Alumnus in Virgin Islands leads hurricane relief effort
By Steve Seepersaud
For Charles Kim '98, the most vivid memory after Hurricane Irma hit the U.S. Virgin Islands last fall was the scene outside his friend's house. Near the top of a hill, 100 people gathered at the end of a driveway because it was the only place where cell service was available.
"Things you take for granted like power and clean water are gone, and every day is a grind," Kim said. "Despite that, nobody complained about anything, because someone else had it so much worse. There was a tremendous sense of community, neighbors helping neighbors. The community is small so you know everyone and see their daily struggles."
The spirit of coming together to overcome adversity is evident in the effort he and his friends launched. In association with the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, Kim – managing partner of Alpine Group USVI – and several other local business leaders created the IMVI Virgin Islands Relief Fund. IMVI donors, Kim and his company gave approximately $835,000 to local charities and nonprofits through a combination of food, materials, machinery, supplies and direct cash contributions. The relief fund has brought tons of real food (as opposed to the federally-issued ready-to-eat meals), hundreds of household power generators, insulated coolers, and all manner of everyday goods and household items directly to communities most in need.
"After the storm, the uncertainty was the most unnerving part," Kim said. "You literally had no idea when there would be food and supplies, and if there would be mass rioting and looting when food and fuel would run out. These were the immediate fears for a few days before the National Guard came. It was a basic primal sense that you needed to be here to feel, and it swept across the islands. To try to get things functioning was the most important thing after the storm."
Kim says power has been restored to about 60 percent of the Virgin Islands. With line crews coming from all over the U.S. mainland, the infrastructure is gradually being rebuilt. While there's still a long way to go, Kim says it's a night-and-day difference compared to just after the storm made landfall.
"We have the basic necessities. We have fuel, supplies and food. Banks are functioning, and money is moving. I won't say it's back to normal yet, but it's getting there."