To the people of the hurricane-ravaged Caribbean islands who are still struggling to return to normalcy: St. Kitts & Nevis, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda as well as Puerto Rico, we dedicate the words of an old spiritual written by Charles A. Tinley, titled “The Storm is Passing Over:”
“Courage my soul and let us journey on. For tho the night is dark, it won’t be very long. O Thanks be to God, the morning light appears and the storm is passing over, Hallelujah!”
Hurricane Irma — and others — did pass over all right! Irma was a storm that changed the lives of the people of Barbuda forever. Life as they have known it does not exist anymore because they lost everything. The news reporters have left and many of our Caribbean brothers and sisters who live in other places like the United States have not forgotten, but one might say that they have moved their focus to other things and re-prioritized. But we need to understand that our efforts are still needed to help the storm victims get back on their feet.
The residents of Barbuda were relocated to the sister island of Antigua because many of the buildings, including homes, were destroyed. Animal lovers will not be happy to learn that those left behind, mainly dogs and cats, are barely surviving.
However, news reports have confirmed that the abandoned donkeys have multiplied. They are roaming about Barbuda in herds and have completely taken over the abandoned airport. Because of their increased population they are also eating all the shrubbery. Environmentalists fear that if this continues the donkeys will destroy the ecosystem.
In an attempt to solve this unusual problem, ecologist Frank Rivera-Milan from the U.S. Fish and Wild Life Services is assisting the Environmental Awareness Group in Antigua and Barbuda to resolve the donkey overpopulation problem without eradicating the animal.
The people of Dominica are still trying to put the pieces of their lives back together. The issues that they face vary. Many Dominicans are still grieving the loss of not just their homes but the loss of their loved ones. Their sense of normalcy is gone and they are not sure when it will return.
News outlets have reported that some people have been unable to locate the remains of relatives who died in the recent storms. In many instances, the hurricane victims did not have homeowner’s insurance and they have lost the homes that took them more than 30 years to build.
Dominica’s prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, called on pastors, priests and other religious leaders to lead their congregations in observing a Day of Caring, which will take place on the weekend of nation’s independence (Nov. 3-5).
The prime minister suggested that instead of having church services, parish leaders should make it a dress down day. Religious leaders should take their congregations into the community and offer support to those in need. He said it would be beautiful if congregations would offer assistance to the sick and shut-ins, the elderly and disabled who cannot help themselves.
Puerto Rico is still in the news as it continues to suffer from vast power outages. And the rural areas are still cut off from the main towns where residents would shop for food and other supplies. Even though Hurricane Maria swept through the country over a month ago, government officials have still not been able to assess how many lives have been lost due to the Category 4 storm and how many lives have been lost due to lack of access to medical assistance for those who were already dealing with diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and a heart condition. Those individuals who ran out of their medication may have already succumbed to their illness.
As for the other U.S. territory, the Virgin Islands, weather.com reports that more than 100,00 U.S. citizens (that’s what the islanders are) are under great duress because they cannot obtain the basic necessities like electricity and water. More than 80 percent of the islands continues to be in darkness.
Nothing is back to the way it was before the hurricanes — Irma and Jose. The people continue to survive on cold nonperishable, canned meals. Businesses have been catastrophically impacted to the point where their employees cannot return to work and the chain reaction of that is that the bread winners of those households are no longer able to bring home a pay check.
The governor, Kenneth Mapp, reportedly “approved the federal government’s Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to temporarily provide an emergency option to purchase food using federal money, but he then pulled back his support and said the program would just lead to a lot of spoiled food.”
Bugs, trash and dirty water are everywhere. The situation here is just as dire, or maybe even more so, as in Puerto Rico.
Keep these people in your thoughts and prayers and look for opportunities to donate to these Caribbean islands because even though some of them are a part of the U.S., this administration (for reasons that we can all guess at) has pretty much offered up some loans that these countries must struggle to pay back after their recovery.