by Katherine Renton
From movie nights to exercise routines, each emergency shelter that hosts evacuees is different; and although the occupants can only be so comfortable in a communal setting away from home, they are making do.
On Wednesday, May 12, no fewer than 10 small children are running around in a small courtyard at the Brighton Methodist School, kicking and bouncing balls while adults sit on benches nearby. It is said that over 30 children reside at that shelter, most from Orange Hill, a north eastern village in the red volcano hazard zone.
“… [While] you going through… you get accustomed, and accustomed to the people dem,” Ione James, a 52-year-old Orange Hill resident with her grandchild sitting on her lap, explained about the officials. Adding, “…And everybody come along real good.”
She has been in the shelter since the evacuation order was issued on Thursday, April 8.
“…I have to satisfy because I am eating and so forth, I’m here, but I don’t really like the tradition because when we come the first night, we all sleep on the ground and is real pain. When you get up the morning, all over your body hurting you and all them kinda thing there; it nah really easy. Nah easy at all, at all,” James recalled, “…Then after them bring in cots, the cot and dem still a squeeze your back.”
She said some persons are still sleeping on cots and others have mattresses. Some of the older folks and elderly came into the shelters with arthritis and painful knees.
Another thing that’s different than what they were used to, living in a farming village, is variety in their diet. When home “…you could cook you little banana, you little dumpling, your breadfruit,” James explained.
However, home is currently not on the cards for James, or 64-year-old Elma McNickle seated beside her.
“Up there kinda difficult because especially it come like the ashes and the gas still dey within the atmosphere…” James informed.
They cleaned their roof, and their property is intact for the moment, James said. “Up there okay and alright. Just real dead animal up there…Like cattle, goat, sheep, fowl, dog, all kinda animal die, and they can’t get no water.”
Her son has goats, and she kept fowls, but she does not know if they are alive or not.
“It’s scary going up there, real scary,” McNickle explained, “…Like how nobody nah dey up there, and you go up there now with the ashes on your house roof, some people house roof drop in through the weight of the ashes. Yeah it’s scary, it’s scary.”
A small group of older women sitting on the opposite side after using resistance bands for gentle exercise with instructor Jean Edwards, weren’t so lucky with their property.
Forty-nine-year-old Sharon Pope explained, “when I went up there last week Thursday when I reach down by the gate, and I see the house, I start to panic eh? ‘Cause I ain’t too long get it, struggle and get it.”
“…But that is God’s handiwork, we cannot run from it, but thank God we’re alive,” she said.
When she approached her house, she saw that part of the structure she had built to reinforce against the rain had broken off, “…and lick off the meter. It make me head start to get more trigger.”
“…So I just ignore that, and I opened the door, and when I went in, go in the room, it’s a two … bedroom [house], when I went inside and I go in the room what I sleeping, the main piece of board where they put the rafter, that break, and the roof just come down and rest on where the partition is,” she explained.
If the partition wasn’t there, everything would have dropped in, she said.
“You know I have to satisfy ‘cause that is God work you know? Can’t fly in the face of God, so just have to wait and see what’s going on, but I just believe we will get help from the Government.”
“Thank God for our lives and Mr Ralph Gonsalves and NEMO (the National Emergency Management Organization),” she said, as the other ladies began to chime in, adding that the shelter manager, the “nice nurse” who attends to their needs and the counselor were worthy of praise.
Sharon, sitting next to 73-year-old Evadney Yorke, and 69-year-old Keturah Pope, also happily mentioned that they have Karaoke.
In the capital, Kingstown, at the St Joseph’s Convent Kingstown shelter, 20-year-old new mother Denniesha Deane is residing with her six-month-old.
The Georgetown resident’s time has not always been easy, as she contended in the beginning with sleeping on a cot and taking care of her young baby. However, she now has a mattress.
They get three meals a day, with snacks, but the problem is that “…You don’t really get a hot meal every time. I think it’s because …[there are so many]… people around, you have to notice the specifics, who is not eating meat, who is diabetic. What time you finish sharing out all of those foods, it take time.”
Arden Sampson, a 70-year-old Georgetown resident with an eye condition that prevents him from seeing well, is staying at the same shelter.
Having arrived on the evening of Saturday, April 10, he has no difficulties with the staff.
However, he says “…Well there is some difficulties, I trying to ride it out really.”
“…Some guys want to behave to suit themself, want to do what they feel like, which I am not supporting, and I speak out against it.”
“…Right now it seem like I’m more hated. Some older who I feel does support me, they join the vulgarity then, obscene language which I don’t decide to take.”
About seven days before this falling out, he had opportunity to relocate to another centre dedicated to sheltering the elderly.
He said, “…they ask me if I alright, I tell them yes, I alright, but then after a time I was not alright, I make a mistake.”
He said when some of his family came to visit, he told them he “think” he’s alright, “..I say yes I think, just accept my word.”
Sampson explained that his eyes have been “darker” since his dealings with the ash on April 10.
He was being escorted to the washroom at the shelter by the said individual when an incident took place.
But, “…I couldn’t support his behaviour. That behaviour don’t call for here.”
If he gets a chance to move he will, but commented that otherwise, everything is fine.
“…I know we all not equal, but this vulgarity got to stop,” he said.
He hasn’t received word that his roof has been cleaned, or that it has dropped in. He doesn’t plan to go back, as he’s listening to the “science man” about the mud flows, and hasn’t heard that the water supply has been reconnected.
Asunda Matthews, from Petit Bordel, but staying at the Bethel High School shelter in Campden Park put it succinctly when she said, “…We are not home and we have to make the school the shelter as if we are at home, we have to make ourselves happy.”
She said that they have to give thanks to the people who provide.
The sleeping arrangements and food are all fine for her.
They try to make themselves as happy as possible, she indicated, “…and like windows that didn’t have windows, you put cardboard that you could be little private.”
“We have movie nights, sometimes a little karaoke on mornings now and again not every morning, we does have a little devotion, but not everybody get together,” she also explained.
“Other than that, I was asking a teacher if we could get somebody to come in as we as adults and as mothers, could teach us like handicraft and stuff like that, crocheting and so forth. Instead of we just there at the shelter whole day, ain’t doing anything,” she also opined.
Her work as a housewife is on hold until further notice because of the eruption, but her property has been spared any damage so far.