The Government of Canada Responds to the Humanitarian Crisis in Dominica, Following TS Erika

The Government of Canada is assisting the Relief Effort on Dominica in several ways.

The Government of Canada is assisting the Humanitarian Relief Effort on Dominica in several ways.

I was delighted to receive this reply from an official in Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada in response to a query I submitted last week. In the form email, I respectfully  requested aid for Dominica, following the total devastation caused by Tropical Storm Erika on August 27th, 2015:

“The Government of Canada, through [the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development](DFATD), quickly responded to the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Erika in Dominica and has been supporting the emergency response efforts.

Following the disaster, Canada committed $135,000 to the Pan American Health Organization in order to help restore health services and emergency medical in affected areas, improve access to clean water and sanitation and ensure the provision of hygiene supplies.

Canada is also supporting the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Emergency Appeal for Dominica.

With Canada’s support, the IFRC and the Dominica Red Cross will respond to the immediate needs of over 10,000 people through cash transfers, basic household non-food items, shelter, health and psychosocial support, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene promotion activities.

The Government of Canada committed an additional $50,000 through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives to provide relief and assistance affected households, as identified by the Government of Dominica.”

While the Canadian government’s contribution to the Relief Effort is greatly appreciated, kindly be reminded that millions of dollars are needed to restore the country to its pre- TS Erika state.  The Prime Minister of Dominica, Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit has said that the Nature Island has been set back by at least two decades.

Numerous other countries continue to assist Dominica in its overall recovery, which will be a lengthy and challenging process.

If you are in Toronto, Canada on Friday September 25th, be sure to attend this incredible concert in aid of Dominica!

If you are in Toronto, Canada on Friday September 25th, be sure to attend this incredible concert in aid of Dominica!

Canadians  and other citizens of the world: MUCH MORE HELP IS NEEDED. Your donations of any amount would be most welcome and you can refer to various government-approved charities and accounts by clicking here.

The critical humanitarian situation on Dominica is not going to resolve anytime soon.  You can follow developments on the Nature Island through coverage on Dominica News Online.

If we all assist in our own way – be it large or small- then we will be helping to restore the beautiful Nature Island of 70,000 inhabitants to its former renowned natural glory.  Thank you!

 

Fellow Canadians, Please Help Dominica to Recover from TS Erika’s Devastating ‘Blows’

Help Rebuild Dominica

Canadians in the Greater Toronto Area and further afield, please find it in your hearts to help the Nature Island and her hopeful citizens, who have suffered tremendously at the hands of TS Erika.

This post is directed specifically at fellow countrymen and women in Canada. However, I urge readers all over the world to consider contributing to the Relief Effort  in Dominica with donations or contributions through aid organizations such as the International Red Cross  (specify Dominica) or the Government of Dominica’s special accounts in various currencies . Further information can be found by clicking Office of the Prime Minister of Dominica – TS Erika Recovery and Reconstruction Fund.

You may already know that Dominica, like Canada, is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.  But did you know that thousands of Dominicans live in Canada?  Despite their relocation, they maintain very close ties with their homeland, the Nature Island, as evidenced by the proactive Commonwealth of Dominica Ontario Association.  I have met many Dominican-Canadians over the past 18 years, and they are very appreciative of the diverse opportunities they have had in this large northern land.  The only complaint is a unanimous one: the cold!  I can certainly empathize with that.

I am not sure how many Canadians reside on the Nature Isle.  The few with whom I am acquainted have lived there for more than a decade.  Other friends have returned to Canada, but keep up ties and interest in this beautiful rainforested land that was their  home for a while.

While media coverage has been sadly lacking since the passage of TS Erika completely destroyed Dominica on August 27th, international aid has arrived from many countries – both large and small.  The country’s nearest neighbours, comprised of members of CARICOM and French Overseas Departments were quick to assist in myriad ways. British and Dutch relief ships have brought in some badly needed supplies and medical personnel.  Unfortunately,  response to this crisis has been slow from developed countries such as Canada.  Much more humanitarian aid and  support is required to help this tiny country of 70,000 people to get back on its feet.

 You may be aware that about 30  people died  and others are still missing.  People have lost loved ones, homes and sources of employment.  The demolished infrastructure is estimated at over one billion dollars to reconstruct.  The island’s Douglas-Charles airport requires $ 40 million to rebuild to become fully operational again. Agriculture, the country’s economic mainstay is no more. Hundreds of millions of dollars are desperately needed to recover from all aspects of this disaster.
People are suffering.  Two entire villages have to be relocated, as they were reduced to rubble. The need for clean water  is urgent, as gastroenteritis is becoming a prevalent health condition. Other essentials for daily living are now a critical concern.  One need only read up-to-date news reports from Dominica to gain appreciation for the shocking aftermath of this natural disaster at Dominica News Online.

