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Vulnerable children getting a chance after Maria

DOMINICA- 11 October 2017 - Michael* hasn’t seen his parents since Hurricane Maria struck Dominica in the middle of September. They normally visit him regularly but the destruction of the storm, which left houses ruined and roads blocked, means they have been kept apart.

The shy 13 year old is in good hands though. He lives at the Chances home for children in need of care and protection located on the outskirts of Dominica’s capital, Roseau.  He enjoys being there. “It’s really good and I like the food,” he says. 

Run by the kindly managing director Ava McIntyre Roach, Chances was set up in 2011 to look after children who have been abandoned or sexually abused. Home to 20 children ranging from just five weeks old to 18, Chances was badly damaged during the hurricane, which left Michael “panicking”.

We lost a lot

The entire roof was blown off and when it rains the rooms flood all over again. Windows and doors were damaged and very little was salvaged. According to McIntyre Roach, “We lost a lot.”

McIntyre Roach knows that her already vulnerable wards are likely to have been traumatised by what they have been through and has made sure that counselling is available where they can talk about their experiences. In the sessions they have spoken of their terror during the hurricane, with several of them calling Maria “a devil”. 

The managing director acknowledges too that the usual care and attention she tries to lavish on the children and babies like five-week-old John* has been a little lacking of late as the staff battle to get the home back into shape. 

“This morning I was cleaning, the deputy was cleaning. Everybody was cleaning. Then you have the five babies...and after you shower them and feed them you put them in their cribs so everybody can go back to helping. That’s normally not the way we do it…we normally have a little play with them in the play room. You have those that are crying because they don’t want to stay in their crib. It’s hard.”

Light after the darkness

However, there could be light after the storm’s darkness. Shayna*, who has been at Chances for about seven months, is a teenager who was sexually abused from the age of 11 by a prominent figure. She was desperately worried about her family during the storm but has since found out they are fine.   The extreme experience, and the possibility of loss, have transformed her perspective.

“After the hurricane, I can change and be a better person. I don’t want to go back to the way I was. I have to move on and be a different person. And be better…I can now show love and care for others.”

McIntyre Roach is also optimistic about the future. While she is daunted by the amount of work ahead, she is confident they will recover and has been impressed by the children’s commitment to help clean up and rebuild. “We will rise again, man,” she says with quiet conviction. “We will rise again.”

UNICEF, which has been on the ground in Dominica responding to the immediate needs of children and their families, is assisting with the water and sanitation needs at the home and will offer psychosocial support to the wards.

*Names have been changed

 

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About UNICEF

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

 

For more information please contact:

Patrick Knight, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Office for the Eastern Caribbean Area Phone: 246 467-6162 pknight@unicef.org

 

 
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