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OLF outreach to October flood victims

Another coordinator of the team, Anthony Narine (left) and Fr Arnold Francis support each other to move furniture before cleaning homes in Kelly Village.

Even as the Christmas season drew near, residents of the flood-stricken communities were still struggling to pick up the pieces. The parish of Our Lady of Fatima, Curepe (OLF), wanted to help as best they could.

Several parts of Trinidad were affected by floodwaters in October 2018, among them the parish’s neighbouring communities, Cunupia, St Helena, and Kelly Village.

Following the media reports of the crisis, OLF sprang to action, creating a committee ‘Our Lady of Fatima Mission Help’ which included parish priest, Fr Arnold Francis. After discussions, a decision was made to transform the church’s Pastoral Centre into an ‘Operation Centre’.

For three months, it served as the holding bay for food, mattresses, clothing and cleaning supplies for distribution. Those in need were able to collect on site and parishioners also organised delivery to affected homes.

One coordinator of the team, Celia Regis told the Catholic News the support and generosity to help those affected was “overwhelming”. She added, the team was “touched by the experience to encounter people in their reality”.

Donations received were more than expected with goods shared to just over 200 families. Among the ministries she thanked were The Living Water Community, Companions of the Transfigured Christ, Society of St Vincent de Paul and Elijah’s Bread.

Over time, the volunteers dwindled to a core group of 12 who were mainly involved in the cleaning process of the water-logged homes.

Regis said they would move around in clusters of four and given a brief by fellow parishioner, Kashif Jacob who had experience in Health and Safety. She continued, “We were all grateful for these tips and in some cases were able to share them to the families we visited.”

On December 15, the OLF Mission Help also offered a free information-sharing session ‘Back on your feet again’ guided by the Franciscan Trauma Team. Regis noted the poor turnout and wondered whether it was because so many persons were not ready to confront their traumatic experience.

Remarking on one of the visits, she said, “Someone told me that after 30 years of building a life and losing everything he was not giving up and will attempt to build again, so I think throughout there is a sense of courage to be admired.” – Renée Smith,