The images and video footage have been heart-wrenching. Hurricane Dorian, the most powerful storm to have ever hit the Bahamas, claimed lives, levelled homes and wiped out electricity as wind and rain relentlessly pummeled the islands for three days. The area hit the hardest, Great Abaco, was deemed uninhabitable, with residents left with no water, power or food.
In the aftermath of this unthinkable tragedy, so too has emerged strikingly different imagery—powerful pictures of unity and kindness shown toward fellow man. Look no further than the Instagram feed of celebrity chef and lauded humanitarian José Andrés, where you’ll see dishes of plantains, rice and beans, and something you wouldn’t expect given the circumstances: smiling faces.
In the two weeks since Dorian ravaged the Bahamas, Andrés and his humanitarian relief nonprofit, World Central Kitchen (WCK), have served 250,000 free meals to those affected by the storm. The WCK team, the first organization on the ground in Abaco, serves as many as 30,000 hot meals each day, delivering food and other supplies via boat, helicopter and seaplane.
Working side-by-side with local chefs and volunteers, and supported by generous donations coming in from around the world, Andrés’ WCK team offers Bahamians trays of steaming paella and Haitian griot, but also something even more filling: hope. As WCK tweeted, “It’s not just about delivering food to eat—it’s the message: We are all here for you during this difficult time.”
Since it began nearly a decade ago, World Central Kitchen has had its fair share of practice when it comes to assisting those in need following natural or man-made disasters. Last year, alone, the nonprofit activated in response to 13 disasters, traveling the globe to carry out its mission: “Wherever there’s a fight so hungry people may eat, we will be there.”
According to a recent NPR interview, the Spanish-born chef and Nobel Peace Prize nominee credits his father, who used to serve food to hundreds of people, with inspiring his passion for humanitarian work. And despite the tremendous impact he’s had in the Bahamas, Andrés remains humble, hesitant to take too much credit. “We don't have any technique that is very difficult or very special,” he said. “What we have is we have a lot of empathy.”
For now, WCK plans to remain on the ground in the Bahamas, serving thousands of hot meals each day. And as each day passes, hope continues to mount, as the power of human connection and compassion fill the communities ravaged by Dorian. As chef Andres sagely noted, “After every storm comes a rainbow.”
Read more about the latest relief efforts, as well as the “incredible individuals who inspire us to keep cooking every day” in this World Central Kitchen post. For real-time updates, follow WCK on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.