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Since Hurricane David, August 29, 1979, we have had much talk and discussion about Disaster Preparedness. And this is good. We have realized that a country demands a certain level of preparation if it is to cope with natural disasters of various kinds. It has been very reassuring and comforting to listen to officials of the Disaster Preparedness Unit and be kept abreast of preparations which have been put in place to cushion and minimize the effect of natural disasters, the lack of which was all too evident when thirty-six years ago, the Commonwealth of Dominica was brought to her knees less than a year after the sound and fury of the declaration of political independence.

Yes, in spite of numerous dilapidated buildings in Roseau and environs, and indeed throughout Dominica which are awaiting to be despoiled of their galvanized roof sheets and rotting lumber and thrust into the bedrooms of composed citizens, much has been done towards preparation for natural disaster. It is good to know where we can confidently take refuge when the worst transpires or to be informed of the exact course of the winds of nature and the coming blasts, all of which we lacked in 1979.

However, it is time that we should graduate to further heights and move on to address the disaster of human lives. Indeed, it is much easier to protect ourselves against the fury of hurricanes, the destruction of volcanoes, the disruption of earthquakes and the overwhelming force of tsunamis, than to address the issues of the threats to harmonious and constructive human living that are the constant experience every day in the lives of many.

There are issues which are causing the ruin of this country. There are longstanding problems crippling the lives of our poor people. There are serious concerns upon which we should ponder. However, these matters are either skirted or never addressed. I suppose many of these are all pervading, critical agonizing cancers that our lack of human development does not permit us to address.

Many of our people go through life with deep psychological wounds. A large number of people suffer psychological damage in their early youth. It is often only when they become adults that this is brought to light. Often we do not realize that people had a deep-seated problem until they commit suicide. However, even when people do not take their lives they might for a long time have been living on the edge of existence.

There are serious problems in the sphere of education. Every year, after the CXC results or the results of the Cambridge A' Level Examination, successful students are presented to the public as ideals of well-directed and industrious youths. And that is well. But what do we do about students who strive against all odds and are not as successful but deserve commendation?

Many students go through life with no support from their biological fathers. They live in homes characterized by gross poverty. Some of them are abused by callous, immoral and despicable men. These children appear to have no recourse to anyone. Their voices are not heard. They grow up with no recognition of their personal dignity. They develop low self-perception. Verbal abuse is their constant home experience. Loving, tender care is far from their lives.

Many parents lack a sense of purpose and awareness. Their children, both boys and girls, pursue life with a hurricane of anger. Who will deliver them? Who will affirm them? Some children live through an agony of suffering. There is often a gross lack of family life. Most crucial is the lack of love experienced by many children. Love is a basic constituent of human life. Anyone who lacks an experience of love early in life is destined to be a social misfit. And this is the cause of many of our social problems today.

One area of life which has not received sufficient attention is the need for mental health care. The physical ills of people are more noticeable than the mental problems. Yet, the mental issues that we face are more conducive to devastating our lives. Very early in life, attention should be given to them. Government should make a greater commitment to mental health care than is done.

For many people there is a turbulence in their lives rivalling that of hurricanes. This can come from innumerable causes. There is the lack of ability to process adequately and constructively the hurts, the anger, the perceived injustices, tragedies and inhuman experiences that have marked their journey in life. The lack of proper direction in their lives can come from an inability to channel life's frustrations, pains and tribulations.

There are challenges in life which can either make or break people. Some are led to face them resolutely and bravely. Others run away from them. Some, in encountering new challenges, positively recharge themselves and gain fuel for the journey. Others refuse to struggle, pity themselves and place themselves in a groove which precludes a successful outcome and overcoming new challenges. Life is for living, and happy are those who can take their blows in their stride with a smile and move on.


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