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Dominica three months after: Trying to get back to ‘normal’ after Hurricane Maria

DOMINICA, 18 December 2017. “Things are getting back to normal after Maria, well a little bit normal!” says Ezra Fredericks as she dishes out warm, sweet, coconut-filled cassava bread to her customers on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Dominica’s Kalinago territory.  

Ezra and her family of four children, Omar, 13,  Melissa, 11, Akeem, six and Omella, three, were among the 90 per cent of Kalinago people, the country’s indigenous community, who lost their  homes as Maria tore through on the night of 18 September 2017. 

But they are looking to the future and Ezra, alongside her boyfriend, has got their business baking and selling cassava bread up and running again. “We got the business going about a month after the hurricane. We bought some stuff and then started selling. Business is a bit slow still but it’s picking up and we’re getting there,” she says, adding, “The main problem is supplies as most of the crops were damaged. It’s a little amount [of flour] we’re getting so we try to cook with what we get.”

The business is also their home now. Although the building was damaged, they have been able to fix it up and make it habitable.   Before Maria struck, Ezra took her children to a hurricane shelter and when she returned, her own house had been flattened. “It’s still flat and as we have no home we’re living in the bakery. When I saw my house, everything was outside, the children’s clothes, everything. But there was nothing I could do about it. And it’s not just me alone. It happened to a lot of us, so….”

Despite her apparent confidence, when asked about the future Ezra laughs ruefully. “I don’t know if things will ever really go back to normal, I don’t think so….” But she is happy about one thing: that her three older children have been able to return to school. Her son Omar is pleased too.  

“I’m enjoying school. It’s a bit different as you don’t have to wear uniform and they give you your books. We’re not doing a lot of work yet. With my friends we still talk a lot about the hurricane, where we hid and what happened to our houses. When I saw my own house I was sad. I felt everything had changed for me and my family. But I feel life will get back to normal. That’s what I hope.” 



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