David KK4WW and Gaynell KK4WWW Larsen, Directors of non-profit FAIRS (Foundation for Amateur International Radio Service, Ltd.) traveled again to Dominica in the eastern Caribbean, to oversee Foundation projects and assist community groups and leaders who work throughout the year related to disaster communications and education. Dominica is a small island country in the Eastern Caribbean with land area similar in size to Floyd County. Dominica suffered great loss after Tropical Storm Erika in August 2015, which dumped 10 inches of rain in just a few hours, causing floods and mudslides. Needed repairs for individuals and families cost more they can earn, in many cases, and many are still displaced.
After the August storm, FAIRS was able to help with disaster relief by the shipment of supplies and medical products, many of which were donated by Floyd businesses. FAIRS also supports members of Dominica Amateur Radio Club, who helped with communications around the island while phone and electrical services were interrupted. Clement Pierre-Louis J73CPL was summoned to help oversee communications during this time.
David and Gaynell stay with Clement and Hetty J73HPL while visiting on the island, so when they arrived at night on December 30th, 2015, after surveying the storm damage and traveling through rainy season weather, it was nice to find that Hetty had dinner waiting! Dominican cuisine is wonderful, and the showers of the rainy season are conducive to rest.
The Larsens kicked off the new year 2016 by celebrating a late Christmas with the children of the Love One, Teach One (LOTO) Foundation which benefits school-aged students in the capital city of Roseau and receives funding from the FAIRS Foundation. LOTO leader Gloria Walsh and her daughter had purchased and wrapped gifts for the youngest students (ages 3 to 9) and David and Gaynell furnished pizza and juice for the party. The Larsens also distributed 65 pairs of shoes and t-shirts and necklaces (given by Floyd area businesses), which they brought to Dominica for the children and their older brothers and sisters!
Clement and Hetty accompanied David and Gaynell to visit friend of FAIRS Joseph Guiste J73JT, and his family, in the fishing village of Castle Bruce, on the Atlantic coast of Dominica. Joseph and Maria have persisted to help their son Pharez and daughter Goldie to complete their schooling and attend community college. Goldie is studying business and fashion design. Gaynell said, “we are so excited and happy for her to be studying something she is so passionate about”. Part of the excitement for the family is that they are going beyond where many Dominicans do. As a country, Dominica has a low representation of people who are college graduates. Pharez Guiste completed his college education last year and is now employed as a teacher in the Kalinago Indian Village.
FAIRS addresses some needs of families and communities of indigenous people in the Kalinago Territory of Dominica –needs such as clean water, a weather-protected place to sleep, and education toward health and family planning. Things that have been gifted in the past are shared by many family members (like a foam cushion for sleeping, which was cut in two so that many children could sleep on it). It is hoped that people or groups will engage with the people and positively impact their culture as Pharez is doing. When the Larsens visited during this trip, they gifted clothes and shoes, and baby clothes, diapers and other items, which were donated by friends in Floyd when they learned of the great need there.
Many Dominicans work hard to be self-reliant and make ends meet, and none harder than Helen Henry. She prepares and sells food items and juices at a “snackette” near the college. She and husband Werner are currently making after-storm repairs and developing nature-based activities and extended stay lodging at Salton Waterfalls, a beautiful natural resource of the island, in the hopes they can make some income from visiting tourists.
Tropical Storm Erika also did damage to radio equipment which has been installed and maintained by FAIRS over the years. A new beam antenna and a 160-meter Windom antenna were purchased and sent to Dominica – Clement was able to make tower repairs, ensuring quality amateur radio communications. Many travelers to the island have an interest in operating radio while on location and they have the opportunity to take part in club activities.
For the latest about Building Global Friendship through Amateur Radio, visit www.fairs.org.