General awareness of this dire situation in Canada is almost non-existent.  It would be most appreciated if the Government of Canada would consider the crisis in Dominica as a worthy area for humanitarian assistance to aid in this massive recovery effort. I attempted to call the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday and was not successful in relaying my message by phone.  However, I did fill out a form email letter, requesting humanitarian aid for Dominica. If you would like to do the same, it could only help increase awareness about the crisis on the Nature Island.  Click here to write to  Canada. Department of Foreign Affairs .

Thankfully, there are some organizations such as the Toronto-based Commonwealth of Dominica Ontario Association (CDOA)who are spearheading a massive fundraisingGetAttachment campaign, organizing benefit concerts and collecting requested items to be sent to Dominica.  In fact, two containers are be shipped to Dominica this weekend, and it is likely another one will be sent to the Nature Island in the near future.  They have raised over $50,000 of their $100,000 CAD goal, thanks to donations both large and small to their charitable initiative.  This drive is recognized by the Government of Dominica.  Please clink on the link above to the CDOA to find out more and/or make a donation to the Relief and Recovery Effort.

As well, the Rotary Club of Ottawa South has close ties with the Nature Isle, and is organizing events and raising funds in aid of Dominica’s plight.  If you live in the Nation’s Capital, you might like to check them out.

As a Canadian who has resided on Dominica for more than 18 years, I will do all that I can to help those in my adopted home.  Fellow countrymen and women, you

Gwedominica sends plenty of good vibes to her adopted country, Dominica from her native land, Canada on a late summer afternoon.

Gwendominica sends plenty of good vibes to her adopted country, Dominica, from her native land, Canada on a sunshine-filled summer afternoon.

may not live there, you may not know much about the Nature Island, but I assure you that it is one of the most pristine places in the world, and that is why I live there. It has given me an improved quality of life and numerous opportunities for adventure in its sensational surroundings. You can find out more by reading Ti Domnik Tales, which has over 150 posts about this lovely land!  Its warm friendly people may be small in number compared to other countries, but they definitely deserve a helping hand to recover from this catastrophic natural disaster.

Please find it in your hearts to help  Dominica in its time of need.  Thank you!!!

Disaster on Dominica: Tropical Storm Erika Ravages the Nature Island

While enjoying a peaceful summer afternoon in the wilderness of Eastern Ontario, Canada, I half-listened to the 4p.m. news on the national (CBC) radio station on Thursday August 27th.  In this remote area, I had no Internet connection to link me

The storm clouds that threatened one day in Eastern Ontario, Canada were mild in comparison to those that carried devastating rains to Dominica vai TS Erika on Wednesday August 26, 2015.

The storm clouds that threatened one day in Eastern Ontario, Canada were mild in comparison to those that carried devastating rains to Dominica via TS Erika on Wednesday August 26, 2015.

to the outside world. As I focussed on  reading a fascinating book, I thought I heard the word ‘Dominica’ (but pronounced incorrectly) and something about deaths resulting fromTropical Storm Erika. Initially, I assumed that the announcer was talking about the Dominican Republic. The news clip was only 30 seconds long, so I knew that I needed to find out more.  Although I had patchy cell phone service, I called my neighbour on the Nature Island, just to be sure about the place name mentioned on the news.

When I connected with him, he told me there had indeed been heavy rains, there was no water or electricity and the land phone lines were down.  He told me that little else was known at that moment, as people had been instructed to stay at their homes, and the local media had not yet gathered information from around the island.

By that evening, it was impossible to call Dominica – all phone lines were inaccessible.  Instead, I resorted to obtaining detailed descriptions from two sources in Canada: my brother Edwin and my friend Corinne, via cell phone.  They are both familiar with the Nature Island, as Edwin has visited three times and Corinne has lived there for extended periods. When they shared what they had read and seen on the Internet, I immediately felt anxious, scared, sad, helpless and overwhelmed. It was tremendously difficult to process this seemingly unreal situation that had unfolded in my stunningly beautiful adopted country.

