During the month of September, the tropical storm Maria attacked Dominica and surrounding areas with unbelievable force, effectively destroying the foliage and vegetation in the area. Nearly 90% of the homes on the island have experienced serious structural damage making many of these dwellings unsafe to live in. Dominica offers little to no electricity with incredibly limited phone service being a newer addition.
Mudslides and fallen trees have blocked means of transportation making travel between villages nearly impossible. Luckily, within several hours, Amateur radio operators were on air. Utilizing solar energy and hand held radios have been effective in providing a vital link for communication with the outside world. There have been a number of tragic deaths as well as many individuals still missing and unaccounted for. The unprecedented destruction of this beautiful island is truly a heartbreaking event to witness.
Debris litters the island and has left many roads impassable days after the storm hit. The hospital neighboring Roseau, the Dominican capital, has suffered serious structural damage making medical operations near impossible. Water has been running through streets of the capital destroying small businesses with mud and flooding damage.
In the wake of this tragic disaster, radio operators have been working non-stop to communicate vital information around the island, gauging needs for more shipments of radio equipment. FAIRS directors Dave and Gaynell Larsen have traveled yearly to Dominica for over two decades to establish radio communication infrastructure in the region. In the last ten years a wide range of dedicated amateur radio operators have visited the island to license to operators and teach new members about communication rules and regulations. Brian Machesney and his wife Michelle Guenard have continually worked with operators on the island to secure communications in the event of emergencies such as this.
FAIRS has also provided repeaters on the island with one of them luckily surviving water damage on a mountaintop. Because of this repeater, operators were able to communicate from one side of the island to the other.
When directors Dave and Gaynell travel to Dominica they stay with Hetty and Clement Pierre Louis in the small village of Wotten Waven. The village is one of many with roads still blocked by debris and lack of electricity. The antenna and radio tower at the Pierre Louis residence was destroyed by the hurricane, however Dave had taken a portable antenna to Clement in early 2017. The portable antenna was solar-powered and allowed Dave to contact Clement and provide assistance. Dave and other operators have been speaking to residents daily because of this foresight to bring portable units in case of extreme emergency.
Josanna Lockhart-Brown is originally from Dominica, now living in Antigua with her two small children and husband. FAIRS has worked with Josanna and her family since 1997 in Castle Bruce. At only 13, Josanna began creating a group in Castle Bruce known as Kids for Christ. The group helped young children know Jesus while also providing food and supplies to the local children in need. FAIRS helped supply food and supplies for this program as well as developing a complete kitchen dedicated to feeding the children in the area. Following this FAIRS developed a children’s library in the area as Josanna developed the After School Help Program in effort to help educational development. After traveling with The Logos Ship, an org dedicated to spreading the word of Christianity, Josanna felt called to join the ministry with FAIRS assisting her in paying and enrolling in a Christian college in Jamaica. Since graduating she has been serving a church in Antigua.
Following Hurricane Maria, Josanna was asked to deliver food and supplies to Dominica, traveling from Antigua to her hometown of Castle Bruce in hope of providing necessary aid. FAIRS was able to wire funds to Josanna Antigua as she delivered supplies to Castle Bruce. The village is located on the Atlantic side of Dominica and is still in great need of relief.
The devastating tragedy that has occurred in Dominica has created a monumental need for relief. As development continues in the area, dedicated FAIRS members will be working overtime to provide communication and supplies. Donations directed to FAIRS will be used towards additional relief efforts for the residents of the island.