Jamaica

Jamaica Red Cross brings hope in worse situations

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Jamaicans were warned that the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season would have been an active one, but not much could have prepared them for the possibility of facing two major hurricanes within a matter of days.
Hurricane Dennis, the fourth named tropical system of the season, was on course to hit Jamaica on Thursday July 7, and not even the bravest bookmaker would have guessed that ten days later the island would be threatened by hurricane Emily.

Judy Simpson, a resident of a small community called Dunkins in Bull Savannah in the parish of St. Elizabeth, said that both hurricanes caught her unprepared. She was slowly getting back on her feet after suffering serious damage from hurricane Ivan last year.

Ms. Simpson explained that she was in the advanced stages of the rebuilding process when hurricane Dennis struck. "The hurricane come see me without house top, me just building back my house." Simpson's entire house was flooded; she lost most of her belongings.

Hicks Holness, a farmer in the same district of Dunkins, also suffered extensive flooding due to hurricanes Dennis and Emily, "I lost all my clothes, the children them clothes, everything wet up", Holness informed. He also lost his crops in the floods.

Holness lives with his wife and three grandchildren.

He pointed out that even though things are hard he is trying to make the best of it, and with regular help from the Jamaica Red Cross, things are looking up.

"The Jamaica Red Cross (JRC) has been there for me and my family all the times that we need them, up to the other day I got a package from them," he said.

The JRC has provided the Holness family with a significant amount of support in the aftermath of hurricanes Dennis and Emily and for this they are very appreciative.

"The Red Cross help us out - they gave us food, cooking utensils and mattress when we had nothing to sleep on".

The Holness family is one of the over 500 families across the island that received initial direct assistance from the JRC in the aftermath of hurricanes Dennis and Emily. Miss Simpson, having also received help from the JRC, continues to sing the praises of the agency.

"Them (JRC) treat me good. Is the best treatment I ever get. Everything they give us was in good condition, even the clothes". Simpson made a special effort to emphasize that the clothes given were in excellent condition.

She described the assistance from JRC as a blessing saying that in the initial stages after the hurricanes only the JRC team was visible. Simpson ended our conversation by saying "Red Cross cheer us up so much when we were at our worst. I would call them everyday just to say thanks."

The JRC, in its effort to help the most vulnerable and as part of its rehabilitation endeavours after hurricane Ivan, decided to construct 40 houses with monetary assistance from the International Development Bank (IDB), Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ), Supreme Ventures and Johnson and Johnson.

So far just over 30 of the designated 40 houses have been completed. One beneficiary is Paul ina Robertson from Longlevel in St. Thomas. She lives with her 10 children, ages two to 22 years old. Miss Robertson lost her house in hurricane Emily. She recalls the incident.

"I was in the kitchen cooking when I hear a rumbling, then I saw water coming in and everything was being washed through the back door. A piece of plank slammed into the side of the house. I grabbed the smaller children and ran outside."

Robertson and her family were left stranded in the yard. They watched helplessly as their house with everything they owned was washed away. The family spent an entire week living under a shed in their yard. Only after coercion she decided to move her family into the shelter at Yallahs Primary. There she stayed until recently when the JRC handed her keys to her new home.

Lois Hue, Deputy Director General at JRC, said that the JRC has always sought to provide help to the most vulnerable and by doing this, the 40 houses which are under construction will be provided to those most in need.

She further noted that the recipients were agreed upon only after consultation with the Office of National Reconstruction (ONR) - of whose assessment team the JRC is a part - as well as the residents in the community.

Hue explains "The people in the community advise us as to who has suffered the most damage and we crosscheck this with the list provided by the ONR".

The JRC has benefited greatly from the help of its international parent arm the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) as well as local partners.