Some displaced Abaconians long to return, but can’t

Three Abaconians who relocated to the United States after Hurricane Dorian yesterday said slow recovery efforts are hindering them from moving back to the storm-ravaged island. 

Richard Roberts, 41, of Man-O-War Cay, Abaco, said he won’t be able to fully move back until a school opens on the cay. 

He has been back and forth between West Palm Beach, Florida, and his hometown as he juggles recovering his home with family time. 

“My oldest daughter is in university. So, she was in the U.S. anyway. But my youngest will stay in the United States if no school opens up here and that probably means I will have to move permanently so I can be with them,” Roberts said. 

“Right now, I’m back and forth, but I can’t be away from my family that long. 

“So, if the school year ends without any good school for her on Abaco, then I’ll have to look to relocate for at least a couple years until things are back where they should be.” 

He added that it’s disappointing having to be ripped away from home under such devastating circumstances. 

“I mean, in the town I live in, I’m the eighth generation,” he said. 

“It’s the only place I know. It’s the only place I’ve ever lived, and for my kids, it’s home. 

“That’s all we knew up until the storm came along. So, it’s going to be very difficult if things don’t take place the way they should.” 

Roberts said since being back home, a group of volunteers assisted him with repairs to his roof, but he said there’s a lot of work that needs to be done on the interior. 

Dorian has also left him, like multitudes of others on Abaco and Grand Bahama, unemployed.  

Roberts was a teacher at the Agape Christian School for 18 years.

He said he taught religious studies, math, physical education and “whatever was needed” during his tenure. 

After the storm, Roberts said he spent his savings relocating his family to Florida, and now works part-time assisting others with clearing their yards of debris while working on his home simultaneously. 

“I don’t have any funds to put into buying my own material right now,” Roberts said. 

“Now, I’m at a standstill.

“I think many people in my town are finding work, but it’s going towards mostly fuel for generators and food. 

“It’s just enough to sustain life, but not to recover.” 

Crystal Williams lived in Central Pines, a subdivision located in Dundas Town, Abaco.

She relocated to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, with her children to live with her aunt following the Category 5 storm’s passage.

Nearly five months after Dorian, Williams said that she thinks the government is moving slowly in its efforts to restore Abaco.

“They’re teaming up with NGOs and pretending that they’re working while it’s the outside help that’s making all the moves,” she said. 

Williams said as much as she would like to move home, she has to wait for her children to finish the school year before considering her next move. 

However, she ultimately plans to move back in the summer. 

So far, she said she spent almost $15,000 after the storm taking care of her family and trying to rebuild her home. 

Williams added that she is in the process of gutting her home.  

“Every person from Abaco that owns a home will return and rebuild,” she said. 

“As far as planning goes, though, people have lost hope in the present administration.”

Williams added that the most difficult part of this experience is not being able to stay in a space of her own with her family. 

“My kids are not spoiled, but we were well off,” she said. 

“So, having to tell them they can’t have certain things now is hard, but they understand.

“It’s also humbling.”

Maria Roberts, 48, of Marsh Harbour, said her roof caved in during the storm.

She’s now living with her five-year-old son in Kissimmee, Florida, while her husband travels back and forth to work and fix the house. 

“I wish I can go back home,” she said. 

Roberts wants to move back to Abaco in March, but if recovery efforts remain the same, she said she will be forced to relocate elsewhere. 

While Florida isn’t a possibility for Roberts and her family, she said that she’s prepared to move to another island, but she said New Providence is not an option. 

“I’d rather, maybe, Eleuthera or somewhere safe for my kid,” she said. 

Last week, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Iram Lewis told The Nassau Guardian there was no deadline in place yet for the completion of the dome city in Spring City, Abaco, to house Hurricane Dorian survivors. 

Hurricane Dorian made landfall on Abaco in early September last year, destroying large swaths of the island as well as Grand Bahama. 

As of January 8, Consul General Linda Treco-Mackey said 425 people registered with the consulate’s office in Miami, Florida, as evacuees following the storm.

She added that the major concern coming from evacuees is the inability to return to their island of origin because of limited or no housing, school, medical care, employment assistance, etc.

Treco-Mackey also said many are willing to return home, but they are concerned about who will cover travel and resettlement costs.

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