and help our society to come together and work together as one…and to be able to help our country to develop.”
“We have lost everything. And that is all of us. All of us lost everything, had to rebuild our lives…”
Challenges Abaco Faces
Abaco’s issues are compounded by the aftereffects of Hurricane Dorian. On September 1, 2019, the category five hurricane struck the Abaco Islands with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph. The once-in-a-lifetime storm battered the island for 52 hours, destroying vital infrastructure and permanently uprooting families. Across the Bahamas, the storm left at least 70,000 people homeless.  Many in the Bahamas have never been able to fully recover physically and psychologically from what the nation faced in 2019.
“There’s a lot of people who are broken,” shared Pastor Ryan Forbes “[People with] psychological and emotional challenges came to us crying and weeping and saying everything is gone. We have lost everything. And that is all of us. All of us lost everything, had to rebuild our lives, start over, and be able to comfort one another.”
A church detsroyed by Hurricane Dorian remains unrebuilt
The loss of life suffered during the hurricane is unknown to this day.  With undocumented Haitians living in shanty towns on the island, some estimate thousands of Haitian lives were also lost. Bahamians and Haitians have traumatic stories of loved ones lost during the massive storm.
Following this, COVID-19 hit the island in 2020, effectively shutting down the nation and restricting its rebuilding efforts. To this day, critical infrastructure has not been rebuilt, including schools, community buildings, housing, churches, and medical facilities. Pastor Ryan Forbes explained the effects COVID-19 had on the island.
“About six months after Hurricane Dorian, here comes COVID-19. It halted a lot of the restoration efforts and a lot of the rebuilding…that was needed to help Abaco develop quickly and get back to where it was. Unfortunately, COVID caused significant damage in that regard. Many NGOs who came on the ground had to return to the country [US].”
Facing the Challenge
Three years after Dorian, and through the hardships of COVID-19, the nation is still working to rebuild its communities and families.
“We have a challenge with food security and food sustainability. We have a challenge with broken homes in our country. We have a challenge in education, our children falling behind, not just in Abaco, but the entire country because of what has happened with Hurricane Dorian,” shared Pastor Forbes.
Many Hands continues to dream about what is possible for Haiti and the Caribbean nations as they work to be Love in Action wherever they are called.
“With so many doors opening for us, we had to take this step forward in faith. God is calling us to grow our impact to transform lives. It is exciting to see the possibilities and to start stepping into the brokenness to bring long-term change,” states Brand.
If you are interested in learning about IMPACT or their work in the Bahamas, please visit www.manyhandsimpact.com
About Many Hands:
Many Hands is an Iowa-based nonprofit creating local and global life-transformation by strengthening families. Established in 2008, the organization focuses on six key areas for transformation, including education, agronomy, leadership development, safe homes, medical assistance, and economic development. Each year, the organization reaches at least 25,000 people through their Haitian operations, IMPACT trips, and Many Hands Thrift Markets located in Grimes, Iowa, and Spencer, Iowa.
Many Hands is called to transform together, to be love in action, in a broken world.
A shop owner, a refugee, and an immigrant child. Each share why Haitians are choosing to flee, and the hard consequences they face no matter what they do.
 – Bahamas Feeding Network – Vital Statistics: https://www.bahamasfeedingnetwork.org/about/page/vital-statistics.html
 – Reliefweb – IOM to Provide Temporary Roofing Solutions: https://reliefweb.int/report/bahamas/iom-provide-temporary-roofing-solutions-houses-affected-hurricane-dorian-bahamas
 – The Tribune – Missing List Falls to 1,300: http://www.tribune242.com/news/2019/sep/13/missing-list-falls-1300/
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