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Dreams of home and Olympic gold

 “When I look in my future I feel great. I usually call myself Miss Usain Bolt because I’m very fast. I want to be a professional athlete and go to the next Olympics to run the 100 metres.”

12-year-old Barbudan Tayjah Beazer is confident and optimistic. Even though life has thrown obstacles in her lane and she now lives in a shelter in Antigua, she likes to look on the bright side. “Life in the shelter is fun, because a lot of my friends are here. I like it. I really do feel settled in my school [Sir Novelle Richards Academy]. I’ve met a lot of new friends and the teachers really help me get comfortable knowing I’m not in Barbuda.”

Due to UNICEF’s advocacy, the new shelter has a children’s playroom.  The agency has also been assisting with trauma-related psychosocial support and helping ensure that Barbuda’s evacuated children are well integrated into the school system in Antigua. Tayjah misses home though. “There’s a lot of things I miss about Barbuda.  Most of my close friends and relatives are there. When I went there for the Christmas holidays, I didn’t want to come back. I could go wherever I wanted: down to the wharf, hang out with my friends.”

But for her mother Natalea John, 33, the time is not right to go back. The family, including 8-year-old Tristan, moved into the Barbuda Hotel in Antigua (also known as the “Nurse Hostel”) when it opened its doors in the first week of January this year. There are around 130 people in the shelter, 50 of whom are children.

According to Natalea, “What would take us back to Barbuda is for the schools to be re-opened and for my home to be fixed – my house was completely destroyed by Hurricane Irma. So I’m just kind of sacrificing for my children’s sake to be over here, letting them go to school until they say that it’s ready in Barbuda.”

Her family were reluctant to leave when the call for the mandatory evacuation was issued a few days after Irma struck on September 5, 2017. “When they told us we had to leave we weren’t going to go. We planned to stay. But then everybody started to get frightened,” she says, adding, “I decided to go down to the wharf with my kids and just try to get out. We were the first ones out, actually.”

There’s no doubt about where she would rather be though. “I am looking forward to going back. Barbuda is very free, very safe. Although things are going slowly, you know it’s going to get back to where it was and be even better.”

 

 
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