Almost a year after Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Abaco cays, Shawna Deal, 38, a widowed mother of three, said the rebuilding of Abaco is not as progressive as it may seem.
“You look at social media and Abaco looks great. You’re here and you look around. I drove to Central Pines the other day and it’s just the extent of the damage. I literally got lost,” Deal said.
“Abaco still has a long way to go. There’s been a lot of progress in the last 11 months; don’t get me wrong. It’s still debris all over the place. There are still buildings being demolished. It’s a struggle every day of where food is coming from. Plus they’re trying to fix the homes. People [are] living in tents.”
Asked if the government is providing the much-needed assistance, Deal said, “The NGOs are [a] godsend. If it weren’t for them, Abaco would not be as far as it is right now.”
In fact, Deal told The Nassau Guardian her home was extensively damaged from the killer storm and she has not received any help.
She is now paying rent.
“When my husband passed away, I owned my home. His life insurance paid the mortgage, so it was outright paid for. Now, it’s after Dorian and I’m paying rent. My day-to-day breakdowns, it’s sad,” she said.
“I received extensive damage to my house, which has been a struggle. I haven’t really had much help. What I have gotten done so far, I basically did out of pocket.”
She added, “Non-government organizations like IDEA Relief, the Lillie Renee Foundation and Samaritan’s Purse are making a huge difference in their relief and rebuilding efforts.”
The Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA) has issued over 800 vouchers for home repairs to Hurricane Dorian victims on Abaco and Grand Bahama, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Iram Lewis said at a press conference.
“Since DRA came on stream in February, we opened our portals and some 4,600 persons registered or they created their profile,” he said.
“Of that number, we have some 2,600-plus persons who were approved, and that includes Grand Bahama and Abaco. In Grand Bahama, we have some 1,500 persons, households, that were already approved, and out of that we’ve issued 804 vouchers to date.”
In addition to the slow progress of rebuilding, Deal said this school year presents a challenge for her because of the pandemic.
“Single mother working a full-time job, trying to make ends meet. I’m concerned. Who is going to be there to help my 10-year-old with his online schooling?” she asked.
“I can’t be in two places at one time. I have been stressing about that every day.”
Asked if she had electricity at home, Deal said, “That’s the problem. We don’t have consistent electricity. We don’t have consistent internet. It’s going to be rough.”
She also has a daughter in the 11th grade, but getting enrolled seems to be a challenge for her.
“I’m concerned because of the situation with Dorian. She used to attend Agape. Down to the last minute, they said they aren’t opening in September. I went and enrolled her into the online classes and now they’re telling me they’re going to open back up.
“I think there are actually only two schools that are actually opening up. It’s stressful.”
Deal’s youngest child is four. She registered him for school, but there is some uncertainty that COVID-19 will affect when it will open.
“I have registered him in a preschool that’s opening here, The Children’s Place, Abaco, but I pray they are allowed to open with this virus,” she said.
With the memories of Dorian still fresh in her mind, Deal described each day as a “day-to-day struggle”.
“Mentally, it’s rough. I just thank God for good friends. My kids keep me going. I have to get up and put one foot in front of the other every day for them, if not myself,” she said.
“A lot of people here are not working. I was fortunate to get a job. It’s a constant struggle since Dorian.”