Dominican fishers are the most helpful, resilient, giving people I have met. Right now they are acting as first responders post Maria and the least we can do is get them back to fishing!
I wanted to write for a few reasons….
To say a huge thank you for your donation! I've have heard from friends, family and strangers and from people with their own struggles whether they be recovery from another of this year’s hurricanes or some other challenge we may not know about. Your outpouring of support and all the support for Dominica has been so wonderful I can’t stop using superlatives to describe it! I will also use the word we quite a bit in the following email, the we refers to a couple of things...The we who decided to conduct this campaign, Charles Sidman, Kai Lorenzen and myself, all from the University of Florida and all researchers who visited and fell in love with Dominica enough that our work continues even now, over 5 years after our first visit. And the we who donated, worked for, and cared for a country that many of you don't know!
To give you an update on the campaign:
1. Communication: I do have your emails and will write periodic updates on what is going on such as when we reach our goals, if we succeed in getting the match we are looking for, what will be included in the kits (for those who are wondering we aren’t including fishing poles because Dominican Fisherfolk don’t use them, they use hand lines so a lot of strong line, hooks and gloves sufficient to fight a 300 lb marlin for hours are much more important) and how and when we distribute the funds. If you don’t know me I will never use your emails for anything other than this campaign, if you do know me I might write to say hi :). If you don’t want these updates (maybe 3-5 over two months) just email me and let me know.
2. Transparency and trust: I am honored you have trusted me to raise this money for people many of you do not know so included in the emails above will be detailed information on how the money is used and how and when the goods will be distributed. If you have ANY question please feel free to email me and ask. To date we have found a wholesaler on the island of Grenada who will work with us to determine the best gear and pack and ship the kits. I will be sending the wholesaler the funds we've raised and he will ship the kits to meet me when I travel there from 12/27-1/9. As mentioned before I am using my personal money to fund the trip. This company has been working with fishers for years, including in Dominica, and is excited to help.
3. Fishing kit updates: I've been working with a wholesaler in Grenada to come up with the kits. We should have it completed next week and I will withdraw the money and send it to SIFH group so they can compile and ship the equipment. We haven't quite finalized it but the kit will include high test mono line, multiple hooks at different sizes, artificial bait, some hand reels and for a few who lost everything, safety gear including handheld GPS and whistles. Once the gear is pulled together we will send photos. I am working with the DA fisheries division to determine those with the most need based on damage assessments but it does look like Scotts Head/Soufriere is a key donor site as they lost all of their gear when their lockers were destroyed. Other fish landing sites will receive smaller packages base on needs.
I am also writing to tell you a bit more about who you are helping and why, especially for the many of you who may have never heard of this country before knowing me or Charles or Kai, and most of you who have never visited although I hope you will get the chance to someday. The following will be long so feel free to skip it.
Dominica is the most beautiful place I have ever visited. I recognize that everyone has their own preferences but for me, the mountains, waterfalls around every corner, lush green rainforest, the smell of amazingly clean air, the taste of water from springs, the sound of nature everywhere you went, the connection to the ocean and sea, and the humanity of the people made me feel I had found my true home. Dominica was wrecked by Hurricane Maria. This is not hyperbole. The home I lived in was two floors and the upper is essentially gone (I lived in the basement apartment), many of my friends are living in cars or in homes with no roofs. All power and cell communication cut off, although the latter is coming back rather quickly and they are slowly making progress on the former. For a while my friends were unable to get food and one of my study communities had to travel by boat to a neighboring country to get supplies and meds. The forest were gone, there were reports of no leaves being left on the trees but the leaves are slowly growning back and the nature part of the nature ilsand is rebounding. All of the above info has been provided by my friends with photo evidence. The economy is not bad, there is just no economy, farms, the largest contributor to the Dominica GDP have been ravaged and until this week all banks were closed. I have no idea if people are still receiving salaries but I am not sure there is much to buy.
Meanwhile, three months later things are sounding more positive. Communities are cleaning up and rebuilding. International aid is making it there by boat, plane and helicopter. The older generation of women are brushing off their outdoor cooking skills to feed their families and communities. Fishers who still have gear are transporting people to other countries, distributing food throughout the island or catching fish and giving it away for free.
I’ve chosen to fundraise for the fishers because I think they may be the best hope for the country to get food produced locally in the near term. On a personal note I’ve chosen to support them because I spent 9 months talking to, interviewing, playing dominoes with, going fishing with and being accepted as family by the fishing community. They fed me, so constantly in fact I had to fight to buy food for them. They invited me to holidays and family events. If they found out I liked kale they would bring it to my house. If they learned I wanted to see where they produced bay leaf oil they were driving me there next week. When I expressed interest in their farms (most of them are also famers which is another reason they are a good group to support) they took me. If I had friends in town and I offhandedly mentioned I wanted that friend to see, taste, experience x, they had it covered. I’ve traveled a fair amount and one thing you notice when you travel is it is very hard to experience the culture as a local…except in Dominica, they truly love their country and want you to love it too. My favorite quote, by everyone I spoke with, was the answer to the exchange Fisher “How long are you in Dominica” Visitor “x time” Fisher “That’s too short”.
- Roxie Mae Lackman
- Jami Maxwell
- Gabriel Villarreal Jr.
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