Hero Holiday Medical Team and Hurricane Irene
Today was very gut wrenching! (to say the least). As some of you may know, Hurricane Irene hit the coast of the Dominican Republic last night (August 22nd). While all of our team members stayed safe and sound in the resort, which is a strong cinder block structure built to withstand hurricanes, we couldn’t help but think of many of the families in the community of Neuvo Renacir where we’d been working.
These families live in conditions that are difficult at the best of times, and during hurricane season, many of them lose or sustain serious damage to their homes. As we compared stories in the morning, the team found that most of us did not sleep because the rain, wind, and waves were so loud. I myself kept thinking about what it would be like to be a mother with children in either Nuevo Renacir or La Union, villages where many of the houses are made of wood and metal scraps fashioned together that simply cannot withstand extreme weather. It would have been truly frightening.
This morning our team leaders thought it would be better that we all stay in while people were cleaning up the streets and any power lines that had fallen. We cancelled the clinic we had scheduled for the day, as most people were not in the frame of mind to attend it, as they were more focused on cleaning up the streets and their homes.
In the afternoon we headed over to the village of Nuevo Renacir to see how we could help. Most of the community was fine and the rain water had receded but as we turned the corner to get the ocean all you could see was garbage and debris everywhere. Some of the houses we had seen just three days ago were half gone. The waves were still really big too, most of us got splashed once or twice by them and got soaked. We divided into two groups and helped to move three families’ belongings out of their destroyed homes and into a dry church around the corner. Everything they owned was wet and dirty. They had all the garbage that was washed in from the storm by the ocean in their houses too.
I got to sit down with the mother of one of the families, Margalina, and asked her how she felt about what had just happened. Margalina, her husband, and two children, have lived in their ‘ocean view’ house in Nuevo Renacir for the past three years. Whenever it rained their house and belongings would all get wet and ruined. There have been times when the waves have gotten close to their home in the past too. She said that the storm had started around 8pm for them, and a cousin later came and got the family to stay in his home during the storm, as it was further away from the water. They did not sleep the entire night because of the noise and fear for their home. Now that their house has been destroyed and all their belongings damaged, Margalina seemed like she was in shock, and yet said that the family plans to fix and clean the house and move back in when it is ready.
Our team also spent some time moving large logs, rocks, tires, and other debris that the ocean had washed ashore in order to build breaks so the waves would not wash up into the homes even more. Water logged branches are heavy!! By the time we left the waves were being held at bay. I am so proud of our team, they worked their butts off!!! On the bus ride home everyone was pretty sober. One team member, Alex, had this to say:
We all struggled to hold back tears as we transferred anything salvagable to a church near by. Were are fortunate enough to be able to return to a comfortable hotel after a few hours of work but the people of Nuevo Renacir never have that option.
Hero Holiday is committed to the community of Nuevo Renacir, and while we are happy to say that all of the homes we built this summer are still standing safe and strong after Hurricane Irene, there are so many other families in this village who constantly live at risk of devastation by natural disasters such as this. The silly thing is that it’s entirely preventable. If families have homes that are well-built, with proper materials, and are located far enough away from shore, they would be able to avoid all but the most extreme catastrophes.
Hero Holiday is determined to give the people of Neuvo Renacir that chance. Right now, we’re going to do what we can to meet the immediate needs of this community as they clean up and salvage what is left. But we will continue to build homes for deserving families in this town so that they won’t have to face the next hurricane in fear, and we need your help to do it! Please consider supporting us by clicking on the ‘donate’ button above, or think about attending a Hero Holiday trip yourself! You can bring hope, love, and change to this community!
– Nettie Brown, Hero Holiday Adminstrator