Abaco storm survivors struggling to make ends meet

Felamease Sawyer, 63, relocated to New Providence after the slow-moving, Category 5 Hurricane Dorian pummeled Dundas Town, Abaco, where she stayed with her 88-year-old mother.

She’s thankful she survived. But she didn’t know that life after the storm would be so challenging.

“Living in Nassau (New Providence) is rather expensive. They (landlords) are not sympathetic at all with the accommodations because they want last, first, and security [deposit]. That’s like three months’ rent,” she said.

“You don’t want to live in any and every area in Nassau. So, that’s a problem for many persons from Abaco. At least, my brothers had to go back because of that.”

She said her brothers would rather suffer in Abaco than to pay hundreds, or thousands, of dollars to get settled.

The day before Dorian made landfall, she returned to Abaco from the United States to stay with her mother, and described the storm as “a terrible ordeal.”

Sawyer said her roof was compromised during the storm, forcing her and her mother to sleep in her car for four days.

“Knowing that my mom is 88, she shared that she has never seen such a terrible hurricane in her entire life… So, I don’t wish that experience on anyone. Dorian has been something that every Abaconian and [Grand Bahamian] would describe as quite an experience,” she said.

“It has been a spiritual experience also that lets us know that even through the storm, God was still with us.”

Sawyer said that she is trying to cope as best as she can following the storm.

She said that she intends to return to Abaco this week, as her mother said she is ready to go back.

Kenneth Cornish, 53, said while he was not present during the storm, his home in Central Abaco had extensive damage.

He said rebuilding his home will cost him roughly $30,000 to $50,000 for cleanup, building materials, and the cost of labor.

Back on Abaco, he said, he worked in lawn maintenance for almost 20 years, having a contract with local government and Agape Christian School in Marsh Harbour.

Cornish is now in Melbourne, Florida with his wife, sister-in-law, and daughter who has special needs.

He said his daughter has a speech impediment and a brain condition that impairs her mobility and communication.

In light of this, Cornish said it has been expensive taking care of someone with special needs, and his family spent the last of their finances to ensure that she was covered.

Moving forward, he said he intends to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) so that he can find work in Florida to start rebuilding his home and taking care of his family.

He said he will be back and forth to Abaco regularly to check on his property.

If his application falls through, Cornish said, he is open to moving back to Abaco to find work.

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