Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hurricane Tomas-Please Keep Giving-St. Lucia Still in Need

Thanksgiving holiday in the USA tomorrow…in St. Lucia we had our Thanksgiving on the 1st of October, as usual, well before Hurricane Tomas hit us!
We used to know the rhyme
June too soon
July stand by
August the forecast
September remember
October all over
We learnt that in school, geography classes – so we’d know the Hurricane Season; well the weather keeps showing us that we can rhyme all we like, watch groundhogs, track historical weather data…we still don’t know jack!
So, Hurricane Season officially ends on November 30th, but we know that it is all too possible that late storms sneak in and catch us, and even if that’s not the case, we are so completely soaked right through with the Tomas rain, that any more rain brings misery right back through our doors, mudding up our homes, stripping our hillsides of their trees, soil and rocks and challenging even our best efforts at recovery.
Bexon Primary School...from the road (Pic provided by Carmen Charles)
Over 23 inches of rain fell in those 24hrs. And since Tomas lasted more than 24 hrs, you know more than 24 inches fell in total – 2ft of rain. Where de hell we were supposed to be putting that!?!
I was going to write about our road trip down to Soufriere on Saturday just gone, but today, so many emails have come in about the hardship the schools and the school kids are facing that I figure, while I still have the attention of some people, I need to put out an appeal for help.
The landslide by Livity Art Studio - without a wide angle, it's hard to show the starts at least 100ft up and goes several hundred feet down and covers the whole corner....
Many of you by now have packed a barrel and sent it on, many more have donated to Red Cross, Rotary, Caritas and more, it has become difficult to keep up with the reports of various altruistic persons’ efforts…and a HUGE thank-you all for all of that…but we need to ask for more.
I don’t know the numbers…I have a feeling perhaps no one knows exactly, because we are so short on resources – human and otherwise – that cataloguing the losses has been a very real challenge. All I know is the losses are real – in places like Bexon, Marc, Fond St. Jacques, Soufriere town, Dennery, Vieux Fort, Canaries, Anse la Raye, and a whole host of communities ‘behind’ Castries – to the East in the steep hills, and even in Castries, homes flooded – not with just water – they flooded with mud.
Inside a Soufriere Home (Tim Prescott)
In Bexon, many had just managed to scrape, shovel, push the mud from their homes – leaving behind empty spaces where furniture, clothing, belongings used to be – when two days of normal rain brought a whole next set of mud right back into their homes. Even I, living here, right next to it, can’t quite grasp the hopelessness I am sure some of these people felt.
And in the midst of this, a few days later, schools ‘fully’ reopened – Form 5’s (16yr olds) will be sitting the crucial CXC exams in May next year – these exams are what grades them for entry into further education or the world of work; they, like all our education in St. Lucia, are not free.
To put a child in school here in St. Lucia, it costs about $1000EC or $400 US for books and uniforms. That does not include bus fares – easily $100EC /$40 US per child, per month. Then there’s food, extracurricular and for Form 5s, CXC. Most students sit 7 – 11 subjects, each one carries an exam fee, an average might be S500EC / $175US
So, for families that have lost their homes, or the contents of their homes – appliances, furniture, clothing–paying to replace these and managing costs of replacing school books and uniforms and paying exam fees is not easy…and for some whose income-earning power was not that great anyway or for those who were farmers and have nothing left to sell now…you get the picture – it is going to be nigh impossible.
A small part of the mud cleared off the road at Ladera, Soufriere (Tim Prescott)
We are getting infrastructural help as a country – I don’t get the impression that help is enough yet; my road trip of Saturday left me a little bewildered as yes, you can drive, I didn’t slide in mud once, but I passed far too many slips, undercuts, blocked bridges, etc…we have a massive amount of damage, in my laywoman’s opinion, we are going to have to re-route some roads. So, what I’m saying is…
We need your help still.
The group I work with – we have no name, we refer to ourselves as ‘the Northern Group’ and we work in concert with NEMO and Red Cross mainly, just because they are the central agencies, but we help whomsoever we can – and let NEMO and Red Cross know for their records…well, this group is organizing to help gather aid for schools and school kids – we’re getting lists from the schools and I will publish them, or summaries, here as soon as I can…
Some of my former students and their friends, after a nudge from our group, formed a youth group called YIP (Youth In Progress) to do arts with affected students – performance, art, craft, probably even a bit of sports…it’s been difficult to organize, just because the schools are struggling just to get back to the basics. But we would gladly accept any art supplies, craft supplies and such for this initiative.
In the coming days, ‘the Northern Group’ will meet to review the pleas for help and I’ll blog the results here with instructions on how you can get involved. That said, if you know of other initiatives already – please do go ahead and send your support…it’s all going to be needed!
Queen Mary dwarfs Castries Harbour, Sat 20th Nov, bringing much needed tourists to St. Lucia (photo Liz Jennings Clark)
The arts group (also not yet named) that I am part of, is also moving to organize an auction and a series of fairs – crafts and gifts and we plan to include the small farmers and agro-processers…we will do our best to get this online also so you can choose to buy items from the crafters and small farmers – we have wicked-delicious cocoa, sweets, dried fruits and more…so late Christmas pressies or why not bring in the New Year with something different?
So, don’t look away just yet ok….we have a great need for your kindness still and we’ll be doing all we can to make it easy for you to express it!
Many thanks.
Saint Lucia, Still Simply Beautiful, November 21st 2010 (Finola Prescott)