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September 29, 2017

Trauma counselling needed – Bishop Malzaire

An after photo of the Holy Spirit Chapel in Loubiere. Photo: Msgr William John-Lewis

By Kaelanne Jordan,

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau expressed sincere gratitude to individuals, groups, regional and international agencies who pledged their support to the people of Dominica to get them back on their feet.

He, however, conveyed that while the immediate needs of water, clothing, food stuff, toiletries, medication and temporary shelter are “endless”, the long-term needs “will be an astronomical amount of financial support especially for infrastructural works”. The Bishop also advocated the need for counselling for Dominicans affected by the trauma of Category 5 Hurricane Maria.

Bishop Malzaire, in a WhatsApp message sent to Catholic News last Tuesday, said that Hurricane Maria touched everyone in a way that they never experienced before. He revealed that every church, chapel, school, presbytery, private home, public and pastoral institution was affected.

“As such we are making an appeal to donors as well as well-wishers to assist in providing material for renovation and for rebuilding. The expertise of many tradesmen and tradeswomen will be welcomed,” he said.

Bishop Malzaire who was out of the country at a September 16–20 Stewardship Conference in Atlanta, Georgia returned to his diocese September 23 via a flight to St Lucia then via the Express des Isle ferry to Dominica.

In his WhatsApp voice note, the bishop reported that approaching the island was “a sight to behold”. He expressed, “It was as if the scorched naked mountains were weeping woefully for mercy. The many versions of the news of the devastation I thought had prepared me for the sight. This time seeing was really believing. It was more than I ever imagined. The level of devastation as a result of Maria is unprecedented. From the mouths of those who experienced the tragedy some would verbalise their surprise that there were not more fatalities.”

According to Bishop Malzaire, 32 persons were confirmed dead, including those whose bodies have not been recovered. Describing the hurricane as a “horrific and unprecedented event”, the bishop highlighted “absolutely everyone was touched by the storm”.

The vast majority is without rooftops and those absolutely homeless are in the hundreds, and maybe the thousands, the latter lost everything they possessed except what they were wearing, he said.

“As I drove from the seaport, I noticed the mattresses, the cushions, spread out to dry in the blazing post-Maria sun. The height of the debris and mountain of silt on the roadsides were incredible. The lack of running water, no electricity, scanty food supply, the destruction of schools and other public buildings, the impassable roads due to countless landslides, and flood residue are enough to depress anyone,” he reported.

Cognisant that Dominicans are resilient people, the bishop said that the hope for full recovery still hangs very high. “While the inner strength will be of paramount importance in the recovery process, we also recognise that it is impossible to do it alone…. We know we can depend on you in this critical time of need. The return to normalcy though it seems far off, with the help of God and our well-wishing brothers and sisters we set our shoulders to the wheel to work towards overcoming Maria,” he said.

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire
A before photo of the Holy Spirit Chapel in Loubiere. Photo: Bernard Lauwyck.
An after photo of the Holy Spirit Chapel in Loubiere. Photo: Msgr William John-Lewis