Glimpses of Hope as Dominica Rebuilds After Hurricane Maria

A screenshot from the time lapse film “Dominica on the Move”, by Yuri A. Jones.

In an effort to track citizen media stories of hope and resilience after the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season that wreaked havoc on several islands along the Caribbean archipelago, Global Voices recently entered into a partnership with Covela Foundation and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) for the Caribbean Voice initiative.

Through this project, we've asked social media users region-wide to hashtag their experiences as they undertake rebuilding efforts. While natural disasters routinely make headlines, there are also stories to be found in the recovery process — inspiring stories of strength, determination and kindness.

One of the narratives that's recently caught our eye comes from the Facebook group, Embrace Dominica. Typically a travel and tourism-based page, it has taken up a bit of an advocacy role for the island's natural environment after the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

Over the last couple of months, the page has shared videos about the ways in which both the private and public sectors have “been working tirelessly to ensure a sense of normalcy across the island”, including a story about one company that has pledged to rebuild seven primary schools and hundreds of homes.

The page has also applauded the support Dominica has received from its Caribbean neighbours, and intermittently posts photos of “scenes of recovery”, including rescued wildlife.

But certainly one of the most moving uploads on Embrace Dominica is a timelapse film by Yuri A. Jones, which was shot between the months of April (pre-hurricane, when the footage shows off the natural splendour of the island) and September 2017 (post- Hurricane Maria).

The filmmaker talked about the process on his blog:

I wanted to show various forms of nature in Dominica, such as rivers, mountains and beaches […] I also wanted to feature the Milky Way and so I reused the Grand Bay footage and captured a few new sequences from the Lindo Park hardcourt (2:30) and at Freshwater Lake.

But then came the hurricanes — Irma and Maria. Jones continued:

Dominica was spared from Hurricane Irma, but we still felt its effects in the form of high gusts of wind and abnormally rough seas. I was able to capture these effects most succinctly in two sequences.

The first was captured from The Morne, overlooking the capital (0:54). The branches on the right of the frame give you an idea of how strong the wind was at that time. The second was on the Bayfront, near the Fort Young Hotel (1:33). If I didn’t know better, I would say that this was footage of the tempestuous Atlantic Ocean, rather than the usually calm Caribbean Sea.

We weren’t so lucky with Hurricane Maria. The storm hit us as a Category 5 hurricane on Monday 18 September, with winds of 165+ MPH, while traveling at 9 MPH. The slow rate of movement coupled with high winds and torrential rain completely devastated Dominica.

No one was left untouched. Even the most prepared were caught off-guard.

The storm hit at night and I was unable to capture any footage of its destructive process. This is a probably a good thing, as I’m sure that if the storm had hit during the day, many people would have been tempted to venture outside. This would have led to numerous injuries and quite possibly, deaths.

Approximately one third of the footage shown in Dominica On The Move comes from during or after the passage of Hurricane Maria. From 1:56 onward, you will see the drastic difference in the landscape and how it changed after the storm.

He concluded:

This film is definitely one of the crowning achievements of my journey as a photographer. More than 10,000 images and countless hours (in the field and post-production) were finely put together into a 3 minute, professional grade, 4K resolution video.

I’m already planning future timelapse films, to hopefully showcase the return of our lush, green landscapes.

The video does a good job of illustrating the magnificence of Dominica's landscape prior to the storms, making the post-hurricane imagery harder to swallow. Viewers suddenly understand what the country has lost and what its inhabitants have suffered, in a much more tangible way.

The rebuilding efforts continue, with the cleaning up of treasured nature sites. The country's tourism authority is even offering “voluntourism packages” for anyone who would like to assist with the recovery and rebuilding efforts following the passage of Hurricane Maria.

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