If a huge hurricane blew away your home, what would you miss the most?

For Lorie, it was his treasured viola. “There’s no way I can replace my instrument, my viola,” he said. “It was just precious.”

The keen musician’s home and viola were damaged by Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever seen in the Atlantic.

The huge storm damaged or destroyed almost every house in the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. Rebuilding is going slowly.

“I sit down and cry”

Lucia, an 81-year-old woman in the British Virgin Islands, stands in front of her home which was damaged by Hurricane Irma

Lucia in front of her damaged home, © Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo/British Red Cross

For Lucia, the most upsetting thing was losing the deed to her land.

The 81-year-old often visits in the ruin of her home of 60 years. “When I see the destruction and I see what I had loved so dearly, I sit down and cry,” she said.

“My favourite thing that I lost is the deeds to my land. I hope I will get back in the house soon.”

Helen Frett, director of the Red Cross in the British Virgin Islands, has heard many stories like this.

“The hurricane was horrible,” she said. “It affected all of us: the rich, the poor, black and white – everybody.

“It took off many of the houses’ roofs. Windows and doors were damaged and people are still suffering.”

The Red Cross sprang into action

Helen Frett, director of the British Virgin Islands Red Cross, stands smiling in a Red Cross polo shirt

Helen Frett, director, British Virgin Islands Red Cross, © Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo/British Red Cross

“The Red Cross sprang into action right after the hurricane,” Helen said.

“The Land Rover was the only vehicle that could travel on the rough roads right after the hurricane with all the debris,” Helen said.

“Four Red Cross volunteers were out assisting people, providing first aid, and transporting people to hospital and shelters.

One woman became paralysed after falling from a two-storey building. Volunteers drove the Land Rover part of the way and then walked a long distance to reach her.

Using makeshift boards, they got her back to the vehicle over rough terrain and took her to hospital.

Kindness helped us reach more people

A Red Cross and Red Crescent emergency kitchen set box similr to those given to people after Hurricane Irma

Emergency supplies like this kitchen set were given to people after the hurricane, © Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo/British Red Cross

The Red Cross faced this huge crisis after helping with a devastating flood only a month earlier. The team had given out most of the emergency supplies then.

But knowing that the Red Cross could help in a crisis, people were coming to us for supplies again after the hurricane.

At that point, the community came together to help.

“One of the supermarket owners allowed us to credit food and other needed goods,” Helen said.

“We gave the essential items we had left to people whose food and homes had been blown away by the hurricane.”

Tarpaulins, kitchen sets, cleaning kits, blankets, buckets and mosquito nets were all given to people who needed them.

Cash grants help people get over the worst

Two men work on wooden beams that will form a house's roof as they rebuild after Hurricane Irma

Red Cross cash grants helped this family buy materials to rebuild their home after Hurricane Irma, © Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo/British Red Cross

After the initial shock, the next step was to start rebuilding.

But with everything disrupted and broken – homes, roads, medical centres – some people didn’t have the resources even to start.

The UK public had generously supported our Hurricane Appeal last year. This meant that we could use donated funds, combined with UK government support, to give grants to the worst-hit families for three months.

“The new windows are here”

Rasheed stands in the kitchen of his family home in front of a new window paid for by Red Cross cash grants

Red Cross grants helped pay for the new windows in Rasheed’s family home, © Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo/British Red Cross

Rasheed Jennings’ family was one. Nineteen at the time of the hurricane, he was caught off guard when it first hit.

“We thought it was a normal hurricane,” he said.

But after just ten minutes, the wind had shattered the windows of his family’s home.

“It was really hard because the wind was blowing in glass and I had to protect my mum, who couldn’t really walk well.”

Rasheed, his parents and his brother all sheltered in the bathroom. Through its small window, they watched the ferocious wind tear through the house and even float their bed frames through the door.

As many young men would, Rasheed will miss his PlayStation4 and computer. With wind strong enough to lift off the roof, they were quickly blown away as well.

It took about a month of cleaning and sorting to get the house ready even to start rebuilding.

“We went to talk to the Red Cross about our situation so they gave us cash to help buy the stuff we needed to build back up,” Rasheed said.

Looking to the future, Rasheed sounds optimistic about the progress they have already made.

“Now the new windows are here – and they were all gone before – so we’re really grateful that they provided us with that.”