A Community Rises Out of the Ashes Stronger Than Before
When a disaster strikes, the aftermath can be devastating, a trail of destruction that leaves communities with the heart-wrenching burden of picking up the pieces and rebuilding.
Quick relief followed by effective disaster recovery efforts not only save more lives and reduce loss but ensure that people and their communities have the basic resources they need to survive. According to the World Bank, this relief and recovery assistance is among the most effective ways of breaking the cycle of poverty for vulnerable people and communities.
By providing immediate assistance to those in need and supporting long-term recovery efforts, organizations can help communities better prepare for future disasters and ensure they have the resources they need to recover and thrive.
Jisabelle Garcia-Pedroso, Food For The Poor’s Director of Programs and Operations, called this “building forward better.”
“If we’re building back, we can’t just redirect people into a whole new neighborhood,” she pointed out. “That’s just not possible.”
“When you’re talking about building forward better, what you’re talking about is resilience,” added Susan James-Casserly, Senior Project Manager at Food For The Poor. “And you’re trying to build in resilience so that the next time somebody has to go through a challenge, they are better equipped to buffer those challenges.”
In this post, we’ll see how Food For The Poor disaster response helped one island community rise out of the ashes.
From Relief to Recovery: You Are Not Alone!
One of the most important aspects of the disaster recovery phase is helping people get back on their feet so they can restore a sense the normalcy in their lives.
Following the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano on the Carribean island of St. Vincent in April 2021, a combination of rapid disaster relief and post-disaster recovery allowed Food For The Poor to help Sandy Bay by restoring a beloved pillar of their community.
According to Rochelle Stanton, an analyst at Food For The Poor, “The overall goal is to ensure that communities and individuals and their livelihoods cannot just recover from an external shock, but to bounce back even better than they were before.”
And Sandy Bay is bouncing back, said Fr. Kevin Murray, a local parish priest in St. Vincent and primary contact for Food For The Poor in the aftermath of the disaster. He added that working with the organization gave them all “a deep sense of solidarity in that we are not alone in this process by any means.”
A Community Once Again Receives Its Daily Bread
Garifuna Bakery in Sandy Bay is more than just a local business. Known for its quality food and services, it provides bread for the community and surrounding area as well as gainful employment for eight residents.
So, when over 25 years of service came to a sudden halt after the roof collapsed under the weight of the heavy volcanic ash, Fr. Murray realized that the future sustainability of the community depended on the bakery’s reopening.
“Bread for the community is a necessity, he said. “So, without the bakery in operation, there were many persons without their daily bread.”
Once the bakery was rebuilt, Fr. Murray wrote Food For The Poor asking for help with the purchase of additional equipment that would assist bakers in their craft and facilitate the reopening.
With the additional equipment, Fr. Murray pointed out, Garifuna Bakery would give residents of Sandy Bay and surrounding communities access to fresh and affordable baked goods to buy and continue providing employment to eight people.
The overwhelming generosity of Food For the Poor donors provided the bakery with equipment that, according to James-Casserly, “would allow them to have a stronger bakery. And therefore, hopefully contribute to their sustainability.”
“The road to recovery continues to be a long and sometimes bumpy one,” Fr. Murray wrote to Food For The Poor, “but its path has been made smooth through a fine communal spirit, generosity and prayer.”
“The fact that Food For The Poor could step in, had the resources to step in thanks to our donors, to be able to let the community of Sandy Bay know that somebody else cares about them, that there’s value within the community, and there’s value in something like the bakery.”
A Church Rededicated – A Community Reborn
While post-disaster recovery helps affected communities recover from the physical, emotional, and psychological damage caused by disaster, the goal is to restore affected areas to their former condition or better.
The local church in Sandy Bay also fell victim to the destructive powers of the La Soufriére volcano.
“Food For The Poor was very helpful and instrumental in providing supplies for the massive cleanup involved after the eruptions,” Fr. Murray said. The resonse included wheelbarrows, shovels, rakes, buckets, hoses, water boots, power washers and vacuums.
“Words cannot express the overwhelming sense of gratitude and healthy pride at being back in the church,” he said. “To be back at the church is indeed a blessing.”
People from neighboring communities joined Sandy Bay resident to fill the new church for the reopening and dedication ceremony in December 2022.
“People are happy to see the church up and running,” Fr. Murray said. “Neighbors and passersby followed the progress with joy and anticipation.”
Impact of Recovery: A Community Triumphs Over Tragedy to Rise Again
Improved disaster recovery efforts allow affected areas to maintain local control, empowering the community to take charge of its future and seize opportunities that contribute to resilience and sustainability.
The symbols of rebirth for Sandy Bay and the surrounding areas stand today as a testament to what grit, determination, faith, generosity, and unity can accomplish.
“This is a community, this is a church, this is a bakery that has literally risen out of the ashes,” James-Casserly emphasized.
The success of “building forward better” is an inspirational milestone in the recovery of the Sandy Bay community and the island, according to Fr. Murray, who added that the positive effects extend beyond the surrounding area.
“To be there with a response for those that need it the most, it’s telling them that somebody cares about them, and they are not in this alone,” James-Casserly said. “One of the things that I got from Father Kevin [Murray] was how much it meant to him to know that Food For The Poor had his back.”
Your Generous Support Brings Hope to Communities Stricken By Disaster
By working together, we can continue to help affected communities recover from disasters and build a more resilient future.
Your gift can help ensure a better tomorrow for disaster victims.