Nearly five months have passed since Hurricane Maria struck the island of Dominica, yet most of its residents still can’t turn their lights on.
Joan Polidore, who lives on the island in the Eastern Caribbean, recently visited Rochester. Her daughter, Julia Polidore, is a URMC Pathology employee who coordinated a collection drive to send food and supplies to their home country.
Joan and her husband are pastors who have opened the doors of their churches to provide shelter and resources to their neighbors. Dominica, which already had widespread poverty, was set back even further by the devastation.
“The people are very stressed,” she said. “Some have lost everything and some have lost family members. Many still don’t have housing.”
Schools have not reopened since the storm, forcing some students to relocate to neighboring islands or the United Kingdom to attend school. To help local children, Joan hosts some group activities like arts and crafts at church during the week.
The country's infrastructure remains in a state of crisis. Clean water is available, but crews are still working to restore power to residential areas. This is complicated by the fact that most people live inland in mountainous regions inland, and government buildings, hospitals, and businesses take priority when it comes to having the electricity turned back on.
These struggles were more widely publicized after the storm hit, but awareness has diminished in the months since. Julia Polidore is continuing to collect funds and non-perishables to help in the rebuilding effort.
The initial outpouring of support from Rochester (13 shipping barrels full of food and supplies) was extremely appreciated, but the goods were used up almost as soon as they arrived. That’s why Julia says the effort to support Dominica must continue.
“It’s not in the headlines anymore, but the aftermath is the challenging piece,” she said. “There is not as much attention given to how they’re picking up the pieces. We have to give them hope that people care and won’t leave them hanging."
Joan agrees. The roof of her home was torn off by the hurricane (which has since been repaired) yet she sees others with greater needs, and continues to look for ways to help. She regularly uses her experience as a retired counselor to listen to those who are struggling and encourage them during this difficult time.
“Brighter days are coming, so we live in hope,” she said.
How to Give
Financial gifts can be made online via the following link: Hurricane Relief Effort for Dominica W.I. (YouCaring). Donated items may also be brought in person to either of the following locations:
- Center for Community Health & Prevention
46 Prince St., Rochester, NY
- 1199 Service Employees International Union
259 Monroe Ave., Rochester, NY
- Canned Goods (chicken, tuna, beef)
- Rice/Macaroni Products
- Dry Milk/Juice Mix
- Dry cereal/Oatmeal
- Flour, Sugar, Salt
- Oil, Lemon Juice
- Bottled Water
- Water Filters
- Generators/Commercial Tents
- School Supplies
- Bedding (sheets, mattresses, etc.)