Tuesday, May 26, 2020
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Desperate plight

Pleasant Dawkins is living in the shell of her Dundas Town home on Abaco.

It has no windows, the roof leaks, there is no running water or electricity and she has no car.

The only privacy she has in her home is sheetrock a charity group erected around the remains of a bedroom. But the room has no door.

Five months after the monster Hurricane Dorian, the mangled homes in Dundas Town and Murphy Town stretch on for miles.

Mountains of debris guide the way.

Dawkins recently returned home after living on New Providence for a few months after the storm.

Since her return, she said, she’s gutted her home and was able to board up what once were her windows. The charity group, Samaritan’s Purse, placed a heavy tarp on her roof so the leaking would stop.

She said a bad storm blew the tarp off, forcing them to install another.

She’s fortunate for that, she said.

The little she has is thanks to the kindness of others.

She said she’s received some aid from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Red Cross, but the biggest help she’s gotten has been from the non-profit group HeadKnowles and Samaritan’s Purse.

If she wants water, she has to gather up a few jugs and hike to a water distribution site.

“Right now, sometimes I can’t find food to eat and the government is dragging [its] feet,” she said inside her home yesterday.

Pleasant Dawkins, left, inside her home in Dundas Town yesterday. Dawkins was speaking with a representative from Samaritan’s Purse about restoring her roof.

“They are not helping the people. Thank God for these NGOs (non-governmental organizations) who [are] cooking every day and still helping the people.”

She added, “Our vote went to north (Abaco).

“It’s nothing happening. Right now I don’t think I even want to vote for nobody no more but Jesus. I’m serious with that because hey, we’re not getting no help.

“Like I said, them foolishness and thing they have over in Spring City, that’s ridiculous. They have them sitting on big plywood. If any wind come that going to blow the people over.”

She was referring to the government’s family dome program meant to house residents who lost their homes.

“Everybody now has abandoned Abaco, little Murphy Town, Dundas Town, Marsh Harbour,” she said.

“It’s like everyone just abandoned us. Like the government isn’t really checking for us.”

Asked what needs to be done, she replied, “I hope the government steps up to the plate.

“Minnis them are not doing nothing.

“They could rest assured that next election they out of here. They out of here.”

Many Abaconians shared similar views of the government.

Some claimed James Albury, the Central and South Abaco MP; and Darren Henfield, the North Abaco MP, have been absent.

“We don’t know what’s really happening,” Dawkins continued.

“We are still waiting patiently, hoping that something will happen.”

Dorian, a Category 5 storm, tore through Abaco last September with near 20-foot storm surges and 180-mile-per-hour winds. It left thousands homeless, at least 71 dead.

For many residents on Abaco, the prospect of rebuilding is as daunting as it sounds. No work, no insurance, no materials, no home.

As we drove around Dundas Town, it was jarring to see that little has changed since our last visit in October.

The big difference is that more people have returned.

Discouraged

Jeffrey Anderson, 55, like Dawkins, is living in what remains of his home. His roof is repaired, but his front door is gone. He has a piece of wood over it, but it offers no protection.

His windows are broken.

Anderson said his teeth have been bothering him though.

“I mostly eat soft food like spaghetti,” he said.

“I was thinking about going to the clinic. I can hardly eat you know.”

He said he has given up on waiting for help from the government.

Barbara Roberts, 65, and her husband, George Patrick Roberts, 90, sat outside the home of their son, gazing out at the morning traffic.

“Sometimes when I don’t have anything to do I think and put my mind together because it feels like no hope,” she said.

“Nobody telling me nothing. Nobody doing anything.”

Roberts said her home, which was built in 1958, has to be rebuilt.

She has appealed to the government and to several NGOs but was told that the home can’t be fixed.

“Ma house gone,” she said, her eyes fixed on the ground.

She said she feels “helpless, embarrassed and discouraged”.

“I don’t know what to do anymore,” she said.

“I get discouraged. It doesn’t look like anybody helping.”

Her husband said they will have their house back through the power of God.

“God does everything,” he said.

No closure

Perhaps one of the hardest things for Dawkins was losing her husband, Michael.

“We were different places when this happened to him,” she said.

“He was trying to come out of a building and when he came out a piece of the beam fell and hit him on his head and it was so much water he got swept away.

“We haven’t found his body as yet.”

After she discovered that her husband had died, Dawkins alerted police on New Providence.

“They said, ‘Mrs. Dawkins do you have any kids?’ I said, ‘Yes, one.’

“So my son went in, they took him down to the hospital in Nassau, they took some samples from him, they said they sent him to match up with the other male bodies.

“Every day we call. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

“I don’t feel good about it. My son is grieving, my granddaughter is grieving and his brothers and sisters are grieving because guess what, we don’t have no closure.

“Hey, we weren’t together, but I love my husband. I love him.

“Right now it’s no closure. That’s why when I got back here the first place I went was where he was living and the only thing I found from him was three of his shirts. That’s all I found.”

Stress

For some residents, the level of stress can be overwhelming. For five months, many Abaconians have walked through the ruins of their once vibrant communities, tiptoeing over roof tops, nails, ceilings and walls. The once lush, green forests are brown and dead.

Barbara Thurston, another Dundas Town resident, said Abaconians are fighting to survive.

“We are a fighting, striving people,” she said.

“We are not going to play dead.”

But she knows that everyone has a limit.

“I believe the pressure of this thing is causing so many deaths,” Thurston said.

“Do you know how many deaths [have] been in Abaco since the storm? People are dying.”

Thurston, a former taxi driver, said she went to the clinic last week due to pain in her back and a bad headache.

She said the doctor told her that her blood pressure was 189 over 99.

“They were afraid,” she said.

“They said ‘don’t worry about it’. It’s easy to say that.

“I’m trying my best and not allow it to bother me. I’m trying to cope with it as best as I can. It’s hard to just stay right here in this type of environment.”

Thurston decided to spend time away from Abaco.

“I came in November and I came back last month,” she said.

“I can’t stay.”

Assistant Editor at The Nassau Guardian
Travis Cartwright-Carroll is the assistant editor. He covers a wide range of national issues. He joined The Nassau Guardian in 2011 as a copy editor before shifting to reporting. He was promoted to assistant news editor in December 2018.
Education: College of The Bahamas, English
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