Seven hundred thousand dollars' worth of home construction materials has been distributed to 32 applicants who suffered significant damage to their homes during the passage of Tropical Storm Karen on September 22.
The National Commission Self Help Commission Ltd (NSHCL) gave our the funds, a Special Emergency Repairs and Reconstruction Assistance Grant (ERRAG), on Tuesday. The ceremony took place at the THA Division of Community Development, Enterprise Development and Labour, Glen Road, Scarborough.
CEO of the NSHCL Elroy Julien shared with the recipients the commission’s concerns, saying it understood the discomfort such unfortunate occurrences could cause and encouraged them to use their grants to do the work for which they were approved.
“Rest assured, we will continue to monitor and support your projects along the way and do pledge to continue to execute the services of the commission in Tobago in keeping with our mandate to alleviate poverty and transform the lives of residents throughout the length and breadth of TT,” he said.
He added that the commission did not have infinite resources.
“As a matter of fact, it is quite the opposite. However, from the time we saw the very horrific sight of roofs being blown off, streets flooded, landslides and general catastrophe being wreaked through Tobago, as a result of Tropical Storm Karen’s passage, we could not, conscionably, allow the affected residents to go unassisted, despite our own financial constraints,” he said.
Julien recalled in 2018, during his first grant distribution in Tobago as CEO, he made a commitment that the interest of Tobago and its residents would become a more integral point of focus in the NSHCL'sstrategic planning for 2018-2022.
He said the commission continues to fulfil its mandate in Tobago by trying to alleviate poverty by providing social security relief through its grants. These are aimed at people doing minor repairs and reconstruction and those who need help with emergency repairs and reconstruction assistance because of natural disasters and fires.
The Commission provides assistance for community groups and organizations requiring infrastructural development.
“Without a doubt, the NCSH, under the leadership of the chairman, Mr Anthony Campbell, has redoubled its commitment to the residents of Tobago," he said.
It now has a vehicle in Tobago, which will help staff there reach everyone who applies for help.
Speaking with Newsday after the distribution, 58-year-old Aloysius Adonis said he was glad for the assistance to rebuild. Adonis' 24-by-24-foot two-bedroom ply structure at Belmont Road, Mason Hall, could not escape Karen's rage. Adonis lives alone, although his 15-year-old daughter visits occasionally. He fled to a neighbour’s house before his house washed away in the early hours of the storm.
“I feel good, great to have received this assistance. I build already and it wash away, and I really didn’t have the funds to build back," he said. "If I only had the funds to build back, you would not have been seeing me.”
Since then, Adonis has been housed by Social Services, with a lease running through to January.
“I now get the grant , so I don’t know what will happen as Christmas is now upon us," he said. "Christmas you can’t find workmen, and I know everybody have thing to do, so I don’t know what is the alternative from there.
“Your own is your own, but I don’t want January come and the Social Services time up and I have to look for somewhere else, because I really don’t have the money to rent a place on my own.”
Adonis, a labourer at the THA Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and the Environment, said in the interim he is getting assistance to clean the mud and slush in preparation for rebuilding.
Margarite Shanghie, 58, of Cliff Road, Pembroke, said she was grateful for the assistance, as her roof was blown off.
“On that morning, I had a very hard encounter, where a tree fell on a house that I am trying to build for me and my two daughters and grandson.
"When the tree fell on the house, when the officials came the following morning, they met me on the house tying down what I could have tie down and they assisted me.
“I’m overwhelmed. The assistance was fast. There is a saying when God can’t come, he does send a man, and I trust in God."