Jeanne’s Story: Working to Fight Fear in the Aftermath of Hurricane Maria

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Hurricane Maria impacted the Caribbean nation of Dominica on September 18, 2017 as a category 5 hurricane causing death, destruction and despair to the country of 70,000 people. However the story following Hurricane Maria is more than the overwhelming impact on the country and its people, but also about recovery, community resilience and self help.

Jeanne Williams, a mother of two was forced to move from the ground floor of her house to the top floor as the river rose and raged through the west coast community of Colihaut. Like so many others, Jeanne and her family lived in fear for a long time every time it rained, as the river posed a threat to their lives and property. Despite her trauma and ongoing fear, Jeanne awoke each day to contribute to the clearing efforts not only around her house, but in her community and as a result, gained employment under the Emergency Employment Programme (EEP).

This programme, managed by Dominica’s National Employment Program (NEP), is supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) through funding from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the UKAid’s Department for International Development (DFID). Jeanne, who was previously unemployed, quickly became team leader due to her work ethic. She leads a small group of EEP beneficiaries in maintenance and clean-up in her community. Some of their daily activities included cleaning and clearing the river of debris, brush-cutting along the roadside and general landscaping.

Jeanne noted that being in the programme gave her a sense of independence. “To be working under the UNDP, at the end of the month, when I get my salary I can buy whatever I want and that makes me develop myself to do whatever I want to do at the end of the month, and I am grateful and happy to be in this group.”

She is one of more than 400 persons from 15 communities, 42% of them women, who have been employed through the programme. Thirty NEP supervisors and targeted village council members have also received training in work plan development, with UNDP distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) including gloves, helmets, boots, tools and equipment such as wheelbarrows, shovels, chainsaws, brush cutters and safety equipment such as reflective vests and traffic cones to the NEP to facilitate clean-up activities.