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Hurricane Maria Relief in Puerto Rico & Dominica

by IsraAID
Hurricane Maria Relief in Puerto Rico & Dominica
Hurricane Maria Relief in Puerto Rico & Dominica
Hurricane Maria Relief in Puerto Rico & Dominica
Hurricane Maria Relief in Puerto Rico & Dominica
Hurricane Maria Relief in Puerto Rico & Dominica
Hurricane Maria Relief in Puerto Rico & Dominica
Hurricane Maria Relief in Puerto Rico & Dominica
Hurricane Maria Relief in Puerto Rico & Dominica
Hurricane Maria Relief in Puerto Rico & Dominica
Hurricane Maria Relief in Puerto Rico & Dominica
Hurricane Maria Relief in Puerto Rico & Dominica
Hurricane Maria Relief in Puerto Rico & Dominica

On 20th September 2017, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, devastating the island. Winds of over 150mph and torrential rain, felled trees, decimated buildings and removed roofs from homes. Hurricane Maria is reported to have caused approximately $90 billion in damage; destroyed 230,000 homes; and caused over 60 direct fatalities with numbers of deaths rising to nearly 4,000 in the proceeding months.

El Real, a small community located in the Patillas municipality of Puerto Rico, was hit hard by the storm. In the aftermath, residents were without electricity for eight months, and their water system’s reliance on electricity left them without safe drinking water as well. IsraAID arrived in El Real shortly after Hurricane Maria, and has since been working alongside the community not only to recover, but to build back better toward increased resilience.

Over the last year, IsraAID Puerto Rico, in partnership with the Inter American University of Puerto Rico (IAUPR) and the El Real Water Committee, have completed the construction of a slow-sand, gravity-based filtration system in an effort to provide safe drinking water to the community of El Real in Patillas, Puerto Rico. As of October 2019, the filter’s net turbidity units are consistently under 1.0, in accordance with the range required by the Environmental Protection Agency. Currently, IsraAID and its partners are working to mitigate long-term staffing challenges; the water filtration system requires daily cleaning, but the area suffers from a dearth in water operators, and as such, the municipal order against the community by the EPA and the Department of Health remains. To address this challenge, IsraAID and its partners are providing a 40-hour water operators course to 5 local community members, aiming to build their capacity toward this need, and hope create a paid, part-time position to fulfill this role. Additional water and hygiene management training sessions took place earlier this year, with a second planned before the end of 2019, to bolster community awareness of essential practices towards safe water access. Other milestones include the construction of a hurricane-resistant roof to protect the bio-film that cleans the water and is essential to the filter’s use, an essential disaster risk reduction measure ahead of future disasters, should they occur.

In addition to this Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene project, IsraAID is in an ongoing process of creating emergency management plans with the residents of El Real. Recently, the old school of El Real, now vacant, was identified by the mayor as an ideal site for a community center that will double as an emergency shelter for any future disasters. The building has been professionally cleaned and its structural integrity approved by local architects for use as a shelter. The next step is to make the interior of the building an inviting and warm place for the community to congregate. Once the building is ready, IsraAID will support local leaders in creating emergency protocol in case of a disaster, and stocking the center with necessary supplies. With hurricane season on its way, preparing and outfitting the community shelter is urgently needed.

Thank you for supporting this project!


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IsraAID staff meets with local beekeepers.
IsraAID staff meets with local beekeepers.

“[Now, two years after Hurricane Maria,] we aren’t really an organization that is here to build structures . . . We are here to build the programming that will last beyond another storm — the things that get Dominicans through the next disaster on that bedrock level.”

I admit, I was initially unsatisfied when IsraAID’s country director for Dominica responded in this way. Building a house, a school, or a community center… aren’t these the types of concrete, tangible things that benefit these communities amidst their recovery? Even if it’s a question of resource allocation, surely these projects should be on our radar if we find ourselves with new funding.

