Devastation in Dominica Hits Home – a Personal Perspective
Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of a storm. I was three months shy of my 5th birthday, riding out Hurricane David on top of a kitchen table as torrential downpours filled the basement apartment where we had taken refuge. Our roof, like most, was gone, and that table was a life raft that saved my brother and me from drowning in our own home. Winds that topped 175 miles an hour lashed the Caribbean island of Dominica for hours on end, flattening everything in sight, and stunted the island’s growth for decades. The devastation was unspeakable but we survived, Dominica survived.
But on August 27, almost 36 years to the day David struck, images of dark raging waters from Tropical Storm Erika washing away cars, bridges and homes in Dominica flooded my Facebook timeline. And then I heard news of massive and numerous mudslides engulfing homes with families trapped inside and my heart broke for Dominica all over again. Two days before the anniversary of Hurricane David, Erika came as a painful, punishing reminder.
You see, Dominica was finding its stride. The island of 70,000 residents was growing in popularity as a must-see ecotourism destination, known for its diving, whale watching and challenging hikes to the world’s second largest boiling lake. Its oceans hold secrets of some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean and its lush mountains spout abundant waters – a source of pride for Dominicans.
But it’s almost as if all of the 365 rivers and streams on the “Nature Island of the Caribbean” overflowed their banks during Erika, causing widespread devastation throughout the island’s 289 square miles, and reducing its infrastructure to craters and rubble in many areas.
Today, Dominica finds itself in a painfully familiar place, dozens dead and missing, having suffered more than $1 billion (half the island’s GDP) in damage because of Erika’s floods – almost 13 inches of rain over 12 hours. Now, instead of fiscal growth, the conversation centers on mourning, resilience and rebuilding. And, of course, the need for long-term support from international communities and donor organizations.
Dominica highlights importance of strategic disaster relief programs
Dominicans worldwide have been chanting the mantra #DominicaStrong as they lead aid efforts and encourage their fellow countrymen to persevere in the face of devastation. We all want to do our part to help Dominica be great again. And that’s why I was immensely proud to share news that my employer, FedEx, is supporting Dominica in its recovery, as the company has done in so many other disaster areas around the world.
Together with Heart to Heart, FedEx has delivered 10 pallets containing about 6,000 pounds of hygiene supplies to the Dominican Consulate on the neighboring island of Guadeloupe for transportation to Dominica.
Shortly after the storm, Heart to Heart deployed a team, who worked with the Dominica Ministry of Health to assess needs on the ground. And the Red Cross, which FedEx supports, is one of the most active agencies bringing relief to the island’s people after the storm. My sister, who survived the storm with little loss, is among their many volunteers.
The outpouring of aid from governments, NGOs corporations and individuals has been swift and impressive. But as with David, the road to recovery after Erika will be long. And with little media coverage of the destruction, Dominica will struggle to keep the attention of the international community as the spotlight shifts to new disasters in other places.
While my personal relief efforts are ongoing, it’s encouraging to know that my company and its NGO partners are also taking a long-term, strategic approach to my island’s recovery, helping to position Dominica for brighter days ahead.
Natashia Gregoire, who grew up on the island of Dominica, is Manager of Global Reputation Strategies for FedEx.
How you can help:
We encourage anyone wanting to support the relief effort in Dominica to contact the disaster relief organizations directly. FedEx is focusing all of our shipping relief efforts on the agencies who are best positioned to help the largest number of people.