Words by Jesse Serwer
Photos by Martei Korley
Dominica was among the islands hardest hit by Hurricane Maria in September, yet it has received some of the least international media attention in its aftermath. The storm resulted in more than two dozen casualties in this country of 73,000, with others still counted missing. Nearly a month later, the island remains almost entirely without power.
With one quarter of the homes on the island completely destroyed — and more than half sustaining serious damage — the United Nations has identified housing (See more about the housing crisis in Dominica here) as the single greatest need faced by the residents of Dominica.
Elvis Stedman is a tour guide from Laudat, the highest-elevated village on the island, and one of many Dominicans whose homes were leveled by Maria. He’s also a good friend of LargeUp. His winning personality and enthusiasm for sharing his country with others is featured in “Elvis Journeys to the Boiling Lake,” an episode of LargeUp TV produced by myself and Martei Korley. Ironically, we would have never met Elvis had we not been “stranded” in Dominica as another hurricane, Sandy, tore its way up the U.S. East Coast in 2012. The silver lining, of course, was more time in Dominica, and a chance to hike the famed Boiling Lake Trail, with Elvis as our tour guide. Nearly five years to that day, Dominica now badly needs our help, after suffering its worst disaster in modern times.
Since the storm, Elvis has assisted in emergency relief efforts, living in the basement of a friend’s house, which was also badly damaged. Tourism on the island is completely at a standstill, meaning little if any paid work for the foreseeable future — at least well into 2018. It’s desperate times in Dominica, as residents await the arrival of food and emergency supplies.
“I have never see so much destruction like this,” Elvis told me via Facebook. “I think if this had happened during the day, many more people would be dead from heart attack. I can’t even take photos to show, it is just destruction after destruction. And things were made worse with the looting.”
In a normal year, a humanitarian crisis like the one presently faced by Dominica might become a cause célèbre. But these are not normal times. With Puerto Rico, Las Vegas and Mexico City commanding international headlines — not to mention the seemingly forgotten plight of the islands hit by Hurricane Irma, just one week prior to Maria — Dominica has been virtually invisible. No big-name celebrities are championing its cause on Instagram, and there are no major hotel chains with operations here to drum up corporate support. There are no major media outlets sending crews to cover the damage in Dominica.
We’ve created a GoFundMe to help Elvis do his part in the recovery efforts. All proceeds will go directly to Elvis to assist him in rebuilding his home and village, as well as establishing a shelter at his grandparents’ house, where nine residents displaced by Maria have taken up residence since the storm.
Please consider donating to this cause here.