BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment firstname.lastname@example.org
LIKE many St Thomas residents, Mark Francis could have spent the day after Hurricane Sandy clearing debris from his home in Lloyds, which was ravaged by the category one storm last Wednesday.
But instead of focusing on his personal plight, last Thursday Francis, his wife Christine and their eight-year-old daughter Shana-Kaye — almost like the Good Samaritan — took to the streets with a power saw to remove numerous fallen trees blocking vehicular access to their community and to the neighbouring Swamp and Aeolus Valley.
Francis said he was led to undertake the act of community service because of his deep-rooted Christian principles.
"I am a Christian, and I believe in righteousness, and so as Christ loves us we must love one another and do good, and I believe what I am doing is good," Francis told the Jamaica Observer North East.
As he spoke, Francis sawed away at an oversized tree blocking the main road to Aeolus Valley.
As early as 6:00 am Francis had loaded his power saw and three gallons of gas into his car and began the treacherous drive through the community in search of fallen trees. His wife and daughter joined the effort by helping to pull branches from the road to allow access to the deep rural communities which, in all likelihood, would not have received immediate attention from the National Works Agency.
"Mi just going to cut go straight to where the taxis go to turn back so that people can get in and out," said Francis, who worships at Lloyds Gospel Assembly.
While he did not readily offer this information, Francis eventually admitted that he had spent his own money to purchase the gasoline for both the saw and the car in order to undertake the task. He explained that the three gallons of gas in the saw would be enough to cover about two-and-a-half miles before he would be forced to stop.
Francis, who makes a living from selling charcoal, said he wasn't motivated by money as helping in whatever way possible was a much better reward. After he cleared the roads, he helped repair the many houses which were badly damaged during Sandy's passage.
His wife Christine expressed great pride in her husband's gesture and was equally pleased to have been able to participate.
"I think this is a good thing he is doing, and so I say 'if he is doing this I should be by his side, so it is now a family thing," she told the Observer North East as she took a break from the gruelling task.
"When wi finish here mi plan to go home and do a big cooking," she added.
She said residents were thankful for what her husband was doing, and some of the them had even come out to assist him to remove the trees he sawed in a section of the Swamp community.
"Yes man, they have been very appreciative of what he has been doing and they say 'Mark, you ah gwaan well'," she said.
Shane Wynter, a resident of Yallahs in St Thomas, was on his way to check on his grandmother in Aeolus Valley when he ran into the Francises.
"I saw him cutting the trees and I decided to stop and help him for a bit," Wynter said, as he assisted to heave a branch to the side of the road.
Lloyds resident and Justice of the Peace Pauline Hunter hailed the Francis family for their community spirit.
"That is what you call community spirit, and he is doing a real good job," she said.
Hunter, who said she left her home to investigate when she heard the sound of the power saw, added that more residents would come to assist as soon as they knew what the Francises were doing.