July 21, 2024
By News and Press Release  Florentina was going to replace her roof, but Irma saved the day, as she recalls wryly. Florentina Richardson was able to escape the hurricane before it hit Sint Maarten, in September 2017. She recalled that she had planned on replacing the roof of her house. Few days later Florentina flew back to her home country with humanitarian aid and supplies that were desperately needed. She had even prepared some of the items herself. The devastation in her home and country left Florentina speechless. Florentina was left with a house that had been blown off its […]

By News and Press Release 

Florentina was going to replace her roof, but Irma saved the day, as she recalls wryly. Florentina Richardson was able to escape the hurricane before it hit Sint Maarten, in September 2017. She recalled that she had planned on replacing the roof of her house.

Few days later Florentina flew back to her home country with humanitarian aid and supplies that were desperately needed. She had even prepared some of the items herself. The devastation in her home and country left Florentina speechless. Florentina was left with a house that had been blown off its roof by the hurricane. A live wire could be seen in her yard. She opened the front door and saw the picture of Jesus still intact on the wall. Furniture was all over the place, curtains were down and water was everywhere. A line was painted on the wall to mark the level of floodwaters.

Florentina said: “I fell to my knees, thanked God, because looking at the damage I could have died if I had stayed. Nobody would have noticed until they began cleaning.” She asked neighbors for help installing a tarp, as a temporary roofing, but then pigeons entered her house. The pigeons had taken over. The pigeons had a field day. They destroyed everything I saved during the hurricane. “They occupied the home for almost three years,” said she.

Florentina, whose home was unlivable due to hurricane damage, had no choice but to rely on the generosity of her friends and neighbors. She often slept in their couches. Florentina immediately signed up when the Sint Maarten Government announced it would repair homes damaged by hurricanes with support from the Sint Maarten Trust Fund Emergency Recovery Project I.

Reconstruction, Recovery, and Resilience: The first step

On September 6, Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms recorded in the Atlantic Basin, hit Sint Maarten with wind and rain that were so strong they caused damage to 90 percent of buildings. According to the government, 19,400 of Sint Maarten’s 40,000 residents had their homes damaged and 5,000 were forced from their homes.

ERP-I is one of the projects that was approved as a priority by the Sint Maarten Trust Fund in July 2018 to address immediate recovery needs. The National Recovery Program Bureau implements this project, in close collaboration with NV GEBE, Sint Maarten Housing Development Foundation, and Ministries of General Affairs, Justice, Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications, Public Health, Social Development and Labor, and Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.

This project is aimed at improving the ability of Sint Maarten’s first responders, to be more efficient, restore public services faster and maintain higher disaster preparedness abilities. ERP-I restores the housing. Around 3,440 people will benefit in 2022 from more resilient services such as the underground cables for electric power, telecom conduits and water pipes. The infrastructure, vehicles, and equipment of the fire, ambulance, police, and other emergency services were also upgraded. Nearly 450 Sint Maarteners, like Florentina, were assisted with the repair and reconstruction of their homes. The project also helped Sint Maarten obtain membership in the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency and a subscription to Caribbean Catastrophe Disaster Risk Insurance Facility.

Thankful for Support

Florentina recalls some people’s doubts about ERP-I repairing houses: “They thought that if they signed on, the government would come and steal their home later. This was a wonderful opportunity for me and others who are unable to help themselves. Florentina could not wait to move into her new home in 2022. “I said that I would be moving into my home by the 11th of September, whether or not it was finished. “I was able,” said the woman.

Florentina, whose roof was repaired and her pigeon problem solved, felt more than satisfied. “Even if the NRPB didn’t do everything, it is enough that they helped me. I appreciate the help and how they kept in contact afterward.” It’s comforting to know that I can reach out at any time. That all the stakeholders and the World Bank were able to come together to help the people who can’t help themselves–especially senior citizens–there is no word in any language big enough to say thank you.”

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