Help out our neighbours

Editor’s note: This letter originally appeared in the Friday, 12 September, 2008, edition of the Caymanian Compass. It is being rerun today because of technical problems that caused part of the letter to be lost.

I send these thoughts and wishes out to all who have been affected by recent hurricanes, whether in the Caribbean or the US, but most especially to the people of Haiti, the Turks & Caicos Islands and our nearest neighbour, Cuba, which most recently have experienced the devastation of Fay, Gustav and lastly Ike.

For those of us here in the Cayman Islands, we dodged a bullet (Hurricane Ike), but it was at a dire cost to Cuba, which took the brunt, and where four people paid with their lives.

My friends, it is difficult – but imperative – for me to write, for it dredges up so many painful feelings of my own experience that I share with you. I and so many others with me here in Cayman were devastated by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

It was a category 4/5, which stayed over the island of Grand Cayman for more than 24 hours, damaged 95 per cent of all buildings, destroyed vehicles, knocked out power and uprooted lives. It was truly horrific and certainly the worst experience of my life (short of the loss of loved ones).

But in the end, we did survive.

In the words of friends (Chuck & Barrie Quappe) who are songwriters, written in the aftermath of Ivan:

‘They believed

That the sun would shine;

They believed rain would fall from the sky;

They believed troubles come and go;

They believed; that’s all there is to know.’

So somehow, from that terrible day in September, we went forward until, one day, we were able again to sing, and dance.

The call went out over the Internet on Tuesday – two days shy of our fourth anniversary of Hurricane Ivan. The people of Cuba need help. They had had a double whammy. First came Gustav, followed a week later by Ike.

When I came out of Ivan, I, like so many others, had virtually nothing; worst of all, my life’s work was gone.

It was a long, slow, hard climb back to normalcy, and my heart aches for the people of Cuba, for I have seen, first-hand, the vibrancy, their ingenuity, their love of country and culture.

When you have nothing, you save everything, and now, after four years of recovery, I have seeming abundance, certainly more than enough to share. So to my cupboards and my closets I go, to rid myself of wretched excess.

My unwanted/un-neededs will seem like Christmas when these things (clothes, canned goods, I even included some nail polish for a little morale), whatever I can dredge up, arrives on Cuban shores. And so I would urge those of you who may read this, to do likewise, post haste.

For in the end, I believe, where there is help, there will be hope and ‘They’ll Believe’…

So this, I promise those suffering. As the storm has passed, so will your pain. Maybe not today, but tomorrow.

Gretchen Allen

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