Hurricane Matthew Update | “We have a new normal routine by now”

Life on Haiti’s small island of Île à Vache has changed since Hurricane Matthew hit: here, our Programmes Manager Ailish O’Reilly tells us of what’s happening on the ground.


We have a new normal routine by now: up in the morning between 5am and 6am, and straight into work with emails and messages to respond to.  One of us is on WiFi, while the other prepares breakfast.  Then, someone heads for the refreshingly chill shower, and another is on WiFi.

Out the door, greeting our neighbours on the walk down the hill, andstopping at the orphanage to see Sr Flora and the children.  Then it’s on to the office, and back to emergency aid distribution or recovery planning.  Work all day, possibly take lunch – though sometimes it gets forgotten – and finish around 5pm or 6pm, unless there is a late shipment coming in.  Possibly a beer or two – sometimes it gets forgotten for the option of another delightfully refreshing shower – then dinner and bed.

This morning, I break routine to head over to Grand Plaine and visit Jean Nexon.  He isn’t doing so well and I’m a bit concerned.  We have had some rain and their house will be damp, which will compound his cough.  A neighbour comes to see what all the fuss is, so I co-opt her to help Deulita wash and clean all of the bedclothes and clothing.  I’m back in at the office by 8am.

We are either giving or receiving, sometimes both.  Today, we are giving out the tarpaulins.  The CPC representatives from all of the zones are coming in to the office and collecting their allocation of tarpaulins for the houses in their area.  No sooner are we starting to see floor space again, when we are reorganising everything for a large donation of food kits and buckets from Fondation Digicel.

Highlight of Wednesday – the electrician is back with a team of helpers, and we get electricity restored in my house.  Now all I need is a few new doors and it’ll be just like home.  For good measure, Tim, the electrician, is also a medic.  I notice one of my neighbours limping badly: she has a bad cut on her foot.  My kitchen becomes a temporary surgery, and Logina gets her wound cleaned, stitched, dressed and takes a pair of my shoes to keep it dry.

We also get light connected into Sr Flora’s treatment room.  They get the brakes on the Massey Ferguson 35 fixed.  We get another round of medicine for Jean Nexon and I’ll go see him in the morning.

The shipment is due in and we all race down the hill to be there in time.  Aid delivery has been spotty.  There is a lot of issues on the wharf in Cayes, so this time we loaded the boat at the Coastguard wharf.  In Madame Bernard, there are enough of us to keep all locations secure and, although we have a large watching crowd, there are no real issues.

The police pick-up has a flat tyre so the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) guys quickly change it and get them back on the road to help with delivery.  At the same time that tarpaulins are being given out of the front door, the food aid is being received into the depot out back.  It is 6pm, and we have refilled our container again for the moment.  There won’t be distribution tomorrow as there will be too many in town for the market and too high a risk of crowd control issues.  It has started raining again.

Bill Montgomery and his collection of electricians, medics, mechanics, builders, and all round decent men and women head back to Kaykok with our thanks for some major improvements for all our lives.  I’m heading home: I’ve got electricity and I’m making pizza to celebrate!

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