“It was scary, and you can’t even imagine how bad it was. Everything was gone, everything was gone.”
Life-long resident of the island of Abaco in The Bahamas, Naydene Curry, says that experiencing Hurricane Dorian in September 2019 was the worst storm of her life. She often tries to block out the bad memories of it especially watching her house fill up with water and losing her roof. At 80 years old, Naydene relied on neighbors and her adult children for a place to sleep while she figured out what would become of her home in the storm’s aftermath.
Through the American Red Cross and Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE), she received grant money to repair her home and get it back to a state where she could safely live in it again. It was hard to watch her home get torn apart in the storm but filled her with joy to watch it be built again in the months after with funds from the Red Cross.
“It’s wonderful. I was happy and I thank God for sending ya’ll and I appreciate you all who come to help me. Very helpful because if it wasn’t for ya’ll, I couldn’t make it because I didn’t have the funds, my husband died in June and I was all alone. So I appreciate it from my heart,” she said.
The last step to moving back in was getting the electricity turned back on in her home. Naydene can’t wait to be back. Though thankful to her adult children and neighbors for their hospitality, she says “there’s nothing like your own home.”
Beyond helping hundreds of local families get their homes repaired, the Red Cross and CORE assisted small business owners in becoming operational after Dorian and slowed progress due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The best way to get over Dorian was to get open again,” Shannon Hutton, age 24, said. As one of the younger business owners on the island of Abaco, she is the owner of one of the only coffee shops in Abaco’s Marsh Harbour.
Originally from Nassau, Shannon has been living in Abaco for eight years and had a business idea she wanted to bring to life when the Calypso Coffee House was born. For about a year and a half, she worked on her business and fine-tuned the operation as it became a favorite local spot and meeting place for Abaco residents.
Then on September 1, 2019 Hurricane Dorian came through the Bahamas and wrecked Shannon’s home, car and her business as well as many other homes and businesses in Marsh Harbour. With hardly anything left, she relocated to Nassau for a few months after the storm until she could make a plan to bring her business back even though it sometimes felt hopeless. Upon returning to Marsh Harbour and seeing for herself the progress, though often slow, being made on the island after the storm brought reassurance and a new inspiration to build her business back up from nothing. Shannon, along with over 115 other small businesses were given grants of up to $10,000 to help restart their businesses that she says has made a huge difference in getting her doors open once again.
It has helped her maintain a brighter outlook for her business, her life and for her 6-year-old son. “To see how far Abaco has come, it’s amazing. I never thought it would dry out. And the help, it was definitely a relief. Any help is amazing.”
Hurricane Dorian kept her business shuttered for over a year as she had to find a new location and procure all the elements to have her coffee shop run smoothly again but as of December 1, 2020 she was back in business.
Shannon says reopening is significant to more than just her business operation due to being the only dedicated place to get a hot cup of joe. “We’re the only actual coffee shop as of right now that you can go to…Trying to be a little bit of normal in a not-so-normal place in these not-so-normal times,” she reflected. By being open, she is giving back to her community a piece of something that was lost in the storm and was able to hire three local employees, providing jobs in a place where employment can be stark especially amid the pandemic. “I hope that it gives people hope, it gave me hope. Thanks to the Red Cross and CORE and their grant of $10,000 I was able to get back on my feet.”
The American Red Cross provided funds for the home and business repair programs, while CORE worked closely with residents to ensure they were building back their homes and structures up to code and working with reputable local contractors. CORE and community mobilizers from the Bahamas Red Cross oversaw the entire process and worked to guide the beneficiaries like Naydene and Shannon on their path toward recovery in Abaco.
American Red Cross Response
Thanks to the incredible generosity of the public, the Red Cross has been able to directly support the people whose lives were most deeply disrupted by Dorian. More than one year later, the American Red Cross has never stopped working in the Bahamas. Donations to the Red Cross allowed us to put cash right back into the hands of local people so they could choose exactly what they needed for themselves. We gave out emergency supplies, food and clean water to thousands of families and helped to be the bridge to comfort and hope following a life-changing disaster.