TSTT, United Way enable Irma relief via text

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With just a simple text, bmobile customers can help rebuild homes and economies in neighbouring Caribbean islands devastated by the passage of Hurricane Irma.

To make it happen, bmobile has partnered with United Way Trinidad & Tobago (UWTT) to raise funds for Hurricane Irma relief efforts via a text-to-donate campaign.  All a bmobile customer has to do is text the word “help” to 6683 and $5.00 will be automatically deducted from his/her account.

This will be the first time UWTT is harnessing the power of texting and the huge mobile phone market to raise funds. “We are excited about using this to connect to the public,” says UWTT Community Impact Manager Linda Ramsumir. 

“It is so important.  Money is the most effective input to mobilise and the “Text to Donate” initiative opens up the means for everyone to give.  You may think that it’s only big corporations and wealthy individuals who can give, however, by working together every small contribution can make a difference – you can do it through just one text.”

Hurricane Irma is the first Category 5 hurricane on record to affect the northern Leeward Islands and has killed at least 22 persons.  With terrifying winds that reached up to 185 miles an hour, Irma made landfall in Barbuda on September 6th. 

Over a four-day period, Irma swept up the Caribbean leaving a massive trail of destruction.  Islands hit include Barbuda, St. Martin, St. Maarten, St. Barthélemy, Anguilla, the US and British Virgin Islands, Turks & Caicos, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Bahamas and Cuba. 

How will donations from bmobile customers be used to help? UWTT CEO Jennifer Sancho explained, “We know that non-government organisations (NGOs) are already dealing with drives to collect basics such as food, water, clothing and medicine.  We are looking at helping to rebuild communities – as well as the immediate post-storm needs.”

“This is going to be a complex and long-term initiative. We’ll identify suitable partners on the ground in the islands who need the most help, and work with them.  Of course, this depends on the amount of money collected, so it is important we work collectively.”  In 2010, UWTT rebuilt a school in Haiti for 600 girls after an earthquake left a massive trail of destruction.  

UWTT Chair Ian Benjamin said, “We stand with our Caribbean sisters and brothers in this time of need.”

Thanking TSTT for supporting its work, Ramsumir said, “What struck me was that they reached out to me, they didn’t hesitate.  They’ve been a longstanding partner.  I really think they’re a phenomenal national entity.”

Praising the work UWTT has been doing, TSTT’s Vice President Marketing, Camille Campbell, noted that since its formation in 1999, United Way Trinidad & Tobago has been helping families and communities in Trinidad and Tobago, has built up an impressive list of donor companies, and has over 100 NGO partners. 

The Hurricane Irma relief effort fits right into UWTT’s vision, which is “To be the moving force in developing and sustaining a civil society in Trinidad & Tobago in which every individual fulfils his/her social responsibility of promoting human well-being.”

Explaining how the text-to-donate initiative would work, Campbell said, “All contributions will go into a virtual account and, when UWTT closes off the campaign, TSTT will issue one cheque for the entire amount collected. United Way and TSTT will also inform contributors how much was collected, how it will be used, and which organisations would receive it.”  She also noted that donors would receive an automated text message confirming receipt of their contribution. Individuals can also donate as many times as they want.

She added, “Trinidadians know how blessed and fortunate they are not to have to suffer the devastation of hurricanes and I know this makes them want to reach out and help. Through bmobile, we’re just making it easy for them to stretch out that helping hand.”