From cash to hope
Hurricane Maria left a sea of roofless houses and naked trees behind. But hardly visible to the eye, a vast amount of disheartened people also belong to the remnants of the hurricane.
Our beneficiaries Paula and Marc explained how the Emergency Cash Transfers have not only allowed them to purchase goods to meet their essential needs but also to gain priceless strength and hope.
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria, many people not only lost their physical assets but also experienced emotional and psychological trauma as a cause of the disaster. Paula (51) says her mental health was severely impacted and she turned to alcohol to cope with the utter despair she felt. Her house was destroyed and she and her six children found refuge in the local school, which had been transformed into an emergency shelter. After having spent a few months in the shelter, her eldest son took action and built a small house from material that the hurricane had scattered about the streets and mountains of Dominica. However, Paula’s new home is lacking primary household equipment and she and her children are forced to sleep on the floor.
While Paula saves for beds and mattresses to rebuild her home, she is grateful for the newly gained independence the emergency cash transfers has given her. She says her children are happy, too.
In a recent focus group discussion Paula passionately described the importance of the cash transfer: “The cash was a blessing. Trust me.” She explained that the cash has given her hope and strength which allowed her to get back on track, begin to cope with her new reality as best she could and to overcome her drinking habit.
Paula is registered with the Government’s Public Assistance Programme and, thus, was automatically selected as a recipient of emergency cash. With support from WFP and UNICEF, the Government has distributed from December 2017 to February 2018 two cash-based transfers to households identified as the most vulnerable. So far, more than 6,500 families have received cash to help them get back on their feet again.
As a single parent of two boys and with severe damage to his house, Marc (42) also qualified for the emergency cash transfer. The hurricane not only damaged Marc’s roof, but also flooded his house and destroyed his crops and his boat. When we met him, Marc was receiving an emergency cash transfer at his local Village Council.
Marc invited us to his home, where he showed us his fishing gear and his restored vegetable garden. Marc will cover his immediate needs with the cash, while other members of the community plan to reinvest their cash in local markets, further benefiting small holder farmers and fishermen like Marc. He explained how discouraged he was by the chaos after the hurricane, and how his incredible work ethic paired with the emergency cash transfers gave him strength. Marc said that the cash transfer will go towards his children; mainly for food and clothing but also for their education. They aspire to become a doctor and a policeman.
Paula and Marc have endured the worst of life’s hardships due to Hurricane Maria. The emergency cash transfer will certainly help relieve some of their burdens by meeting their immediate needs for food, health, clothing and their children’s education. Moreover, they will benefit from an often-overlooked attribute of cash transfers: the positive impact on mental health and well-being that comes with newfound independence, strength and hope.