A Trinidadian couple living in the US, with the help of volunteers, have been distributing free meals to people in the state of Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Ida.
Daily for the past week,Nadine Balbosa and her husband Kwesi Jordan, the owners of Island Paradise Restaurant and Grill, in Gretna, have been feeding people hot meals, putting smiles on everyone’s faces in the community.
"It is not always about the money. Sometimes it is just about seeing someone smile. Our neighbourhood has held us now," Balbosa told Newsday by phone on Monday.
"Since we started over six years, the community has always supported us. This is our way of giving back and helping as best as we can."
Balbosa is originally from Moruga and Jordan from San Fernando.
On August 29, Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, flooding and destroying homes and ripping off roofs. The hurricane also cut off power to over a million people. Ida later weakened into a tropical storm.
Balbosa said the drive started last week Monday (August 30), a day after the hurricane hit.
She and her family earlier evacuated to Houston.
A couple who remained in Greta called and asked to use items from the restaurant’s kitchen to prepare free meals for people in need.
Balbosa and her husband gave the green light and were delighted to help.
"We had a lot of stored goods. Instead of sitting and letting food waste, why not feed the neigbourhood? It started on a small scale, and everything came from our kitchen. This couple has been with us for the past three years and they did not evacuate," Balbosa said.
"Our family came back Friday, and we hit the ground running. Supplies locally are limited, so we bought items to cook on the way. Now, it is on a bigger scale."
Up to Monday, the restaurant gave out over 400 plates.
Several areas were still without power. Volunteers and staff members used the restaurant's generators and gas-powered stoves and fryers to cook.
Balbosa added, "Electricity came back on Saturday by us. People love it (food drive). They are proud of us for stepping up and helping the community. Most of the volunteers are Trinidadians."
The kind gesture seemed to have inspired others to join in.
NOLA.com news, a news and media website in New Orleans, on Sunday, quoted a local photographer, Kevin James, as saying, "It is about comfort and hospitality, a hot plate can go a long way; these people are my angels."
The article, by Ian McNulty, said James returned, but this time to volunteer to help keep the effort going, pitching in with the cooking.
"I would have to work 100 years to pay them back for all they’ve done," James said.
The article also said a man who had been coming by for meals learnt that Balbosa herself did not have power at her house, so he gave her a generator.