They told me that 15 inches of rain had relentlessly pounded the Nature Island for about six hours.  Massive floods islandwide, mudslides, landslides and rockslides demolished most of the infastructure.  Bridges collapsed, trees fell, rivers overflowed, numerous vehicles and some buildings were washed away. Most horrifically, at least 20 people perished and a number of others are still missing.  Villages around the island were completely cut-off from each other and the outside world for a few days.  Petite Savanne, on the island’s southeast coast suffered the most casualties and the majority of its residents have been either air-lifted or taken by coast guard to a temporary shelter in Roseau, the capital city.  The international award- winning Jungle Bay Resort and Spa Dominica, also located in that area was completely destroyed.  Thankfully, quick-thinking staff removed 40+ guests just before the  ‘mountain fell on it’.  They were able to get to a nearby shelter and all were unharmed. In the aftermath of this particular example of complete devastation, 65 employees have suddenly lost their jobs.

There are many more stories, videos and photos online. You need only search the Internet by typing ‘Dominica Tropical Storm Erika’ or looking at Dominica News Online to read about and view shocking scenes of this natural disaster.  The Prime Minister, Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit has stated that this tragic event has set the country back 20 years.

It has taken me several days to write this piece, because everytime I started, tears blurred my vision and my hands began to shake.  Although I was scheduled to return to Dominica today, I have delayed my departure until either the Douglas-Charles Airport, whose runway was destroyed, is reopened, or the backlog of travellers who are returning by ferries from other hubs has diminished.

Although international media exposure about this catastrophe  has been minimal since the passage of TS Erika,relief efforts have commenced, with the much appreciated aid from many countries. Most immediately, food, water and medical supplies are the top priority, along with the rebuilding of the airport.  Additionaly, there is much work to be done in order to rebuild Dominica’s infastructure and the properties that were destroyed.  This massive project is expected to cost millions of dollars.

I remain a loyal, long-time resident of Dominica who has benefitted tremendously from an improved quality of life and countless adventures in its pristene environment. I would be most grateful if you would consider making a contribution in cash or kind to assist this exceptional country and its resilient citizens during its time of dire need.  Please click this link from  Visit Dominica.  It contains an overview and particulars about making donations to the Relief Effort at the bottom of the page.  There are certainly other sites soliciting support in several countries, but always ensure that the source is authentic.

No matter where we are in the world, my friend Jude always reminds me that we are

No matter where we are in the world, my friend Jude always reminds me that we are “under the same moon.” Please think of your brothers and sisters in Dominica and lend them a hand, however you can!

As I listen to DBS Radio Dominica while I write, I sense that despite the complete devastation, there is definitely a prevalence of hope, determination, faith  and community spirit.  The Nature Island will return to its former sensational glory, and I will be honoured to be part of the process.  God Bless Dominica!!!

A Christmas 2013 Memoir from Roseau Dominica: Part 1

Tia-pet waits under the tree for Santa in a the most relaxed way. This photo also appeared over the Christmas holiday on Dominica News Online.  You can view comments here.

Tia-pet waits under the tree for Santa in the most relaxed way. This photo also appeared over the Christmas holidays on Dominica News Online.

“A very Merry Christmas

Gwendominica enjoyed a semi-dry, but cool   pre-Christmas 'Spa Day' at Papilote Wilderness Retreat on December 20th.

Gwendominica enjoyed a semi-dry, but cool pre-Christmas ‘Spa Day’ at Papillote Wilderness Retreat on December 20th.

And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear.” – John Lennon

While I do not have snow and ice to contend with, it’s been a blustery, damp December in Dominica.  Yesterday, the Nature Island received a deluge of heavy rain that caused flash floods ,landslides and plenty of mud underfoot! Even my neighbourhood was not spared, and I watched in amazement as torrents of water washed away parts of the main road, leaving hefty stones, broken pavement and overflowing gutters in its wake. I did not even attempt to go to ‘town’.Roads were blocked, bridges broken, houses dislodged and slick streets held no appeal for me on Dominica’s traditionally lengthy shopping day. You can see more  storm photos on Dominica News Online and The Dominican.Net

The streets in my neighbourhood looked like those in most areas of DOminica on December 24, 2013.

The streets in my neighbourhood looked like those in most areas of Dominica on December 24, 2013.

So today, I consider myself to be storm-stayed, although others are moving about.  For now, I will enjoy the peace and tranquility of a Christmas afternoon, as the sun bravely peeks through the clouds.  Although I am missing out on a grand Christmas dinner in the mountains with a number of friends, I did not want to take my little car through remaining obstacles on the roadways. (Yes, crews are working hard to clear them, but they’ve got loads of ground to cover all over the island…)  Tomorrow, I’ll go out to the main street in my neighbourhood and clear away the bigger rocks that do not pose a problem for larger SUV’s.  I’ll take on this laborious task because I love my little green car, nicknamed “The Button”.  It takes me almost everywhere – and thankfully big storms are few and far between!

