Hurricane Matthew was the first category 5 Atlantic hurricane in half a decade. Striking the Caribbean island nation of Haiti on 4th October 2016, it caused over $10 billion of damage and the deaths of an estimated 1,600 people.
NHS physiotherapist Justine Gosling regularly volunteers in response to humanitarian crises around the world. In the third part of a four-part series for Avaunt, Gosling describes her work with local Haitians and Team Rubicon UK.
We woke one morning to find an enormous landslide had made one road completely impassable, which meant we had to hire a boat for a 40-minute ride to a sleepy fishing village. The consequences of the road being blocked were huge for the community – before the hurricane, the men of the village made a very modest living by selling their fish at market which now was unreachable.
I met one of the fisherman on the beach as he was repaired his net. He told me that he was 46, but he looked much older, and had lived in the village all his life. During our brief conversation he only looked at me once, but I could see his eyes were tired and his forehead was deeply furrowed. All the fish had died during the storm and washed onto the beach. He was broken and hungry.
With the storm having passed, the families of the fishermen needed to eat and they went out to fish. But they caught nothing and the debris from the hurricane, hidden under the water, tore their nets to shreds. They now spend their days sitting on the beach, sewing together what little they could salvage.
The hurricane had also destroyed all the farmers’ crops, killed the livestock and contaminated the water. The only reliable source of food was aid. And yet, despite this, the children of the village had a tireless energy. They tore up and down the beach giggling, playing tag with their friends, jumping in the river and swimming, ferrying us and our tools across the water in hand-built, wooden canoes.
We rebuilt the village school from scratch, clearing away the debris from the hurricane and replacing it with a new structure. Everyone wanted to get involved and the locals worked with Team Rubicon members, hammering nails into the new roof or passing up the tin roof sheets.
After a couple of strokes with the paintbrushes, a child rushed to take over the fun. In the end, the whole team stood back as the children of the village took great delight in painting their new school.
Team Rubicon UK unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams in the UK and around the world.
Hope for Haiti works to improve the quality of life for the Haitian people, particularly children.