Family at a loss
Members of the Holder Family of Gas Products Road, Wildey, St Michael, are in a state of bewilderment after they lost their three neighbouring homes and most of their possessions last Saturday when Tropical Storm Tomas struck Barbados.
Nineteen family members, including sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, children and grandchildren, are homeless.
Ten of them are children, including two babies, Kyra, three months old, and Rory, three weeks old. Counting their losses are Cheryl Holder, her daughter Patricia, son, Dorian and grandson Trevon, 7. Glennis and her children, Rashad, 14, Amun, 11, Amunett, 10, Nayya, 6, and Matta, 2, and Harriette Holder and her adult children, Marcia, Hartley, Anderson, and James and the two babies.
Not only has the storm robbed them of a roof over their heads but the close-knit family are now living in limbo – the children are scattered among family and friends while the adults are holed up in a small, one-room house at Barbarees Hill, St Michael. They do not have a clue as to when or how they will be able to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.
When a SATURDAY?SUN team visited them on Thursday, Harriette, Glenis, Cheryl and Patricia Holder, were all lying on small single cots in the room, sadly staring at the plain white walls around them and trying to figure out what to do next.
They thanked constituency representative Richard Sealy for responding swiftly to their plight and providing them with the temporary accommodation but said apart from him and a representative from their District Emergency Organisation as well as some soldiers from the Barbados Defence Force, who gave them food supplies and the cots, they had not seen anyone from any of the social agencies.
“We do not know who to call or where to go,” said Patricia, who pointed out that kind neighbours had given them a fan to keep cool, and some other supplies.
“My aunt Harriette is a diabetic, and one of the neighbours was kind enough to keep her insulin in the refrigerator. All we have are a few clothes. Mr David Gill visited us and had his sister cook a big pot of food for us, but apart from that we are just here in this empty house with nothing but a few clothes.
Glenis, the mother of five of the children, was the first to lose her house. She recalled how the roof blew off and a section of the house caved in, trapping her inside. Luckily, her children were staying at a next-door neighbour.
But by the time one of her brothers rushed out to rescue her, the two other houses were also destroyed by the strong winds, causing the other family members to flee.
“We rushed over to the Luther Thorne Memorial School, but it was not open, so we had to make our way to The St Michael School,” Patricia said.
The shocked young woman lamented that they were able to recover only a few of their possessions. The majority, however, were destroyed but she said paros also raided the destroyed homes before they could salvage some of the belongings.
And what has the family very upset is the response they claimed they received from an official from the National Housing Corporation (NHC) when they visited that agency on Tuesday.
Patricia explained that the officer from the NHC who gave them the keys to the house at Barbarees Hill promised them that by Monday they would be given a three-bedroom house at Wildey, St Michael, because the room at Barbarees Hill was not adequate to house all the family members.
“He told us that only the electricity and water needed to be turned on. We went to the NHC last Tuesday to find out when we could move into the house, and the woman we met with told us she did not know anything about us getting a house at Wildey – that nobody could have promised us that house.
“She even wanted us to give up the keys for the house at Barbarees Hill. They were telling us that the house has an owner and we would have to get out. How on earth could they be asking us for keys when we have nowhere to go?” she cried.
Patricia said they eventually left the NHC with no firm decisions made about accommodation for their distressed family.
“They told us that the general manager was on holiday for four weeks and we would have to wait until she returns,” he said, visibly upset.
Patricia said she had been crying almost every day since they lost their homes.
“My heart is filled up with pain and grief. My mother had a mild stroke a few years ago, so she is trying to remain calm; my cousin is worrying about her five children; my aunt is sick with diabetes; and right now I miss my son so bad, and all I can do is talk to him on the phone.
“We are also concerned about the three-week-old baby, who has breathing problems.”
When contacted, Sealy told the SATURDAY?SUN that as far as he was aware the NHC was looking into accommodation for the family at Wildey, St Michael.
He said he had also contacted the emergency agencies with a view to having them examine the possibility of rebuilding the family’s houses at Gas Products Road in Wildey.