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A shipment of relief supplies from the Montreal Maria Relief Group has arrived in Dominica. The shipment containing 43 barrels of food, school supplies, men's, women's and children's clothing, toiletries, among other things is being distributed to various air marked communities in need and the Princess Margaret Hospital. This represents the response of Dominicans in Montreal to assist with relief supplies after hurricane Maria.

When the deadly hurricane struck Dominica last year dealing a severe blow to the country's infrastructure, destroying homes and affecting the lives of the entire population, mobilization efforts went into fully gear in the city of Montreal, Canada.

The effort involved a four-fold approach comprising mobilizing of Dominicans in the city, a media appeal aimed at informing the wider city of Montreal about the devastation of Hurricane Maria on Dominica. This media appeal was intended to keep Dominica in the consciousness of Montrealers who were at the time inundated with media coverage of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The approach also included fund raising and the collection of supplies.

But what does such an effort take? Some members of the relief team share their experiences of the process.

Phillip Gabriel, a retired welder and president of the Montreal Island Culture Association, felt an innate call to action after Maria. "I said to myself we cannot let Dominica down, we must help in some way and I started calling people I know to start with the effort".

An ad-hoc committee of Dominicans in the city was formed specifically tasked with getting the relief effort off the ground. But it was not easy says Gabriel, Montreal has a small Dominican community, and it was a moment when most people were preoccupied with the plight of their own families at home, "so we asked everyone to do what they can, just participate somehow" said Gabriel.

In a large francophone, metropolitan city of 1.75 million residents, the picking up process was a logistic feat says Gabriel. "I had to use my car to transport a large amount of the supplies. So I was picking up stuff all over the city, from individual homes, business places and running up and down high rise buildings."

Another long time Dominican Resident in Montreal, Rodney Joseph, worked with his church and neighborhood, "myself and a fellow Dominican colleague made an appeal to our church community for food and monetary donations and the response was pretty good".

"My wife Margaret and myself also made an appeal in our neighborhood, we went around door to door handing out letters to our neighbors explaining to them the Dominica situation. My garage was supposed to be a drop off point but it became a de facto warehouse and a sorting and packing area" says Joseph.

Sandra Shillingford anther member of the committee says "I was there to assist in any way I could and with Phillip, Mona Jackson and Anne Clarke, I became part of the packing squad". "Packing the barrels is a long process that involves sorting the groceries and checking expiry dates, sorting the clothes to ensure that they were clean and appropriate for the Caribbean".

Ketlyn Maitland credits the team spirit in getting the effort off the ground. "We had a great, dedicated team of Dominicans who worked and ensured that we saw these barrels off in the middle of winter."

This spirit is summed up by Rodney Joseph "the experience was interesting. It was something that I enjoyed doing because I know it was for a good cause, and we would do it again"!

The Montreal Maria Relief Committee wishes to thank the many community organizations, churches, businesses and individuals who contributed to this effort.


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