When Hurricane Maria blew through the Caribbean in September, the relatives of those in the Caribbean had no idea of knowing whether their loved ones were safe. More than a month later, one woman on the island nation of Dominica is doing everything she can to get survivors in touch with their relatives.
Emerline Carrette is a high school teacher in Portsmouth in the northern part of Dominica. Every day when school lets out, she travels to a new part of Dominica, looking for people who have been unable to communicate with their Dominican relatives living abroad since Hurricane Maria left the island devastated beyond anyone’s wildest imaginations.
A few days after the Maria blew through, Carrette managed to find an Internet signal. She now uses her Facebook page to post photos of people in all of Dominica’s little towns in the hopes that their relatives abroad can see them and know that they’re okay.
She also writes down the names of people she meets and asks them to write short notes. Carrette can then take photos of those notes and post them online in hopes of family members seeing them.
Often times, Carrette will receive messages from Dominicans who have yet to make contact with their family. She can then go out looking for those people in a specific part of the island.
“I get messages like, ‘I haven’t seen my mother, I haven’t seen my father,'” she explains. “I go through the messages and I say, ‘OK, today I will go to that village, that is my next move.'”
Carrette herself has experienced great hardship since the hurricane. She considers herself lucky to have survived the storm, describing the night as “so very, very long,” adding that she was “speechless” upon seeing the damage done to the island.
More than a month after the storm, Carrette’s house is still without a roof. She was also forced to send her daughter to live with family in Georgia. But she continues to make daily trips around the island, hoping to connect the people of Dominica with family abroad.
Carrette has not ruled out leaving the island herself, as so many others have. But for now, she wants to stay and help anyway she can.
“Home is where the heart is,” she says. “I love Dominica.”