The images from the Bahamas are harrowing. Dorian’s destruction seems apocalyptic. And for many, including anglers who spend their vacations on the iconic bonefish flats under the watchful eyes of guides who have become almost family, a question immediately rises from the videos of rubble and wreckage. How can I help?
To answer that we reached out to Oliver White. The Chapel Hill, North Carolina, native is one of the most renowned fly fishermen in the world, with a global following and two lodges in the Bahamas. The better-known location, Abaco Lodge, is perhaps the premier bonefishing lodge in the world.
White had just driven from Wyoming to his home in Chapel Hill when I reached him on the phone. The lodge, he reports, “was totally destroyed. There is nothing standing.”
But, of course, of far greater concern to White are the Bahamians he has come to love over the last decade. Within hours of Hurricane Dorian destroying Marsh Harbor, White launched a GoFundMe page to help his staff and the greater guiding community of the Bahamas weather the difficult storms of recovery. A portion of the funds will go directly to Abaco Lodge staff and their families, to get them back on their feet. All have lost most. Most have lost all. As of this morning, White has heard from about half of his staff.
He is unsure about the specifics of how the funds will be spent, other than that they will go directly to the Bahamians affected by the storm. “We’ve spent a decade earning the trust not only of anglers but of the community where we live and work down there,” he says. “My thinking is: Let’s get a way for people to help right now. I’m hearing from so many people who want to reach out and do something, so here it is. I’ll figure out in real time where the funds need to go, and who the people are that are doing the real work. And there will be a direct accounting of where these donations are distributed.”
So far, hundreds have responded to the GoFundMe effort. Donations have ranged from $5 to thousands. Guides around the world have donated directly. Others have auctioned off day charters and earmarked the funds for White’s efforts. Companies including YETI, Sight Line Provisions, Costa del Mar, Maverick Boats, and Colorado artist Cody Richardson have donated funds and percentages of sales.
“Most of these folks have fished with us and they know this place, they love the people, they become friends with the guides and play with their kids,” White says. “For a long time, we’ve worked hard to make great memories down there, memories that are deeper even than fishing. I just want to give a people a way to get there voice out there that they care.”
For other ways to help those in the Bahamas click here.