Edwina Simpson: Hurricane Maria strengthened the community spirit
By Andrea Louis
Edwin Simpson, who has a background in construction and a passion for sustainable development, is lending her talent to help build resilience in the country she now calls home.
Originally from England, Simpson first visited Dominica in the late 90's when on a trip to the region with her mother.
"I was going to the Grenadines with my mom, and she was getting cheap flights via Martinique. She had gotten a date wrong and did not want to spend a week in Martinique, so we came to Dominica. That was in 1997 or 1998," she said.
Edwina's first impression of the island was amazement at the mountains and forests with a clear, resonating thought: this is nature.
It wasn't until approximately 20 years later Simpson returned to Dominica for another visit, and subsequent events prompted her to move to the island.
"I visited in May 2017 for my honeymoon. My husband and I decided to buy a house and move here but did not know when," she said. "Then Hurricane Maria happened, and my husband – a builder who worked in construction all his life - got a job with the IOM (International Organization for Migration). He was running the teams in the northeast, and they did eight hundred (800) roofs in the first three months."
The couple officially moved to Dominica in April 2018, despite family and friends questioning their decision to relocate to a recently hurricane-ravaged island. This further strengthened the couple's resolve to help Dominica's rebuilding efforts.
As expected, there were a few adjustments to make when moving to a country impacted by a category five storm less than one year prior. "There was the no power aspect, of course," Edwina chuckled, "But the funniest thing was getting vegetables and fruit. You couldn't get those in a store. As it turns out, you just have to know someone in the countryside, and everyone knows someone, so you bring things and trade them."
Edwina grew to cherish the spirit of togetherness in her community, which she believes was strengthened following Hurricane Maria. Her impression of the country evolved as Dominica recovered and rebuilt from the storm.
"I love it more because I understand and know the people more. I understand some customs better, so my impression has changed there."
Speaking of changes, some significant developments are carded for the northeast, which Simpson hopes the country will benefit from in many areas.
"Yes, things are busy with the construction of the international airport. It would be really good for export. This very abundant land can send out pollutant-free flowers, fruits, herbs, and all these things people think come from such an amazing place," she said.
The effects of Hurricane Maria, which accelerated Edwina and her husband's timeline to relocate to Dominica, have also inspired her to use her expertise in construction to give back to the country she now calls home.
"Our main mission right now is building an earthbag home," she said. " It is a type of construction method that has been used for hundreds and thousands of years and is very strong, eco-friendly, hurricane and earthquake resistant, and very cost friendly."
Simpson firmly believes people need to be introduced to various housing structures in which they would feel safe and comfortable during weather events. She says several individuals have seen the construction site and have expressed interest in earthbag homes.
"What is important is the local community, which is more about word of mouth," she said. "People don't want to hear about things; they want to see how things are because people are against new things. Those interested can check out the project on: https://www.instagram.com/sustainablebuildingdominica/?hl=af." or
Edwina and her husband find other ways to give back to their community. The two currently dabble in apiculture (beekeeping) and provide beehives to organic farmers to help boost the quality of their produce and, by extension, the agriculture sector.