Today marks the one-week anniversary of my arrival in Dominica, and saying I have been enlightened is an understatement. IsraAID has several core objectives on the island, including training locals in beekeeping to support income generation, creating disaster preparedness plans for schools, and fostering psychosocial and emotional resiliency through community programming.

As it turns out, I arrived during one of the busiest times of the year for IsraAID Dominica. More of my hours have been spent in a van traveling to different meetings than actually working at my desk in Roseau! But this is far from a complaint, as these meetings have opened my eyes to the true mission of IsraAID in this country.

The photo at the top of this post captures a meeting we had with two Dominican beekeepers, Jacqueline and Ronnie. Jacqueline and Ronnie were trained by IsraAID post-Hurricane Maria. Participating in an intensive training course on beehive management and honey production, they were able to develop a new source of income for themselves and their family. A staggering 100% of Dominica’s agricultural sector was destroyed by Hurricane Maria, leaving over a fourth of all Dominicans without a livelihood. Today, much of the sector has bounced back, thanks to the collective efforts of Dominicans across the island. As well as providing a source of income generation, the bees will also nurture the growth of agricultural production throughout the year.

Our meeting wasn’t all good news and tales of successful honey sales, however. “We have honestly had some difficulties. To sell in certain markets, we need to meet certain standards for our honey, but meeting those standards takes equipment that is expensive. We know the quality of our honey is better, but it’s hard to scale,” the couple shared.

The conversation turned to discussion of how to scale up, market, sell to international markets, decide whether or not to become a part of a regional beekeepers association, and more. What stuck out to me about their dialogue was not the content, but rather the attitudes that lead to this meeting in the first place. IsraAID is here for the long term and building relationships with the local population to secure deeper resiliency; one-time distribution of emergency recovery aid is simply not the model in use.

I saw in this a powerful lesson for other areas of life. Oftentimes, laying a foundation for the long-term returns is a story of slow growth, setbacks, and an absence of immediate gratification. Consider a few of the people who society might intuitively call “successful” — community leaders, Nobel Prize winners, educators who inspire the next generation — in the majority of cases, this success took years of setbacks, hard work without immediate results, constant pressure, mission-oriented determination, and a sprig of luck. I believe one of the most essential skills in life is understanding the long game. Do you want to attain a certain GPA in college? Build or rebuild an important relationship? Pass a law to benefit your community? Reduce society-wide stigma around a certain issue? . . . Establish your goal, plan out the steps necessary to accomplish it, and live with intention.

If this was the full picture, however, the title of this blog post wouldn’t be what it is. Long term goals hinge on meaningful relationships. If goals and resiliency are the honeycomb, relationships are the bees. The people who will encourage you when you face inevitable setbacks, those who will come alongside you when you can’t move forward alone, and those who are honest with you when a reevaluation is necessary — such individuals are not simply helpful, they are absolutely fundamental to achieving your desired impact. It is this emphasis on relationships that makes me so proud to be investing my time with IsraAID this summer.

On the flip side, it’s OK to have some fun on the way to your goals. I’ve found my bit of fun in playing basketball at a local park with one of my coworkers, frequenting a delicious yet unabashedly unhealthy Jamaican Patty Shack down the road, and even trying yoga for the first time.

Clearly, life is a balancing act. The key is understanding what areas of life to juggle in the first place. At the age of 21, I don’t claim to have that figured out; but what I do know is that positive relationships are the cornerstone of a healthy, happy, successful life — and the lifeblood of the work we are doing here in Dominica.

Thank you for your support!

In September 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated the Caribbean islands. The hurricane caused multiple fatalities and destroyed much of Dominica’s key infrastructure: electrical, water, agricultural, and buildings and homes. IsraAID’s team in Dominica has rebuilt hurricane-destroyed roofs; worked with the Ministry of Education; developed hurricane-resistant construction methods & practices for disaster risk management; and provided livelihood opportunities through beekeeping. Alex is from the state of Washington in the U.S., where he is currently attending the University of Washington in Seattle. He is one of two IsraAID Humanitarian Fellows volunteering in Dominica for summer 2019. 

