By Kamal Haynes, BVI News Staff
At least one family on Jost Van Dyke has been forced to take their daily baths in the ocean because of their chronically poor living conditions that are without basic utilities such as power and water.
For 14 months after Hurricane Irma destroyed their home, Sidney Hendricks and his wife Wendy lived under tents. Government then moved them into what was supposed to be temporary housing dome.
But nearly two years later, the family is still occupying the structure in the parking lot of Sidney’s Peace & Love Restaurant in Little Bay Harbour on the sister island.
Mrs Hendricks said although her dome has all the components needed to facilitate having water and electricity, it is still without those utilities despite many promises made by the government to ensure those lines and pipes were connected.
“I don’t know what to do,” she told BVI News after numerous failed attempts to get assistance from the Ministry Health & Social Development. “I’m bathing in the ocean with Joy [liquid] soap — the only thing that soaps up in seawater. And drinking water: I have to carry three gallons from about one mile.”
“Right now we’re cooking outside with a concrete block and two rocks with some kind of a grill on top and we need an open fire to cook. It is so bad at this point it’s like we’re living in caveman times,” the frustrated woman told our news centre.
Haven’t had a good meal in months
Mrs Hendricks — a former educator at the then BVI High School — said her current job as a yoga instructor had suffered severely with all income ceasing to exist since COVID-19 and the halt on tourism to the BVI.
As a result, she’s had get help from the Family Support Network to gain access to groceries when food packages were available. However, she said it has been months since she had a proper meal and, at the time of the interview, her family was on its last two cans of tuna.
“I have been existing on Vitaplex, some vitamins I finally got, some crackers, a couple cans of tuna fish, corn beef which makes me sick, and white flour and sugar which also makes me sick. So I am basically not eating much of anything. I had pizza on a Sunday and some nice lady, Ms Gomez, brought me a large ice cream in White Bay and that is all I have had, and not eaten since,” she stated.
Living conditions deplorable
The Jost Van Dyke resident also said the composition of the dome has caused it to grow mould, which when combined with the lava infested cistern from the restaurant, presents a hazardous living environment.
“It is a public health hazard and I have been alerting them (government) since six months after Irma when they gave us a tent. I ended up in the hospital twice with a severe bacterial infection. The tent pretty much fell down around us. Vincent Wheatley gave us another tent and I lived in that tent until that too fell down from around me. I pleaded with the government, I sent them photos and no one has done nothing at all since.”
“I finally came back here into the dome covered in mould. All black on the ceiling and with the fibreglass we wake up in the morning with fine particles of fibreglass in our eyes. This temporary housing is only meant for six months because of this health factor, because of how it responds to heat and the fibreglass-leaking,” she explained.
Lots of emails sent with no responses
Mrs Hendricks further said she is one of the residents on the sister island who had been approved to benefit from government’s initiative to provide permanent and semi-permanent houses to persons who lost their homes due to the hurricanes.
That approval was two-and-a-half years ago.
She said it has been far too long since she has gotten updates from any official, despite sending countless emails to members and departments of the present and past government, including the Minister for Health & Social Development Carvin Malone and Premier Andrew Fahie.
“I’ve had quite enough of this. They came and made bids on the house. We had an entire agreement. I went in and shook hands, I met with Carvin Malone twice. He agreed that every component of my application had been submitted and been long approved through Finance and I have never received a phone call. He blocked me from his messenger site and I’ve submitted letters to his secretary and left messages and to no avail.”
“We still do not have any action. The house is still currently not built in any way, no back-up has come and we are still sitting in this dome where you walk around on the deck and you’re about to go through. The saturated weak plywood where the dome sits on top of is an extreme health hazard. I have to get out of here to go sit down in the restaurant under the overhang in the afternoons because my eyes start to stick together,” she further said.
Locals too proud to admit
Mrs Hendricks said she was forced to speak up about her experience after things had gotten to the extreme worse, and believes that a lot of people are suffering in silence.
“I’m not the only one. But, as you know, legally native BVIslanders of which I am, are often too proud to speak up. They will rather give their last crumb to their children and never admit to anyone that they are in any severe hardship,” she said.
“I’m not just speaking selfishly. I am also looking out for our neighbour Oliver Chinnery who is a severe diabetic and if it wasn’t for me running to Great Harbour and practically in tears for someone to come and get Oliver – he ended up in the hospital for about three days in a diabetic coma. No one cares to come and check on him to see if he’s dead or alive,” she added.
Husband in dire need of surgery
The former educator also revealed that her husband, who has been disabled since an accident he suffered in the 1980s, is in urgent need of two surgeries. He was diagnosed with an enlarged prostate, and a hernia more than one year ago.
She said she has since been getting the runaround from local medical staff to do the necessary regular checks, and have had no success with the Social Development Department to put measures in place to facilitate an airlift for her husband to Tortola for the needed surgeries.
“He has been exasperated and he becomes dizzy and then can’t get up and for 24 hours he didn’t move. He would get up to urinate then he won’t make it even out the door and then it started to become bloody,” she described.
“The nurse came over here after her shift and took a look at him and just prescribed antibiotics and haven’t called back since to see how he is and we cannot get medical travels from over there (Tortola) to get to the hospital after speaking directly to the head surgeon of the hospital. I have put into Social Development for medical travel expenses, he ended up in the hospital twice since then. They have not answered,” she added.
BVI News attempted to reach out to the Health Minister Carvin Malone for a comment on the matter but at the time of the publication, our news centre had not received a response.
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