“We will bounce back”: Stories from Dominica after the storm

By Christelle Chapoy and Emily Bartels Bland

World Bank
Jun 1, 2018 · 6 min read

Also available in: Español | Français

© Emily Bartels Bland/World Bank

Eight months after hurricane Maria struck the small island of Dominica, home to over 73,000 people in the Eastern Caribbean belt, an other active hurricane season is about to start, one that experts are predicting an active season “near and above normal”. As we drove through the island, we saw nature is starting to reclaim the island, the forest cover is turning green again, the debris has been cleared, and shops have reopened. Children are back at school and slowly people’s lives are bouncing back. The hustle and bustle in the streets of Dominica on a Friday night is a testament to the resilience and spirit of the people of Dominica.

Yet, with the start of the new hurricane season and storms becoming more frequent and more powerful, Dominica is determined to turn these challenges into an opportunity and has set the aspirational goal of becoming the world’s first climate resilient nation.

We spoke with a village council clerk, a forest officer, a craft maker from the Indigenous community fo Kalinago, a civil engineer and many others who have shared their stories on how they see their country recovering:

“The reason I am optimistic is because there are lots of organizations that have come in and are assisting the government with the rebuilding,” said Glenda Castle, a clerk of the village council of Loubiere. Glenda’s house was partly washed away by the river during the storm. © Emily Bartels Bland/World Bank

“Eventually, it’s getting back green and we are getting there”

Glenda’s house was partly washed away by the river during the storm. She is currently living with her daughter and two grandchildren. When asked about how she saw the recovery efforts, she shared her sense of optimism and resilience:

“Eventually, it’s getting back green and we are getting there. I got a team together and started cleaning until the heavy equipment came and removed the rest of the debris. There is now a new building code. The hurricane ties, the clams and there are different screws that must be used. We were not using them before and right now we need to ensure that the builders are putting it in when they are rebuilding. The reason I am optimistic is because there are lots of organizations that have come in and are assisting the government with the rebuilding”.

Forest officer Felix Eugene guided us to Trafalgar Falls, a twin water falls nested at the heart of the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its natural beauty. © Emily Bartels Bland/World Bank

Regreening the ‘Nature Island’ after the storm

“When I came here (after Hurricane Maria), I could not believe what I saw. The trail was blocked by boulders and trees….The entire country was brown like a toast. Maria blew everything apart. Most huge trees are gone”, said Felix. The forestry division has started many reforestation projects to help regain the different varieties of forest types. As local tourists were trickling as we visited the park, Felix noted that “Prior to Maria, you’d have 2,000 to 3,000 cruise ship tourists come visit the falls a day, but now, we only have a trickle in, but it is picking up gradually again. As you can see, a lot of work was put into clearing the trails.”

Beverly Joseph from the Indigenous community of Kalinago supports her family by weaving baskets and other traditional handicrafts to sale for the tourists, but due to hurricane Maria, the tourist season has been slow. © Emily Bartels Bland/World Bank

“Baskets now are not selling because of the slow tourism season”

“Baskets right now are not selling because of the slow tourism season. I get a little assistance from the welfare every month, but it is difficult.”

“Through the collective effort of all Dominicans, we worked very hard to get the roads cleared,” said Ron Jackson, Assistant Project Engineer. © Emily Bartels Bland/World Bank

Scenic and winding mountainous roads

“We have had many challenges after Hurricane Maria, a lot of roads were impassible, and it was a challenge to get through to different communities, but through the collective effort of all Dominicans, we worked very hard to get the roads cleared,” said Ron Jackson, Assistant Project Engineer.

“I strongly believe that through the community involvement and the togetherness we all have, we will stand by each other. When there is a disaster, we all come together. This is the kind of spirit we all have. And I think that is what pulled us through after Maria”.

“Geothermal and energy independence is a first step of becoming the first climate resilient nation in the world”, Gary Shilling-Ford, site manager at Dominica’s geothermal site. © Emily Bartels Bland/World Bank

Geothermal and energy independence

“It is scary to think that nature can change a country within a heartbeat. But looking at months later, what you see, tells you that we’re one of the most resilient countries in the world and we bounce back really fast,” said Gary Shilling-Ford, a project site manager at the geothermal site of Laudat-Wotten Waven.

“Our trees are green again and bearing fruits. Geothermal and energy independence is a first step of becoming the first climate resilient nation in the world. I see it as a way forward for my country, and I see energy security as a first step to be truly independent as a nation.”


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© Emily Bartels Bland/World Bank

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