By Caroline Haga

Moses Lewis is busy shoveling mud and debris out of his small bakery in the Dominican capital, Roseau. “My grandmother always told me: ‘don’t wait for handouts – you have to work for what you want’. That’s what I’m doing, getting my hands dirty,” he says.

When Hurricane Maria struck Dominica with ferocious winds and rain, the central river of the island overflowed and water and mud rushed into buildings in the capital. Lewis’s small pale blue bakery was inundated with mud.

“When I came here, I just couldn’t believe the damage in Roseau,” he says. “Imagine water waist-high, and it has brought down all the debris with it. It was terrible.”

Despite everything, the 58-year-old is working hard to rebuild his life, and get his bakery up and running again as quickly as possible. Many people have been asking him for bread and he doesn’t want to let them down.

Starting again with nothing

The traumatic night when hurricane Maria barreled down on Dominica is still fresh in Lewis’ mind. He took shelter with his family at home and they all survived the storm, but it was a terrifying experience.

“You don’t want to experience that. Imagine seeing your roof going up and down, and all of a sudden it’s not there. Then water starts pouring in,” he says.

“That part was hell. You could say that somebody has a needle and is pricking your skin, because the wind is so strong. And you could see trees just blowing away – the leaves, the branches, just blowing away.”

Lewis is determined to get his bakery up and running to be able to provide for his family but also to give his customers what they want – his famous pegassi, a small loaf of bread.

Strength to go ahead

“One day things will work out. It’s like you’re starting back with nothing and hoping that you’ll get somewhere. Maybe some people give up along the way but I think I have the strength to go ahead – to live life and see what happens,” says Lewis.

Eventually, in the next five years, Lewis hopes to retire and move to the farm he owns in central Dominica. All his crops were destroyed, but if he replants soon he could be able to grow everything he needs to survive and live on the land. But until then, a lot of hard work will be required.

“You have to put your shoulder to the wheel and say: I’ve got to do it. If you want to make it, nobody can do it for you but yourself.”