Rebuilding after Hurricane Maria

How Ella managed to rebuild and improve her family's livelihood after Hurricane Maria

This is 44-year-old Ella. She has lived in La Plaine, a rural village in the east of Dominica, all her life.

Before Hurricane Maria struck in September 2017, Ella lived a normal life. She had her own shop, which gave her independence and an income, and she had a safe roof over her head.

But Hurricane Maria took that away from her. The storm swept away her shop, her home, and her livelihood too.

It was an ordinary Monday morning when the disaster struck.

We weren’t ready, we weren’t expecting it [to hit] so hard. That Monday morning we waited for it, we saw the rain and more rain and then came the wind.

Woman holds polaroid photo and daughter in Dominica in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria

Ella was worried about the amount of water that was pouring into her home. So she bravely decided to leave in the middle of the storm. 

At that point, all she could do was gather her five children together, grab some clothes and a mattress, and walk to the nearest safe place.

Eventually, they reached a concrete house. But the door and roof had gone so they had to burst open the basement door to seek cover.

The kids didn’t go back to school until January, four months after Maria, which meant there were six people living in a confined space with little facilities or comforts.

Girl rides bike in Dominica in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria

Ella had to send her only son to live with his father, some 24 miles away. There was simply not enough room for him to live with the rest of the family.

Despite everything, Ella hasn’t lost her smile. She and her ten-year-old daughter, Jendi, giggle while telling the story of a time when Ella tried to put her to bed. They had created a makeshift wooden bed with some cushions that had dried in the sun.

Next thing you know rain started to fall straight onto her […], so I had to put her in the kitchen with eight bedsheets on the floor!

Ella told us what a huge difference the ShelterBox tent has made to their lives after Hurricane Maria.

‘It made it much better for the family because we have nowhere to go. There was little space to sleep, little space to breathe. Because the basement is small, the tent was very good.’

But it wasn’t just the tent that changed Ella and her family’s life. The solar lights that they received have also given the family some extra comfort through the darkness.

Woman holds daughter in Dominica in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria

Hundreds of families just like Ella’s were severely affected by the two deadly hurricanes of September 2017.  

We know that shelter is more than just a roof over your head. It’s the process of recovery, of returning to normal when disaster strikes.

Two years on from the devastating hurricanes that hit the Caribbean, we are supporting more families around the world who have been affected by disaster.

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