By Kenneice McLeod-Shillingford, Dominica Red Cross
Pointe Michel, a village that lies in the parish of St. Luke in Dominica is recorded to be an area with great tragedy- it is here, that a family of 9 were swept away by the flooding waters caused by the heavy rainfall of the massive category 5 storm, called Hurricane Maria.
The night the storm had made landfall, to many, was a scene purely torn out of their nightmares- it was a night of terror, landslides, gnashing winds and flash floods.
Now, it is almost 10 months after the disaster and to many, it felt as if it was just yesterday. Many are still struggling to piece their lives together and are grateful for the help that they have been receiving.
Since November of 2017, the Dominica Red Cross Society (DRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been distributing cash grants of $US 450.00 (1,200.00 XCD) to the most vulnerable.
Using the latest technology and the data collected by the DRC volunteers, the village council and the village disaster committee, each beneficiary is carefully sorted and selected with impartiality in mind, and in total 164 individuals has received the cash grant in the village of Pointe Michel.
It is at a DRC Cash Transfer Distribution that we meet Joel Charles, a 39-year-old afterschool teacher, who is presently studying at the Dominica State College- striving to finish his studies.
Due to his disability, Joel was chosen as a recipient of the Cash Transfer Programme, and although having never been officially diagnosed by a doctor, Joel believes he was born with the limb deficiency- Phocomelia, but is proud to share that he has never allowed it to stop him from taking part in his two passions, cricket and teaching mathematics.
“I love math and I enjoy teaching it. For the last 3 years, I have been teaching an afternoon class at the community resource centre, but ever since the Hurricane, the community centre-where the clinic was- is damaged and the nurses had to move to the centre, forcing me to move the classes to a tent.”
With a huge smile, Joel continued, “I don’t really mind, we all have to do what we got to do until everything returns back to normal, I just hope that the centre is repaired in a timely manner.”
When asked what would be his plan for the cash that he has been granted by the Red Cross, he said, “Well for me, I will be using the money to help pay a part of my school fee and help me with the travel expenses to and from school and buy a little lunch whenever I can. It will keep me going.”
And as he spoke he guided us through the village, “I used to live in the Green Valley,” Joel says pointing up a road leading to where his house stood, “my house is the white one, right in the middle of the ravine.”
The ravine was once so small, that the residents of Green Valley had merely called it a creek. Many had reported that during the early stages of the hurricane the ravine had remain ‘dry’, seemingly posing no threat to all who lived close.
“It was small, I just don’t understand what happened, it was just a little drain. Easily stepped over. How many hurricanes and storms had passed and nothing had happened. Not even Hurricane David did that. Hurricane Maria did it, a small stream turn into a big, big ravine.”
He too, like many others, had to escape the flooding water that was suddenly upon them.
Having built his home on his own 5 years ago and living all his life in the village, Joel, had found it hard to abandon his house and village, but he understood the risk and escaped to his aunt’s home.
He is now hoping that since the government of Dominica has listed his area as a ‘danger-zone’, they will help to relocate him. His home now sits on a mostly eroded piece of land.
“I have all the materials to build a house, I just need a piece of land, and I don’t really want to ‘squat’ anywhere.”
And even though he is awaiting help, he knows he must wait patiently for the assistance from the government, for there is so much to be done.
“It’s a big job and I am very proud of what the Red Cross is doing for us. They are helping us.”