About Help for Dominica
Help for Dominica was founded by Brenda Vidal (UK) and Sandra Watkin (Dominica) in August 2015 following the island of Dominica being devastated by Tropical Storm Erika.
At that time, Brenda waited for almost 3 days before being able to contact her daughter Anita and family who lived in Dominica to check if they were all safe. Thankfully they were, and together with her husband and others in her community, Anita was assisting as far as possible despite being 6 months pregnant with her 2nd child at the time! Anita and her husband took bottled water to elderly villagers and those in the village above them, and her husband with others in the village spent their time clearing the roads.
Many in UK who knew Anita, wanted to send help, but she said there were others in greater need than her family. Mainstream charities sent supplies, but these were not always reaching remote areas and some in outlying villages had no access to towns due to roads being blocked or having broken bridges and of course repairing homes and farmlands etc had to be done. So Help For Dominica was formed, with those in UK who wanted to help sending donations of money and clothes, food and other supplies to Brenda to be shipped to Dominica. Sandra, a good friend of Anita, was not so badly affected and had access and connections to these areas in need. The barrels were sent to her and together with Hildreth, a young girl from local village and willing helpers from Girl Guides, they would load her car and tirelessly trek to remote areas to distribute the contents.
It was important to us all that there was evidence to those who donated that the items DID reach real people in need, so everything was documented, and photographed. Please look at FB and scroll back to start of photos and you will see stories of the persons who benefited, and accounts of Sandra’s journeys.
Help For Dominica Ongoing Projects
Once this urgent need was met, Sandra identified a need for assistance in 2 main areas, the first being schools and community projects. Many schools were destroyed, and Art and Craft supplies lost. Teachers purchase these from their wages, and there is limited availability on the island. Books are sent by Hands Across the Sea, so with Sandra’s connection to schools as a voluntary teacher, we decided to focus mainly on assisting with Art and Craft Supplies. Sandra was assisted by Patti McInerney in the school projects. UPDATE is that sadly after Hurricane Maria, Patti lost her home and has had to evacuate back to USA. She continues to support our project and others from there.
Education is vital and without access to Art and Crafts there is a huge gap in the development and education of the children. We also aim to link up with schools in UK so that there can be a cultural interchange, and on both sides will provide an insight into how others live. Natural disasters cannot be avoided, but through art and craft lessons, as well as through learning about other cultures, there can be damage limitation. Looking after the natural habitat, and forest areas, in a way that will protect the island as far as possible from the worst flooding can also be taught through art and craft, and also on the outings that Sandra takes the local children on. Visits to local nature reserves are also a good way for practical lessons to be learnt.
Community projects also use Art and Craft materials, many who would otherwise be unemployed are able to support their families through the items they make. This also aids the economy as tourists buy souvenirs and gifts made on the island. Another project Sandra is involved in helps victims of abuse through Art and Craft therapy.
Our 2nd focus is on hygiene products, especially sanitary pads. Many young girls and women in villages find it hard to access these, and this is a real problem in some areas. We have recently been sending reusable pads which are proving to be more economical and have been well received as many were using rags. Please contact us if you would like to assist with this project.
Help For Dominica will continue to provide supplies to schools and groups throughout Dominica and will regularly post photos to document this on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and this website. We have recently been joined by Dominique Carbon who has assisted us with this website as well as fundraising and packing barrels. She recently visited family in Dominica and you can read her blog here.