Back in 2017, after Nikki and I returned to the United States from a multi-month European excursion, we had settled down into the the Florida Keys for a stretch of relaxation in the Key Largo sun. Little were we to know that in just a little over a month, a category 4 hurricane would strike our islands.
Irma came across the Lower Keys on September 10th, and was so wide it completely covered the entire island chain, which is over 100 miles in length. Very little was spared. Once we were allowed back in (to find just about everything we owned there destroyed), Nikki and I set about doing what we could for our community.
At first, it was just the Upper Keys, as the authorities were only allowing that much entry. So we loaded up our truck with any supplies we could find at the various depots and took them to whoever needed them that couldn’t yet get out. As the weeks progressed, we moved down the Keys until we landed at ground zero. Devastation is a mild word for what we found there. So we helped set up distribution points. Volunteered at homes and local businesses to scrape the muck and debris that the tidal surge had deposited. And this continued until time just became a blur.
A few months after, a man named Brian Vest posted on Facebook that the canals near his house had not been touched since the storm, and did anyone want to come down and help clean out the mangroves and waterways? So we volunteered. Next month, he posted again, and again we went. Both of those events had maybe 30 people each. After the second one, Brian asked Nikki and I if we thought making this a more formal thing would be a good idea. We agreed, and somehow went from a few helping hands to a full-blown non-profit organization with over 2000 members. As this is being written, we have pulled over 130 TONS of debris from the mangroves and canals … by hand. Using kayaks, skiffs, and by swimming and dragging.
The work continues, and we strongly ask you to visit the organization at ConchRepublicMarineArmy.org to see how you can help. We have volunteers from around the country, and there is a place for you as well.
A year after Irma, another hurricane struck. This time in the panhandle area of Florida. Hurricane Michael hit Panama City and Mexico Beach as a category five. The strongest category possible. Shortly after, Nikki and I made a self-volunteer-mission to deliver supplies and do whatever we could for the people up there. We slept in a tent and in a cargo van, bringing our own supplies so we wouldn’t take away from those who now had nothing. And it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
I thought I was prepared, since I had survived Irma. I wasn’t. Mother Nature’s wrath was so much worse. You could stand in Mexico Beach and it literally looked like those old cold war films of a-bomb tests where everything is ground up and flattened into piles of nothingness. The silence and the devastation. The smell of rot and unfound bodies. It was beyond words.
We eventually hooked up with a group called Third Wave Volunteers, led by Alison Thompson. They respond to disasters around the world, and they were in the panhandle for the duration. We joined them on several missions, and I can tell you from experience that they are the real deal. Please click over to their site and see how you can help. As Alison says “Everyone’s Needed”.
We have continued to support disaster-stricken communities as we can. Sometimes in person, sometimes virtually. It is amazing what you can do with a few hours time, an internet connection, and a heart. Please contact us for more information on how you can help. Or for help in starting your own volunteer missions. We simply cannot collectively sit back and wait for others to solve these problems. The environment, the people, the communities need help now. And that only comes from the love and assistance of people like you and me.
What we’ve found again and again as we travel the world, is that cultures may change, but people really do not. It really doesn’t matter where you are or from whence you came, you still are part of some family. Parents want the best for their children. There is happiness, struggle, and passion. High level differences aside, we are all pretty much the same people on the inside. Vulnerable, giving, and very much alive.
This message is what we bring. What we do. To educate by example. Showing that humanity is a sweet thing that is to be reveled in and cherished. We want to show the love we find everywhere we go.
We were visiting Fes Morocco a few years ago, and were wandering just outside of the medina. A young man named Asseade (as in school-age young) started talking to us at random. We later named him Mister Charisma for his charm. He wanted to show us his city and his life. He already spoke multiple languages and had more passion in him than I had ever seen. He brought us to his family’s riad to introduce us. They fed us (and fed us well!), and made us honorary family. Not for money, or marketing, or anything for themselves. But because they wanted to share their lives and their culture.
This is what we find throughout the world. Making new friends from other countries and places. Gathering not in the name of competition, but in caring and joy. Finding happiness and newness around every corner.
So we write stories. Make videos. Create books and ebooks. Publish our photos. And we share all that we experience. For the world is a wondrous place that is both as large and as small as you think possible. Contact us to learn more, to perhaps meet us somewhere, or to share your stories.
See you out there!
Have you seen the YouTube Channel? No? Really? Because that’s what this site is designed for, to drive you over there. So … what are you waiting for? 🙂 Seriously, The Pirate Wanderer is centering around videos, and what better place than YouTube to host our world. Please head over, subscribe, and comment away. We can’t wait to see you over there!
For the most part, we’ve got this financially (especially if you buy our book!). But, and there’s always a but, a little help won’t be turned away. If you enjoy what you see and want to help out, any donation would be most appreciated.
And while you’re at it, perhaps head over to Amazon and pick up my new novel: Letters To A Dead Uncle. On the shelves and in the Kindle Store. It’s a travel novel, of sorts. Just me writing to my dearly departed Uncle Jimmy about my latest exploits. More details on the home page!