And then –  the  lack of water issue – of course all the intake valves are blocked and had to be shut down for cleaning.  The little holding tank in my backyard is good for a bucket or two, so far.

It was a dark and rainy day for the cruise shippers in port, but at least there wasn't any snow or freezing rain!

It was a dark and wet day for the cruise shippers in port, but at least there wasn’t any snow or freezing rain!

But if it’s still off by

There was so much rain that the gutters overflowed for several hours.

There was so much rain that the gutters overflowed for several hours.

tomorrow morn, I’ll head down to a hotel for a shower – after I’ve cleared those rocks away from the road!  Thankfully, the electricity is back on today, and the temperature is more than 20 C, so I am happy for what I have.  I send thoughts and prayers to all of you “up north” who have various weather challenges this holiday season.  As my mother  and others would say, “This, too, shall pass.”

Elise, Wendy and Liz are definitely in the spirit of the season as they partake of Gwedominica's Christmas treats.

Elise, Wendy and Liz are definitely in the spirit of the season as they partake of Gwendominica’s Christmas treats.

Of course, I’ve had some fun too.  And  more details will follow  in the next blog post. As warm-ups to this special season, I hosted some friends with sweets and treats over tea.  I always enjoy baking Christmas goodies every year, as this craft enables my goodwill to grow.  Because of the inclement weather, I haven’t delivered all of my goodie plates yet.  It’s not a concern because there are still eleven more days of Christmas after this one!

Christmas would not mean so much to me without music, and this year was no exception.  In the damp drizzle of the evening of December 19th, In A Chord, the  4 part female vocal ensemble in which I sing Alto 1 was honoured to perform as guests of Dominica’s renowned “Music Lovers” Government Band.  We sang our hearts out in Sing We All Noël and Carol of the Bells  Our Director, pianist Leng Sorhaindo brilliantly  accompanied us on a sophisticated  and melodious  electronic keyboard. Instrumentalist Pious Jno Baptiste perfectly harmonized with us, first on the sopranino recorder and then he took up the steel pan, where he created the bell-like tones that blended with the keyboard’s in the second piece.  I always enjoy the sing-along with the Band too, because they play many of my favourite old-time carols and I still know almost all the words by heart!  It was a wonderful concert, which really added to the tidings of joy that I felt emanating from the audience and musicians alike.

And what would the Yuletide be without a pause for personal reflection and  thoughtful immersion in the truest sense of the season? These two “storm” days have permitted me some “down-time” to do just that. Perhaps you’ve had a chance to do the same – no matter what the weather in your part of the world.

Sunset on Sunday December 22, 2013 was a welcome respite from numerous gray days in a row.

Sunset on Sunday December 22, 2013 was a welcome respite from numerous gray days in a row.

Gwendominica and Tia-pet.  Photo taken by Elise at the Xmas Tea 2012.

Gwendominica and Tia-pet. Photo taken by Elise at the Xmas Tea 2012.

In any event, I sincerely wish  a “Happy Christmas to all – and to all a Good Night!

Dominica’s ONLY Storm of the 2013 Season: Chantal makes a serious pass!

Foreboding skies signaled the start of Tropical Chantal's pass through Dominica.

Foreboding skies signaled the start of Tropical Chantal’s pass through Dominica.

After Tropical Storm Chantal quickly blew through Dominica and other  Eastern Caribbean islands on Tuesday July 9th, everyone breathed a collective sigh of  relief that no lives were lost and that the damage was generally minor.  On the Nature Island, the southern areas were most adversely affected by high winds, with downed trees, branches, utility wires and a few missing roofs.

While I was safe in my apartment, I did experience a few heart-stopping moments. But at the end of the day, God is good and all is well.  It seems that the storm passed without incident on islands further south, including tiny Bequia in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  You can read friend and Canadian author Susan Toy’s report and view her videos of Chantal here. 

Interestingly, the south side of Chantal dished out lots of rain, where on my northerly end of her, fierce winds that gusted up to 100 kilometers per hour kept me glancing out the windows when I heard a branch crack or an unknown entity crash to the ground.

The day started calmly enough: I drank my tea and read my morning meditations  on the porch while gazing down at Roseau, the

View of Roseau before the storm.  The brown water (centre) is cominig from the muoth of the Roseau River.  It must have been raining already in the mountains!

View of Roseau before the storm. The brown water (centre) is coming from the mouth of the Roseau River. It must have rained already in the mountains!

From myvantage point, Roseau was shrouded in rain during the passage of Chantal.

