A Beaconite found it somewhat shocking when government announced retroactively this month that the Housing Recovery Assistance Programme was no longer accepting applicants as of November because of financial issues. There is still a clear need for assistance in the community. Indeed, the Beacon’s recent Hurricane Irma anniversary edition reported residents’ stories of living with leaking roofs, unreliable electricity and damaged cisterns three years after the storm. How is a community supposed to heal when faced with the constant reminder of dark days? Besides the physical hazards posed, the longstanding damage impedes the VI’s emotional recovery. Non-profit organisations also reported in September that many post-Irma clients had regained enough financial stability to rely less on their services, only to again be knocked down by the hardships caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. How are families still left behind by this programme? It’s a question that deserves a clear-cut answer. The reporter recognises the hard work so many people have invested into rebuilding the VI. But to turn away those still in need seems callous. What happened to restructuring the programme to better serve residents who were previously denied? At this point, the best she can do is keep asking the hard questions and hope things turn around in 2021.
A green future?
For today’s paper, a Beaconite reported on the first building on Tortola approved to sell energy it harvests from solar panels back into the grid. The approval was an important step, but it took about two years to come through. The delay reminded a Beaconite of the extent to which the Virgin Islands’ policies inhibit the achievement of its renewable energy goals. Granted, the delays were caused partly by the solar system’s failure to pass successive safety inspections, and the Beaconite of course understands the importance of all electrical systems being up to code. But even if two or so years was needed to get this system up to par, the Beaconite can’t help but think that if the territory made it easier for electricians to become certified to connect solar panels to the grid — few in the VI are — or dropped the import duties on renewable technologies, there would at least have been a few entities that might have installed grid-tie solar panels in the meantime. He hopes to see positive change on this front in the near future. Otherwise, precious few of the VI’s 2013 green-energy goals will be met.
A Beaconite always felt a special kinship with Governor Gus Jaspert, having arrived in the Virgin Islands around the same time he did. He, like her, faced one of the biggest tests of his relatively young career when Hurricane Irma hit after about two weeks on the job, but managed to pass the test with strength and resolve. Toward the later part of his term in office, his relationship with the government became somewhat rocky, and the Beaconite feels he was occasionally treated unfairly, but he handled it with grace and diplomacy and never lost his affection and respect for the territory and its people as a whole. He also was a staunch defender of freedom of the press, and she feels that most other members of the media had a warm professional relationship with him as well. She thanks him for his service, and she wishes him luck in whatever he chooses to do next.
There are certain things that a Beaconite sees: Kodak moments indescribable, but still she tries. Like the T-shirt that read “UNBROKEN” in capital letters, adding, “2017: the year of the… .” She knew it could only mean one thing. The man wearing it was traveling back from Jost Van Dyke on the ferry, a look of determination on his face as he looked ahead. This picture that she couldn’t take was a thousand words. So what if a pandemic hits and business closes? The territory still survives. And each day there is a reason to be grateful, so people’s faces still smile even at unknowing strangers who have come to enjoy the land. The people live on in every gracious way. And what is the Beaconite’s duty on this earth? What is it really? To see with unclouded eyes.