Some shelter residents say some needs overlooked

While expressing gratitude, some residents at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs Gymnasium shelter yesterday said some of their needs are not being met.

Like more than a thousand others, Frieda Joseph, 41, has called the shelter home after Hurricane Dorian ripped through parts of Abaco and Grand Bahama three weeks ago.

Joseph said she enjoys three meals a day and a place to stay with her eight children; however, she expressed difficulties in finding clothing for herself and some of her kids.

“[I’m not going to] lie, but I don’t have much clothes. My family got out with one little bag. When clothes come through here, most of them are too small for me,” she said as she flung her hands in the air.

“I have one pants and one shirt, and some of my children’s clothes are gone. Before the storm, we [were] preparing for school. I bought all of their school supplies and everything is gone. Just like that – bags, shoes, everything, gone.”

Joseph said she followed the process and registered all of her children to attend school a week ago.

She said she was told that she would be contacted about their placement, but has yet to hear from anyone.

She said she grew up and raised all of her children in Pigeon Peas, a shantytown in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, that was flattened in the storm.

Back on that island, she said she worked on a local chicken farm, but it was a part-time job that required her to work two weeks in a given month.

At this point, she said, she is unable to say what her next move will be, but she hopes to find work and rebuild a life with her children in New Providence.

For others, the shelter is a welcome respite, despite what they said is insensitivity often displayed by some who work there.

Jerome Celeson, 45, said compared to his life in Abaco before the storm, the shelter is far better.

“It’s better than where I came from. When I was in Abaco, it was hard for me to find water and food,” he said.

“If I do get it, I would have to walk miles.”

Celeson said while he enjoys the services in the shelter, some volunteers are disrespectful to residents.

“Sometimes they say, ‘I don’t know why the prime minister don’t bring the bus, and send all of y’all back,’” he said.

“Some of them give you hard mouth when you ask for water.

“We are nice people. We are human beings. We are not criminals. Some of them think we are criminals, but we are decent people.”

Celeson said he was a gardener in Marsh Harbour for 20 years before the storm made landfall.

While he has not begun his quest for new work, he says he hopes to secure a similar job soon.

Smiling, he said, “Thank God for life. That’s all I can say.”

However, Papoosh Owenkule, 52, said he does not enjoy life at the shelter, claiming volunteers have no regard for his dietary choices.

“They [aren’t] checking if you’re rastas or if you’re this or that. You must eat anything,” he said.

“In fact, if I take a nap while food is being served, that’s it. I have to eat in the morning.”

Apart from having to subject himself to a diet including meat, Owenkule said he is still coping with having no contact with his daughter and son.

He said he lost his phone while trying to find shelter during the storm, and has been unsuccessful in trying to replace it.

When he came to the shelter two weeks ago, he said someone offered him a coupon claiming to be from a phone company.

When he went to redeem the coupon, he said the company informed him that it was fake.

Before the storm, Owenkule taught mathematics, agriculture, science, and five languages privately, and worked as a tour guide for Spanish, French-Canadian, and Italian tourists.

In a matter of seconds, he said he watched everything he spent his entire life building turn to ruin before his eyes.

“I lost my home and my vehicles, but I thank God I have life,” he said.

“I lost everything, but I have everything. I’m just happy my kids are safe, and they didn’t have to live through that.”

Looking off into the distance, he smiled and said he is more focused on a brighter day, and he understands that this experience requires time to heal.

He said he had many opportunities to leave the shelter, but he would much rather stay and help people who, like him, have lost everything.

Thousands of residents on Abaco and Grand Bahama were forced to relocate to New Providence following Hurricane Dorian’s passage.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday announced the establishment of the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Recovery and Reconstruction.

He said that the new ministry will help to focus and to co-ordinate the national response for the recovery and reconstruction of Grand Bahama and Abaco.

He added that the main body of the ministry will function as an authority similar to the Public Hospitals Authority, and will be responsible for the reconstruction of both islands.

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