In September 2017, two powerful Hurricanes, Irma and Maria, ravished the Caribbean causing massive destruction and turmoil. Thousands of persons were left homeless, without jobs, and worst of all mourning the untimely loss of their loved ones who succumbed to hurricane related injuries and accidents . For those whose lives were spared, the road to rebuilding and recovery is a long, arduous and very expensive. Even as we approach the two month mark since the hurricanes hit, the affected Caribbean nations remain struggling to meet the basic needs of their citizens. With no electricity and very limited access to running water, thousands of Caribbean natives are still in need. The need for relief and aid is greatest now that the islands are no longer at the forefront of the headline news. While some might have forgotten, and others are simply unaware, for the people who have been impacted, life has not been the same since. For three of my college friends Rochelle, Claudine, and Calyn who are natives of the US Virgin Islands, Dominica and Anguilla, respectively, life has not been the same.
Claudine, Calyn and Rochelle are three of the most selfless, hardworking and community oriented people I know. Two medical students and a rising young accountant, I've watched each of them jump into action countless times to help others in their times of need. Now that they are the ones who need assistance, my friends and I decided to use this platform to help them and their immediate families salvage and rebuild what they've lost after the hurricanes hit.
On September 6th, Anguilla was directly hit by the Category 5 Hurricane Irma. The hurricane completely destroyed buildings, schools, the island's air and sea ports and flattened family's homes. Calyn's grandmother's house was unfortunately one of those that was completely destroyed in the storm.
More than two months later, power still has not been restored to Anguilla. Experts say it will be an additional few months before electricity can be restored to the island at full capacity. While locals try to rebuild on their own, for many on an island where the tourist industry is the country's biggest employer, the journey will take a very long time as tourism is currently impossible. Calyn's words "this was the worst experience of my life. While it's been hard to dealing with the fact that my grandmother lost everything, it's been even harder knowing so much other people have lost everything as well " Calyn's words seem to echo the sentiments of many locals.
"It was very scary. I thought I was going to die.... I had given up. I was just waiting for the storm to take the house with it "-Claudine's sister describes what it was like during the hurricane on September 18th. The nature isle of the Caribbean, Dominica, was also ravaged by Hurricane Maria and officials put the death toll from Hurricane Maria at 27 while more than 50 people remain missing.
Although she was not physically there when Hurricane Maria ravaged Dominica, Claudine's family including her mother, sister, and grandmother weathered the storm. It would be five torturous days before she would hear from them or of their wellbeing. Claudine adds "Not being able to sleep at nights because I'm constantly wondering if my family is dead or alive." When Claudine was finally able to make contact she'd learnt that while they had all survived, the roof of her family house was damaged to the point where water is coming inside the house. "Because the back of my house is surrounded by a river, Hurricane Maria caused the river to cross the banks and damaged the septic/sewage lines, causing some of the waste from the sewage system to spill over in the river." Claudine's family home is almost unrecognizable to her.
Life in Dominica for many including remains a challenge right now. While many of the ground are doing what they can to pitch in, lots of help is still needed in almost every capacity.
US VIRGIN ISLANDS
The USVI experienced two major hurricanes that ranked in the strongest categories that are used to characterize hurricanes. On September 6, 2017, the islands of St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S.V.I. experienced the effects of its first Category 5 hurricane for the season, Hurricane Irma. The remaining island of St. Croix was then used as a base to load and send relief aid over to those 2 islands. Exactly 2 weeks later, a second category 5 Hurricane, Hurricane Maria crossed the U.S.V.I., this time battering across St. Croix. The untimeliness of having these two major storms batter the U.S.V.I. left many of Virgin Islanders in complete shock and total emotional and financial distress. Rochelle is a native of St. Croix, and most of family remained on the island during the storms.
"Although I was not on-island during the storm, my family and friends have given me a vivid account of their experiences. On St. Croix, where most of my family resides, my family lost parts of our house roof. This left my house uninhabitable and compelled my mother to move in with another family member until the damages could be repaired. One of my best friends, reported to me that the roof of the apartment complex that she was staying in caved in on her while she and her loved ones weathered the storm. Another one of my best friend’s family lost their entire roof forcing them to move out and find shelter with other family members; and the list goes on. " - Rochelle
For many in the USVI, the list is indeed a lengthy one. Rebuilding seems almost like innate concept but for so many it's hard to know where to start. With building supplies, food and even drinking water now competitive commodities, life is now a far cry from what it used to be.
PLEASE DONATE !!!!
As Calyn, Rochelle and Claudine all know firsthand, the road to recovery from Hurricane Irma and Maria will be a slow and steady one. Like the true Caribbean natives that they are, each of them is already equipped with a spirit of hope, dedication and resilience that cannot be matched. Even in circumstances as traumatic as these, they have all been pillars of strength for their families and loved ones so I hoping to use this platform so that we can now be pillars of support for them. Please find it in your heart to donate whatever you can to help my friends and their families recover from these catastrophic disasters. Whatever amount you can donate will go a long and faithful way in ensuring that we help them rebuild houses that can resists the force of any hurricane no matter the size so that this never happens again.
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