Jacqueline and Ronnie's farm.
Jacqueline and Ronnie's farm.
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On 18 September 2018, Hurricane Maria hit the independent island of Dominica, as a category 5 storm with winds of up to 160 mph, the second major hurricane to hit the region in just a few weeks. As a result of the storm, 90% of buildings lost their roofs, leaving roads and businesses devastated.

With over 30 fatalities and the island’s entire infrastructure – homes, agriculture, electricity and water supplies – destroyed, IsraAID arrived to conduct initial assessments and deliver much needed relief goods including hygiene kits, water filters, generators as well as vital medical and psychological support. Almost a year and a half after Hurricane Maria, Dominica remains seriously impacted. Although the situation is normalizing, the remote communities of the South East side of Dominica are still struggling to maintain their routine.

In partnership with The Church of Latter-Day Saints, Digicel, the United Nations Development Programme, and the Miami Foundation, IsraAID has repaired the roofs of 109 vulnerable families in the South Eastern part of Dominica, including homes of some of the indigenous population, the Kalinago community.

The Kalinago community is one of the most disproportionately underserved, vulnerable populations on the island. This indigenous community is made up of some 3,000 people, who live in their own territory, considered a reservation, on the eastern side of the island. This ethnic community remains highly impacted by Hurricane Maria. High levels of poverty, and low infrastructural resilience continues to plague the community and creates a major obstacle toward rebuilding and recovering.

The Kaligango reservation is based on a legal system in which individuals don’t own their own land. This creates a challenging dynamic for supporting shelter and roof repairs. Furthermore, in order to maintain the cultural integrity inherent to the Kalinago tradition, special measures must be taken into account to provide support for the local architecture, culture, and customs. Amid these difficulties, IsraAID built relationships within the Kalinago community, hiring local Kalinago staff to lead building projects within their own community, consistent with traditional architecture, in partnership with our other Dominican staff members.

The overarching project aimed to reroof homes of children attending schools in the Concord, Atkinson, Salybia, Sineku, Castle-Bruce and La-Plaine communities—Salybia and Sineku are both in the Kalinago region. The schools in these communities were used in the immediate aftermath as shelters for families whose homes were destroyed, and as such, were not available to be used at schools. It was important that students attending school in these communities were able to return home to a safe, resilient house, and that schools could be reopened.

IsraAID designed a beneficiary household survey in order to identify the most vulnerable beneficiaries, with a unique 3 category matrix. Beneficiaries were categorized according to their socio-economic status, the physical strength of the house that remains, and the level of damage to the house. Of the 309 households surveyed, 145 were found relevant for re-roofing and 109 were completely re-roofed. Since, during the rehabilitation period there was much displacement and families hosting other families, it is complicated to total the exact number of direct beneficiaries, however, following our team’s extensive surveys, we estimate it at between 800 to 1,000.

Check out the before and after photos!

Thank you for your support of this important program!

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In January, Hillary Clinton highlighted IsraAID’s ongoing work in Dominica at the Clinton Global Initiative Action Network in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In an on-stage interview with Sawana Fabien, IsraAID Dominica Education Program Manager, the former Secretary of State discussed Fabien’s experience in Dominica in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, IsraAID’s work on the island, and the role of young leadership in the Caribbean.
Clinton asked Fabien about her experience following the storm and how she got involved in emergency response work. IsraAID, Clinton said, “has developed real expertise in responding to all kind of emergencies.”
“When I went to Roseau two weeks after Maria, I met with IsraAID…IsraAID were a small team, but doing so much. They were everywhere. I said to myself, I want to associate myself with these people,” Fabien said. “The fundamental essence of resilience is community. Social cohesion is what people need in times of crisis…IsraAID is an organization that sees the need with the help of the local partner, and they address it, they attend to it…IsraAID is committed to not just responding. It’s easy to bring medical supplies and relief. But the long-term goal of staying in the country and equipping local partners and people is what IsraAID is committed to. That’s why I’m here today, that’s the reason why I have a job as a young person.”
IsraAID’s Emergency Response team was one of the first international aid groups to reach Dominica after Hurricane Maria hit in September 2017, responding to both the physical devastation of a storm that damaged 90% of the country’s infrastructure, and the psychological and social impact of the disaster on the island’s population. From rebuilding the damaged roofs of more than 100 vulnerable families to supporting livelihood opportunities for young people, IsraAID’s Dominican, Israeli, and international team is working with Dominican communities as they recover from the disaster and build a better future. In partnership with UNICEF and the Dominican Ministry of Education, IsraAID’s team is currently working to ensure that the island’s schools are adequately prepared for future hazards.

