Despite the storm, #BahamasStrong

Despite the storm, #BahamasStrong

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, September 16, 2019

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Last week we cast our minds back to September 12, 1988, the day that Hurricane Gilbert, packing category 3 winds, hit Jamaica, lingering over us for about six hours. We remember the howling wind tearing around our yard like a prehistoric creature, destroying our trees and threatening our roof. It felt like an eternity. How, we are asking ourselves, could anyone imagine that the category 5+ Hurricane Dorian would sit stubbornly over northern Bahamas for over a day. We were overcome with a sense of helplessness when we saw the grim reports. Those islands have been literally shredded by this monster system.

Bahamian Marion Bethel wrote during the ordeal: “We are all in shock, numb & devastated at the horrific impact on Abaco from Dorian! As I wrote this it is moving at 1 mile per hour over Grand Bahama, just hovering & wreaking havoc everywhere! Persons are stranded in homes with rising tides right now! ...We're all in wait & watch mode as there is nothing we can do at this time!! Tuesday or Wednesday at the earliest!! This monstrous hurricane a CAT 5-6 moving with wind speed of 185-200 miles plus per hour has savaged & continues to pummel the northern islands! The strongest hurricane to date in this part of the hemisphere, we're told!!”

Thank goodness for the strength of that country, whose islands spared by the hurricane could immediately set up relief operations, partnering with regional and international organisations to rescue, shelter, and feed some 70,000 people left homeless. Our friend and perennial volunteer Ann Marie Casserly kept us up to date with releases from The Bahamas's National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), detailing their planning which included the enrolment of displaced students ages four to 19. They were invited “to seek enrolment at one of the government schools... in any of the unaffected family islands” and were offered medical screening, uniform and lunch assistance, and referrals for counselling services.

Chef José Andrés of World Central Kitchen, who with his team prepared thousands of meals for survivors of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, partnered with scores of Bahamian volunteers to distribute food and water. The nimble Bahamians rightfully used the hashtag #BahamasStrong as they carried out non-stop relief efforts.

Jamaica stepped forward early, with our own Adam Stewart linking his Sandals Foundation and Sandals Resorts International to other tourism concerns who came on board to support this beautiful Caribbean destination. For what will be extensive reconstruction efforts, Sandals Foundation has partnered with Food For the Poor — an organisation which has years of experience in the fast roll-out of housing solutions in 16 Caribbean countries.

As they did after the massive earthquake in Haiti, members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) have been dispatched to assist in relief efforts. I remember being told that in the Haiti operation it was our JDF soldiers who had fast-tracked the efficient distribution of relief supplies.

Canadian High Commissioner Laurie Peters responded swiftly to the JDF's request for flight support, and so the Canadian Air Force has been making multiple trips, taking our soldiers to the hardest-hit areas in The Bahamas.

The destruction wrought by Hurricane Dorian is a wake-up call for Jamaica. Last week's flooding here after two hours of rain is a warning that we are far from prepared for a big weather event. Let us be clear that the poor folks packed tight in some garrison areas have no sanitary conveniences and a garbage collection problem, so their garbage ends up in gullies. We cannot be telling people 'Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica' when we have them living in subhuman conditions. What would become of their frail shacks and shaky old tenement buildings if they were hit by a major system? Further, there are hotel workers living in such circumstances. How will our tourism industry recover if we don't plan for their safety ahead of time?

Jamaica has no shortage of goodwill and brain power, but we need to synergise our planning. With efficient engagement among the various ministries and multilateral aid agencies our country can become a model of resilience.


Peter vs Peter

The Peter vs Peter contest is over, with Dr Peter Phillips being retained as leader of the People's National Party (PNP). It appears that the healing has begun. This column has noted that Dr Phillips has led some of the toughest ministries and is widely respected. Peter Bunting is a successful businessman and brings much talent to the party. Now if only we can see the level of energy used for the respective campaigns devoted to the betterment of their constituents.

Memo to all politicians: People are looking for performance, not promises. If you want to continue winning, spend your time and money on them; not on campaigns.


Mexico's Independence celebrations

Ambassador of Mexico to Jamaica Juan Jose González Mijares and his wife Guadalupe López de Llergo Cornejo hosted a celebration of his country's 209th anniversary of Independence last Saturday, transporting us with wonderful music and cuisine. Mexico has awarded many scholarships to Jamaicans and funded a multitude of projects. Our ties are long and run deep.

Ambassador González is an avid participant in Jamaican life, and has become quite adept at our local lingo. We were proud that our Minister of Foreign Affairs Kamina Johnson Smith gave a rousing salute in Spanish — much to the delight of our Mexican friends: ¡Viva la amistad entre los pueblos de Jamaica y México!


RIP, Sara-Lou Glasspole Mena

Sara-Lou Glasspole Mena was the embodiment of graciousness. As the daughter of the late minister of education and Governor General Sir Florizel and Lady Glasspole, she represented Jamaica in various spheres, from rural schools to glittering State occasions and was ever supportive of her distinguished parents. As her parents entered their twilight years their beloved Sara-Lou was always there for them.

What a picture of happiness she was when she married her college sweetheart Dr Adolfo Mena, and what a strong but gentle mother to Kristina and Alexander.

We will never forget the example of Sara-Lou Glasspole Mena; never seeking the limelight, always uplifting others with a genuine smile that warmed our hearts. We extend deepest condolence to Adolfo, Kristina and Alexander. May her beautiful soul rest in peace.


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