Common Hope returned to regular operations on June 2 after a week of emergency relief mode, but people in the affected communities are still living the aftermath of tropical storm Agatha.
Our social workers are continuing to assess individual family situations and determine the scale (severe to minor) of each family’s damage. Social workers remain the primary contact for families, and support is being channeled through them, whether food bags, housing repairs, or medical care. Our educational psychology staff is holding children’s activity groups to deal with their trauma and fears, and the clinic is preparing for likely increases in respiratory and intestinal diseases.
Stronger relief networks
Government officials, other non-profit organizations, and community leaders (a network called COCODES, established as part of the Peace Accords) met at Common Hope on Saturday, June 5 to share information and discuss coordination of relief and recovery efforts. The goal for the meeting was to support local community relief efforts, ensuring that needs were met and efforts were not being duplicated.
The meeting was well-attended and productive, with one important side benefit. Before the storm, San Miguel did not have a COCODES group, but since the meeting they have formed two, one for each village sector. Communities with active COCODES groups were better prepared and able to manage the immediate needs of families, and San Miguel will be in a stronger position going forward.
Clean-up and reconstruction continues
Common Hope provided a dump truck for about a week to help in San Miguel, and the steel-toed rubber boots donated after Hurricane Stan have been used by many villagers and volunteers. Families have made progress getting mud out of their homes; however, large boulders and rocks still fill up the causeways, which could cause major flooding during the next significant rainfall. This is causing anxiety in San Miguel, because people are nervous about what will happen the next time it rains hard.
It isn’t just the immediate impact and loss that people are worried about but also the longer-term effects, like a possible food shortage because of crop loss and more flooding during the rest of the rainy season. Transportation has been severely compromised, as many bridges are either out or structurally unsound, and roadways have been washed out. The best thing we can hope for is limited rain in the coming weeks so that families can put their lives back together before the risk escalates again.
In terms of housing, there is a potential relocation and reconstruction project being negotiated by the mayor of Antigua, and if this comes through, Common Hope will support it and advocate for our affiliated families. In the meantime, housing repairs will continue to be done to reinforce or fix damage to existing homes.
School back in session
School resumed in most villages in the first two weeks of June, but San Miguel’s school remained closed until Monday, June 14. Until then, the municipality was using the school as a staging center for storm relief – machinery parking, cooking and shelter for workers, and general storage. The school will likely not have a vacation to make up for the lost time. New Hope and San Rafael’s schools were back in session by June 7, although transportation to and from New Hope Village is compromised.
Finally, we are taking measures to address the emotional impact of the storm on staff and volunteers, so that they can engage in a process of healing as they work to facilitate the healing of others. The recovery process will take much longer than the immediate storm relief, and we are grateful for the friendship and support shown from all corners of the world.
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