'The difference between life and death': Canadian organizations sending aid to victims of Hurricane Irma

Local volunteers, including crews from Global Medic and Air Canada, spent Saturday morning packing and assembling 1,000 family emergency kits heading for victims of Hurricane Irma.

Hurricane Irma hit parts of the Caribbean as a Category 5 storm

A group of Air Canada employees joined the volunteer effort to organize emergency kits to be sent to Caribbean victims of Hurricane Irma. (Keith Burgess/CBC)

Local volunteers came out Saturday morning to aid in the much-needed relief effort for victims of Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean. 

The Category 5 hurricane smashed into the eastern Caribbean last week, flattening entire towns and leaving locals desperately in need of basic sustenance. 

The team, which included crews from Global Medic and Air Canada, spent the morning packing and assembling 1,000 family emergency kits made up of 240 packets of water purifiers and  hygiene items.

"These kits are so important because it's going to give those families about three months of aid," Rahul Singh, Global Medic's executive director told CBC Toronto.

The crucial elements in the kits, the water purifiers, will make up to 2,400 litres — three month's worth — of potable water for most families. 

"Infrastructure is gone in many of these islands, imagine what these people have to drink. This is the difference between life and death to a lot of folks," Singh said.

Rahul Singh, the executive director, of Global Medic says emergency kits being sent to the Caribbean can make the difference between life and death. (Keith Burgess/CBC)

Air Canada will fly the packages to Grenada on Monday morning, where they will be cleared and loaded onto a Global Medic boat. The vessel will travel to Torotola, in the British Virgin Islands, where a built-in water purification system on the boat will give people near the port an opportunity to access fresh water. 

The kits will be delivered to people further inland, Singh says.

We went almost a week without hearing from anybody: parents, cousins, aunts, uncles.- Vanessa Hunt, volunteer

Volunteer Ian Winsborrow was born in Grenada. Hurricane Ivan devastated his home island 13 years ago. He said that aid crews on the ground were critically important, especially to families and vulnerable residents. 

"From here, it's difficult to see what is happening on the ground through the TV lens and to really have an understanding of what it's like to be in an environment where you have access to nothing. It's really important for us to get the fundamental necessities them," Winsborrow said.

Praying for food and water

Johanne and Vanessa Hunt, two volunteers originally from Saint Martin, says their family members on the island are just hoping to get basic necessities like food and water

"The whole country is devastated and everyone is just praying for help, for food and water," the sisters said.

"We went almost a week without hearing from anybody: parents, cousins, aunts, uncles. And that was almost like torture for us," said Vanessa Hunt.

This is the latest delivery of emergency aid by Global Medic in response to Hurricane Irma. They've previously sent aid kits to Antigua, Cuba and Saint Martin, along with a drone to study the impact of the Hurricane.

With files from Natalie Nanowski