Nearly two years after Hurricane Ivan devastated her East End home and forced her to seek shelter elsewhere, Blondell Conor is finally returning home – this time to a brand new house for which she received the keys last month.
The reconstruction of Ms Connor’s new residence, built on the site of her former home, was made possible through funds donated by the IAMCO charity of philanthropist Susan Olde, said a press release from the National Recovery Fund.
Last year IAMCO turned over its hurricane relief operations in East End to the NRF, which, along with the East End District Committee, identified houses to be completely rebuilt and repaired in the district.
Ms Connor’s house is one of 12 East End homes being rebuilt by the NRF using funds from IAMCO as well as additional monies provided by the government, the release said.
The houses are in various states of reconstruction and will be completed and handed over to their owners over the next several weeks.
Overjoyed to be back at last in the home she will share with her 92-year-old mother, Ms Connor praised the NRF and its contractor ‘for working so hard and going such a long way to get me this house. It is very nice, and I know if it wasn’t for God and the NRF this would not be possible,’ she added.
Father Graham Thompson, who now heads up the IAMCO charity, was on hand to participate in a small ceremony which marked the handover of the house. He said IAMCO had been keen to support the hurricane recovery efforts in East End because ‘anything that can contribute to the alleviation of poverty is essential and this is one of the objectives of the founding of IAMCO and our decision to assist.
‘It is very easy for us to sit back and say that we have recovered and other people must have done the same. Such attitude will cause us to forget our less fortunate brothers and sisters and this project is aimed at overturning complacent attitudes like this,’ he stated.
Another house, that of Alice McLaughlin, was handed over last Friday and soon 84-year-old Josephine Pearson, who has been living with her daughter in Savannah since Hurricane Ivan, will also receive her keys and be back home.
‘The Lord has provided for me once again and I am thankful to him for putting me in a position where I could have come in contact with the NRF during these hard times,’ she said.
Other homeowners who will receive new housing under this programme are: Corine Conolly, Ariadne Powell, Fay Smith, Terita Christian, Randall Rankine, Vincent McLaughlin and Elmer Welcome, Marjory Webb, Josephine Pearson, Alice Mclaughlin and Shirley Anne Jackson.
The planning and rebuilding of these homes has been taking place in East End for some months. Each house has been substantially raised off the ground to reduce the chances of flooding and is built to withstand strong hurricane-force winds.
‘We have always wanted to be able to help as many persons as possible and from a financial stand point, using texture 111 instead of concrete allows us to do just that without compromising the security of the building,’ noted Aileen Samuel, Project Officer for the NRF.
The units, mainly two and three bedrooms, have been designed by GMJ Home Plans, according to NRF specifications. Special additions to houses such as wheel chair ramps are put in place if requested by elderly residents. Each house is outfitted with major appliances and some basic living room and bedroom furniture.
The rebuilding in East End is supervised by the NRF’s part-time project manager, Ludlow Buckeridge along with overall project manager, David Bodden. Contracts were put to tender and the winning contractors on the project have been: McLaughlin Construction; Top Notch; Pro Active Construction; J&P Construction and Jernat Construction which built Ms Blondell’s house and put in extra time and effort for a wheelchair ramp for the elderly residents.
Executive Director of the NRF, Dr. Mark Laskin noted that the East End project has been a gratifying part of the work of the Fund in recent months. ‘We at NRF are extremely grateful to IAMCO for making so much possible in East End. Many families are benefiting from its financial support and we are pleased to be working along with the organization, as well the MLA for the district Arden McLean and members of the district committee (Darrel Rankine and Oswell Rankine) in ensuring that East End’s housing recovery programme is realised,’ he stated.
The NRF is also slated to build at least 27 additional homes in other districts on Grand Cayman and continues its major repairs to scores of homes across the island.