At the Clinton Global Initiative Action Network, members make ‘Commitments to Action’: new, specific, and measurable projects to address critical issues. IsraAID and the Beverly Foundation announced their public commitment to provide sustainable livelihood opportunities for young people in Dominica. IsraAID Puerto Rico Head of Mission Haley Broder also made a public commitment at the conference to ensure water security for the community of El Real, Patillas, through a new water filtration system built in partnership with the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico.
Hannah Gaventa, IsraAID Dominica Director, said:
“We are so proud to work with inspiring partners and communities as we continue to support the recovery of Dominica after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Dominica is a small island, but with such strength and resiliency, and we are committed to supporting wherever we are needed to do our part to help make Dominica a climate resilient nation.”
We are so excited to continue building our programs in Dominica, with your essential support! For a full video of the interview, check out the IsraAID Facebook page!
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IsraAID team prepared Emergency Kits
IsraAID team prepared Emergency Kits

On 18 September 2018, Hurricane Maria hit Dominica as a category 5 storm with winds of up to 160 mph, and the second major hurricane to hit the region in just a few weeks. As a result of the storm, 90% of buildings lost their roofs, leaving roads and businesses devastated.

With over 30 fatalities and the island’s entire infrastructure – homes, agriculture, electricity, and water supplies – destroyed, IsraAID arrived to conduct initial assessments and deliver vital relief goods including hygiene kits, water filters, generators as well as urgent medical and psychological support.

Since then, the island has struggled to recover due to a death in meaningful income opportunities, scant infrastructure and insufficient electricity supply.

Next weekend, IsraAID Dominica will be hosting a hackathon to encourage local youth involvement in creating livelihood programs. 60% of Dominica’s population is made up of youth, many of whom lack upward mobility opportunities, especially in rural parts of the island.

The hackathon will partner local youth from south eastern Dominica, among the most vulnerable regions, with local business people to kickstart ideas for improving income opportunities and outreach into communities. The winning ideas will receive seed funding to jumpstart their business!

In partnership with UNICEF, local civil society organizations, and the Ministry of Education of Dominica, IsraAID has been working with all 73 schools on the island, as well as early childhood centers and special needs schools, to ensure that all children and teachers are safe and prepared for future emergencies. The national Safe School program provides emergency kits, teacher trainings, educational materials and will also include school and national emergency drills, all with a child-centered approach.

As part of this program, IsraAID staff packed 25 emergency kits, 16 of which will distributed to schools in the Roseau area this week, and the rest in other regions in the coming weeks. These kits include fire extinguishers, water filters, hand sanitizer, flashlights, helmets, rope, duct tape, and other items that could be life-saving in an emergency. Studies show that communities with plans in place preceding a crisis are better able to bounce back afterwards.

The team also undertook Water, Sanitation and Hygiene assessments in almost half of the schools on the island. Based on these needs, IsraAID’s specialists will create and implement a program to ensure safe water access for students.

Thank you for your ongoing support of these programs!

Promoting the Hackathon on local radio stations!
Promoting the Hackathon on local radio stations!
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Organization Information


Location: Tel Aviv, Merkaz - Israel
Project Leader:
Navonel Glick
Tel Aviv, Merkaz Israel

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