The Yasme Foundation, Yaesu USA, the Foundation for Amateur International Radio Service (FAIRS), and individual GoFundMe donors have joined forces to restore country-wide Amateur Radio communication on Dominica in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Private pilots Brian Machesney, K1LI, and Dave Bridgham, N1AHF, are set to take off on October 14 from Vermont with a planeload of Amateur Radio gear, relief equipment, and supplies to better prepare the small Caribbean island nation for disasters. Bridgham is a volunteer for the Dominica “Angels to Eden” airlift spearheaded by round-the-world pilot Brian Lloyd, WB6RQN.
“Almost a month after Hurricane Maria, there are still families waiting to hear whether their loved ones are alive or dead or in serious need of medical attention,” said Michelle Guenard, Machesney’s spouse and spokesperson for the joint effort. Guenard pointed out that in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Dominica and its telecommunications infrastructure, “the only news of their families and friends was gleaned through the transmissions of local [Amateur Radio] operators.” She noted that many were able to listen to live streams of ham radio traffic via Facebook and YouTube live feeds.
Guenard explained that many Dominica expatriates now want to equip their home villages with ham radio stations, and she started a GoFundMe campaign for that purpose. “Once this equipment arrives and is installed throughout the island, we will have achieved our goal, ‘to provide every human being on the island of Dominica with the ability to call for help.’”
Working with a network of contacts developed over decades of visits to Dominica, Machesney and Guenard established a partnership that has pulled together more than $30,000 worth of radio equipment and solar-powered battery-charging stations. “When fully deployed, Dominica will be part of a robust local, regional, and worldwide network of Amateur Radio stations,” Machesney said.
“Many of our members lost everything in the hurricane,” said Joseph Raymond, J73RJ, President of the Dominica Amateur Radio Club Inc. (DARCI). “The donated equipment will dramatically improve our near-term ability to connect towns and villages all over Dominica, and to stay connected well into the future.”
Yasme President Ward Silver, N0AX, said his organization began working with the Dominica Amateur Radio Club and Dominica’s National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) last year to recruit and equip new ham radio operators for just such an emergency. “We are grateful to Yaesu, FAIRS, and the individual donors for joining us in this effort,” Silver said.
Mikio Maruya, WA6F, Executive Vice President of Engineering for Yaesu USA’s Amateur Division, said Yaesu “welcomes this opportunity to assist Dominica with its recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.”
FAIRS President Dave Larsen, KK4WW, pointed out that access to reliable power sources for ham radio equipment is often overlooked when preparing for emergencies. “These portable off-grid systems will help expand the coverage of Dominica’s surviving repeater, permit 24/7 field operations by recharging batteries on handheld radios, and supply base stations in villages that are likely to remain without commercial power for some time to come,” Larsen said.