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by Stephen Young
On the small island of Grenada, the most southerly of the Windward Islands in the Caribbean, hurricanes are rare – indeed, when the last hurricane hit the island most of its 100,000 inhabitants hadn’t been born. So the island was ill prepared to meet the fury of Hurricane Ivan, which passed directly over Grenada during the afternoon and evening of 7 September 2004 with sustained wind speeds reaching up to 140 miles per hour. In a few terrifying hours there were 39 fatalities, 90 per cent of the buildings suffered major damage, the island’s infrastructure and utility services suffered badly and the two main money earners for the local economy – the nutmeg crop and tourist trade – were wiped out.
In the capital, St George’s, virtually every church was severely damaged save one – the Salvation Army hall. Salvation Army corps officers Captains Jean-Claude and Jesula Lormesty were able to provide shelter for a number of families in the immediate aftermath of the storm – and this in spite of the fact that Jesula was heavily pregnant. The baby was born at the height of the relief operation and brought some joy in an otherwise desperate time.
The Salvation Army was quick to begin work with the government’s National Emergency Relief Organisation and other non-governmental organisations to distribute food and other essential items to the Grenadian people during the disaster relief phase. The response was made possible by kind donations of both money and goods from The Salvation Army in the Caribbean Territory, in Bermuda and at International Headquarters, along with goods from the Canadian Food for Children charity.
Local Salvationists, aided by personnel from territorial headquarters and International Headquarters, distributed food parcels to around 5,000 people from a temporary warehouse adjacent to the corps hall in St George’s and also took a truck to a number of outlying villages for the same purpose. When the schools reopened, a team of home league members enjoyed visiting them to distribute cereals, biscuits and candy to the students.
The Grenada Nutmeg Association gratefully accepted a donation of food supplies, soap powder, beans and other goodies to distribute among some 400 of its farming families, whose nutmeg crop had been totally destroyed. The relief team also made a presentation of medical supplies and linen to the Minister of Health, Senator Ann David-Antoine, and gave other much-needed items directly to two local clinics.
The Salvation Army has also identified longer-term community projects that it will support during the coming months as part of the disaster recovery phase. Following a strategy that proved successful in Iraq, it has sought to focus on one particular community, actively involving members of that community in shaping the recovery work. Following discussions with the US Peace Corps – which has had volunteers living among local communities on the island for many years – The Salvation Army has forged a close relationship with people from the parish of St Andrews.
The St Andrews Relief Organisation (SARO) helped identify 50 deprived householders in the villages of Soubise, Marquis and Harford, close to the town of Grenville, whose dwellings are in need of urgent repair. Some of the householders are currently living in appalling conditions.
One barefooted young mother named Linda – who has two young children – is living in a shack no bigger than a small garden shed, with no electricity and a leaky tarpaulin roof, in a muddy, mosquito-ridden field. The Salvation Army has placed an order with a local supplier for building repair materials, using funding generously donated from a telethon held in Bermuda, and has linked with the Mennonite Church in the USA which will provide skilled labour teams to assist local people to carry out repairs.
Crucially, a capable and well-qualified member of the SARO committee, Glen Noel, has agreed to manage this repair programme – which is endorsed by the Grenada Housing Ministry and could be extended to 150 dwellings if funds permit. The scheme will also provide new mattresses and cloth for school uniforms where necessary.
Farmers in the parish of St Andrews have been unable to access their fields because of fallen trees. The Salvation Army has already donated four chainsaws and has agreed to provide a further 12 for collective use among 100 farms.
The disaster has reinforced the need for new skills training on Grenada. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had already sponsored a computer training initiative throughout the eastern Caribbean which would have been implemented on Grenada by now but for the intervention of ‘Ivan the Terrible’. The Salvation Army has successfully lobbied the UNDP to restart the programme in Grenada from January 2005 and has agreed to provide a small amount of start-up funding.
The Salvation Army relief team believes that God has opened doors of opportunity as it seeks to contribute towards the regeneration of the island and its people. The Army will continue to be there with and for the people of Grenada, to offer hope in the midst of despair and a helping hand in a time of need.
The Salvation Army Internationalwww.salvationist.org
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© 2013 The Salvation Army