Alaqua Helps Bahamas Farm

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Struck by Hurricane Dorian Rebound 

 Alaqua Founder And Awa Florida State Director Laurie Hood

This past October, Alaqua Animal Refuge Founder Laurie Hood traveled to Grand Bahama Island on a mission with Animal Wellness Action (AWA) to assess three farms and their surviving animals that were almost completely demolished by Hurricane Dorian back in August of this year. The catastrophic category 5 hurricane wreaked havoc across the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama Island with rain and wind gusts up to 220 miles per hour. Hood, the Florida State Director for AWA, and fellow members initially visited two farms that had surviving owners and animals, but they needed assistance with supplies and rebuilding. AWA was able to provide for those needs, but it was the third farm that Hood would never forget. The entire farm, formerly a tourist destination on the east end of Grand Bahama Island, was destroyed. Sissel and George Johnson had operated Ol’ Freetown Farm for 10 years and had accumulated goats, donkeys, horses, chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, guineas, and peacocks. Previously, it was a lush property that also supplied fruits, vegetables, and wellness classes for the island.

With no place to evacuate, George and his family decided to ride out the storm in their home. The 20-foot surge of water hit their home and the farm. Hundreds of animals drowned, as well as their longtime 41-year-old employee who tended to them. Three agonizing days later, rescue workers came when they spotted a plea for help on the deck by the pool. Prior to the water rushing in, George had taken siding off the house and spelled out the word “help” in hopes they would be rescued (not knowing how large the waves were). George, Sissel, Virginia and the animals inside the house all survived.“We could hear the dogs crying the whole time throughout the storm,” said George. “I pushed down the attic ceiling in a couple of rooms so I could see the animals. The cats stayed on a bed’s mattress the whole time, and the dogs were swimming around. I didn’t think they could swim.” Months later, Virginia is still recovering from her wounds and infection, and George and Sissel are trying to piece their lives back together. They returned to the farm to remove debris, but rebuilding is not an option. “One day we will figure things out. It is very tough going through photographs and memories, but in the end very inspirational,” said George.  “I think what hits me so hard about this story is that this was literally Alaqua Animal Refuge in the Bahamas. This could happen to us one day, so I wanted to do something to help them,” says Hood.

In an effort that comes straight from her heart and a strong desire to help this family rebound, Hood set up a fundraising page for the Johnson family and their farm. 100% of the donations will go to help them rebuild their lives. Contributions can be made at www.alaqua.org/bahamas.

Hood relayed, “In this season of doing good and helping others, I feel that this is something I can do to help them. I have also extended an invitation for the Johnson’s to visit us in Florida and they have accepted. George is one the kindest souls I have ever met and it would be an honor for them to be our guests.”

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