More Bajans help hurricane-affected UWI students

At least ten local households have so far offered accommodation to students of the UWI Cave Hill campus who were affected by the recent passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Deputy Principal, Professor Clive Landis, has said.

Landis told Saturday’s Vice Chancellor’s forum that the offers were in response to the UWI’s ‘Adopt a Student’ emergency appeal, which was launched in September.

“As a university we are responsible for the young people from Dominica, from BVI, from Tortola, from the islands that were affected, because we feel that the essential contribution that we have to make is their wellbeing.  Because they’ve been cut off from all their means of support, and they have no home to go back to.

“So we launched the ‘Adopt a Student’ emergency appeal and we have already had ten households in the university community who have offered accommodation to students because they can’t afford their fees anymore, and we’ve had persons adopt students for their daily needs,” Professor Landis said.

UWI Cave Hill has also released financial holds for students from all of the affected islands for this semester.

He added that the university has also been focusing on psychological counselling, as the students have been highly traumatised by the storms.

“I’m certainly aware of the gravity of the situation, it is very sobering,” Landis said, noting that the Dominican students on campus have described “in harrowing detail how Maria stripped every leaf from every tree in Dominica”.

He added that the recent tragedy has also demonstrated the willingness of Caribbean people to come to their neighbours’ assistance in their time of need.

“It is very pleasing for me to see that whatever inter-island rivalries exist, they are put aside at moments like this. And it is incredibly heartening to see how Caribbean people have gone out of their way and dug deep to help people in the sister islands that have been so badly affected.

“I went down to the port of Barbados during the relief efforts; the Cave Hill campus contributed relief to Dominica and to the Open Campus there and I can assure you that the Barbados Coast Guard was digging into its own operational budget . . . to help Dominica.  It really has been gratifying to see how a crisis like this has really brought our region together.”

As part of further efforts to assist the students, UWI Cave Hill hosted a celebrity T20 Cricket Hurricane Irma/Maria Relief Benefit match last night at the 3Ws Oval, featuring current and former West Indies and international cricketers, as well as student athletes.

Proceeds from the match will go towards rebuilding schools and hospitals in the affected islands.

Insurance company, Sagicor, which sponsored the match, has approved a US$500,000 hurricane relief fund for the hurricane-ravaged islands.

General Manager of Sagicor Dominica, Cheryl Rolle, who was here for the charity match, told the Vice Chancellor’s forum that a significant portion will go towards relief efforts in Dominica.

“Getting our children back to school is critical, not just physically but also mentally. One of our biggest challenges as we speak right now is that we are in need of psychologists and psychiatrists and counsellors to assist us,” Rolle said.

Like most residents, she too suffered Maria’s wrath and lost her home to the category five hurricane. However, she has been assisting students at Cave Hill who have had difficulty coping with the disaster.

“I received, I would say over 20 phone calls primarily from UWI students, mostly because their parents are Sagicor clients and some of them are Sagicor clients as well. I remember there was one student  . . . and for two weeks he kept calling me every day. He just could not locate any members of his family for two weeks.  And he’s at UWI here.  I have met with him since then and he could not concentrate.  He was trying to study, there was nobody to talk to. He couldn’t locate anybody in the entire town of Portsmouth.  Finally, I got somebody to take a boat and go to town [the capital, Roseau] to be able to use their phone to call, and that is when he found out about his family.

“Then I have another student whose mother is a nurse and whose father is an orderly in the hospital. And the parents made the most important decision they made that night. They took their 17-year-old and their 15-year-old to the hospital with them. The father was busy trying to run from ward to ward as the roofs were going, and trying to save the people that were on the beds, and water was rising to waist level.  The mother stayed at work for 24 hours because no nurse could replace her; they could not get to the hospital. And when they got back to their house the entire roof was gone and their neighbour’s 13 and 14-year-old children were swept away and they cannot find their bodies.  That’s the situation in Dominica. And everybody you speak to has a story.”

She said Dominicans are now focused on the task of recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction, and assured policyholders that Sagicor is confident that it will be able to settle their claims “in a timely manner”.

“To the many who are affected, we urge you to continue to be resilient, stay strong in your faith. Together as a Caribbean people we can achieve great things, and be compassionate to each other.  Because when the rain falls it doesn’t fall on one man’s house,” Rolle said.

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