By Lancelot McCalla
Following the destruction wrought upon the Caribbean by Hurricane Sandy, the Jamaica Red Cross, in collaboration with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security has continued to do door to door evaluations in the three most affected parishes, St. Thomas, St. Mary and Portland.
With more than 18,000 homes affected in the country, it is evident that the process of recovery will also be long and challenging. Beyond the figures, there are numerous individual human stories.
October 24, 2012 will forever be etched in the minds of Brenda Matthews and Leroy Kennedy, residents of Long Bay Portland, one of the parishes hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy. Brenda Matthews, a farmer aged 55, and Leroy Kennedy, a carpenter/farmer aged 40, are picking up the pieces of what remains of their home and lives now that the storm has gone.
The Hurricane, which lashed the eastern end of the island of Jamaica, brought with it wind speeds of 80mph and huge amounts of rain, resulting in a great deal of structural damage and the displacement of thousands of Jamaican families.
The couple’s split-level wooden home, which was nestled in the woodlands on a steep slope facing the windward side of the community, was practically reduced to rubble during the passing of the storm, forcing them to seek shelter under a sheet of corroded zinc.
They said that as well as the damage to their homes, much of their 13 acre farm was also destroyed. Due to the remote location of their home which is lower than the road, it was the smoke from their stove which alerted the Jamaica Red Cross assessment team to their location.
As the team continued their evaluation, Mr. Kennedy guided them towards their ravaged farmland where fallen banana trees, and uprooted crops peppered the scene.
Although the outlook for this couple may seem bleak, they remain hopeful that they will be able to recover with even just a little help and comfort. Facing the challenge of recovery Ms. Mathews recognizes that it will be hard to get going again: “If wi get likkle help, wi can do a thing,” she said.
Lois Hue, Deputy Director General of the Jamaica Red Cross, said the National Society has been working around the clock evaluating damages and needs, and delivering shelter, food and other necessities. “The entire island is alarmed and shocked by the pain being experienced in the three parishes that have been the most affected. Our teams continue providing assistance and carrying out damage and needs assessments in the affected communities. Volunteers and staff are doing their best with what limited resources permit to inspire confidence in those affected that the Red Cross will be there to help them.”
Alongside the work being done by the Jamaica Red Cross and the Jamaican government, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an appeal for 1,211,693 Swiss francs (1,298,000 US dollars) to assist 3,400 vulnerable families.
The IFRC is calling on all its partners and member National Societies to contribute to the appeal to support the relief and recovery operation in Jamaica. Those interested in contributing with donations to this operation can do so by donating through their local Red Cross society.