From my vantage point, Roseau was shrouded in rain during the passage of Chantal.

pretty capital, as usual. I had cleared almost everything off of the outside living areas the previous evening.  What remained to be removed was a barricade that  I had erected to  prevent my 15 & 1/2 year old  senior indoor cat from escaping into the bushes and unknown dangers. I went inside to check the weather report online, when all-of-a-sudden I heard a sound as the first blast of wind hit the house.  Something fell down on the porch.  I ran to look and was horrified to discover that the force had knocked down my

Tia is a playful, adventurous pussycat at the best of times.  Painting by American artist and friend Susan Weeks.

Tia is a playful, adventurous pussy cat at the best of times. Painting by American artist and friend Susan Weeks.

barricade – and Tia the cat was GONE!

In a near panicked state, I called the vet, explained what happened and asked her what to do!  She first told me to calm down (but I didn’t).  She asked if he had eaten – I said “no’!  She tried to reassure me that he would return and was just exploring . If he didn’t come back soon, she would send her husband, who is also a vet and animal whisperer (if you ask me) to help me look for him.  I quickly dressed in long pants and boots to go into the bushes, while I called his name over and over. But that did last long.  Between one moment and the next, the heavens opened up wide.  It felt as if a huge never-emptying bucket of water was being dumped on my head.  In one minute, I was soaked to the skin.  The winds began to howl in a serious way and I had to abandon my search!  I headed up the front stairs to see that the door had slammed shut.  When I opened it, I noticed that the back door was still open. I was ready to howl louder than the wind, when  Tia appeared in front of me – a little damp, but none the worse for wear!  At first I thought I was a hallucinating!  He must have been near the back stairs and then bolted up them when the deluge began.  I was thanking the Almighty profusely when I called the vet to extend gratitude for her support during those few moments of dire stress!  From the point on, Tia hid under the bed for the entire day!

It`s hard to dstinguish between the coconut tree and the utility pole! The tree is leaning in to the wires - and with one more gust of wind...

It`s hard to distinguish between the coconut tree and the utility pole! The tree is leaning in to the wires – and with one more gust of wind…

But that wasn’t the end of my worries :when I had started to search for the cat, the downstairs tenants poked their heads out for a moment and drew my attention to a tall coconut palm tree that was leaning heavily on the utility wires nearby!  If they came down, we would have a very serious problem.  I immediately called the electricity company, but of course my complaint was probably one of hundreds that they received that morning.  The power was already out in my area and I shut off the main switch to be extra safe.

The rain hammered the earth a while before the pounding wind took over!

The rain hammered the earth a while before the pounding wind took over!

From then on, I entertained myself by listening to an extended talk show on a popular local station with my little battery-operated radio.  I was able to hear updates about Chantal and reports  of damages and experiences from people who called in  from around the island .  I was keen to take a few pictures.  I tried to open my doors a few times,  but the wind created tremendous resistance and I decided not to tempt fate. Instead, I opened a window on the calm side and stuck my arms out around the burglar bars with camera in hand.  You can see that I got a few shots!

In the early afternoon, soft music played on the radio and sky turned dark as night.  I periodically checked the precarious angle of the coconut tree as it pulsed against the wires.  I read for a while on the couch and dozed off for an hour or so.  I awoke to stillness about 4 p.m., peeked outside and assumed that the worst was over.

There were  a few moments when the sun did try to overpower the storm!

There were a few moments when the sun did try to overpower the storm!

The waves were rought - but thankfully only for a little while!

The waves were rough – but thankfully only for a little while!

About an hour later, the power came back on so I was up and running electronically again!  Just to be on the safe side, I decided to wait until the morning before putting anything back on my outside porches.  Around 8 p.m., I had just climbed out of a warm shower when the phone rang.  It was a worker from the electricity company.  He asked for directions to the problematic tree, as he was in the area and wanted to make a survey  for removal of it the following day.  He and his crew did arrive minutes later, and did declare this situation to be urgent.  As I write this, no-one has appeared to cut down the offending tree, which he did consider an emergency.  I realize there are problems of this nature all over the island.  No doubt, it will be removed in “a while”, as they say on Dominica.  I just hope it is before the next storm!

The cat barricade is back up and Tia has been studying it with longing.  I don’t think he can get over it.  But he has weathered a few other storms outdoors.  I’ll save those stories for another day!  But if you want a refresher on one of my previous weather challenges, you can read this!

In the mean time, this  tropical storm seems to be fading away further north, so perhaps will not cause damage elsewhere.  I only hope that if (or when) the next cyclone makes its way across the Atlantic, it will be no more troublesome than Chantal!