After six months in Trinidad, victims of Hurricane Maria, Dominicans Myrle Shillingford, cousin Reginald and his wife Rosemerlyn Shillingford returned to their battered home in February with “a better view of life”.
The displaced Shillingfords were temporarily staying at a priest’s residence in St James since October after Category 5 Hurricane Maria made landfall on the south-west coast of Dominica, September 18.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley appealed to Trinbagonians to open their homes to Dominicans for at least six months and promised to lift immigration restrictions.
The Shillingfords told Catholic News that they felt joy but also concern about returning home as 80 per cent of the island’s power and water supplies were still affected.
“So you go back there and you are elated but you say ‘Lord, what am I going to find when I get there?’ But what it does is, if you are a God-fearing person, it draws you closer to God. You say ‘Lord, my life is in your hands. I thank you that you preserve it and you have taken care of me thus far’,” Rosemerlyn said on the eve of their departure, February 15.
Myrle expressed similar sentiments adding that she arrived distraught but is returning home with a stronger faith and joy in her heart. She said that Maria not only deepened her faith, it taught her not to take material things and people for granted, and to expect the unexpected.
“One man said to me ‘You have to make God your only source in life. And when you say that let Him know you’re totally dependent on Him. And when you have that faith you have no fear’. So I’ve heard these words before and I let it go…but now I know when I go home what is there for me, is what He wants me to have right now. And I have to go through the test, enjoy it, make the best of it, embrace it and be happy,” she said.
The survivors had both psychological traumas, and pre-existing medical issues.
Myrle suffers with crippling osteoarthritis, poor circulation in her legs and is partially blind. She also has 42 clips and seven herniated discs in her spine.
The Shillingfords expressed thanks to general practitioner Dr Richard Clerk, ophthalmologist Dr Kim Hosein, radiologist Dr Dinesh Mor and, Dr Dale Maharaj who all gave their services at no charge.
Meanwhile, Myrle commented on the status of her home, revealing that it is “livable” as electricity has since been restored in her community. She believed that Maria showed that there are good people in the world.
“With the storm, it did not bring me lower; it brought me higher. My belief is stronger; my faith is stronger. I know there are genuinely good people and I found that in Trinidad.”
An easy-going Reginald said upon return to Dominica, he plans to visit the Social Security Office to inform them that he’s alive in order to receive his pension.
He mentioned that some Maria survivors were committing pension fraud by endorsing and cashing monies for deceased persons.
The Shillingfords all expressed gratitude to their host and the “loving, caring and understanding” friends they met during their time in Trinidad.
“This entire household [was] very loving, very supportive, very caring. I found new friends. I found a new family. I found people I can trust, people I can talk to, people I can laugh with, people I can cry to, people that would not criticise me, and most of all I found God,” Myrle said.