Jamaicans show resilience in their effort to rebound from Hurricane Katrina

Houston, TX – Several Jamaican families who resided in New Orleans up to early September when Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast of the United States have temporarily settled in Houston, Texas and are working ardently to rebuild their lives.

The group of 29 traveled out of New Orleans the day before the big storm hit, destined for Houston with only the clothes on their backs.

Since then, the Jamaicans have formed a “family”, reaching out and supporting each other in their time of need. On their arrival, the group learned of Jamaica’s Honorary Consul in Houston, Beverly Ford, with whom they made immediate contact and explained their plight.

Mrs. Ford immediately coordinated relief efforts with the Jamaica Foundation of Houston, a non-profit community organization and assisted the misplaced families as they tried to make Houston their new home.

Various forms of support have been extended to the group of 29 persons since their arrival. According to A. Andrew Adams, President of the Jamaica Foundation of Houston, (JFH) the group has since narrowed to 19 persons as others have left to join their families in other cities throughout the US. Jamaican national, Wayne Bonner was employed to the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New Orleans until Hurricane Katrina changed his life.

Mr. Bonner told JIS that he was fortunate to find another job in Houston at the Four Seasons Hotel and was trying to rebound from the disaster.

Meanwhile, his wife, Sandra, has since returned to New Orleans to resume her job as a nursing assistant in the interim.

Mr. Bonner indicated that he went back to New Orleans to examine the extent of the damage to their apartment and has since decided to make Houston his new permanent home. Mr. Bonner’s wife will join him when he is comfortably settled.

Mrs. Ford has made several appeals to the community for contributions as she said, “we have to support our fellow Jamaicans who are in dire need some 1,400 miles away from their permanent homes with absolutely no means of self support.”

On behalf of his fellow Jamaicans, Mr. Bonner expressed appreciation to Mrs. Ford and the Foundation members who have worked hard to help to secure temporary accommodation, clothing, food and employment to help them get back on their feet.

According to the President of JFH, the Foundation will provide support for an initial three months. Meanwhile, the group is working out details for support from the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), the United States emergency relief organization.

On an even more positive note, events have begun to take shape in the lives of those affected as four persons have since enrolled in universities in the Houston area to complete graduate studies. Some have been hired temporarily while others have taken teacher certification programs for permanent employment.

Primary school aged students have now returned to schools in that area as well, and have settled comfortably.

While she is encouraging persons to get into areas where they can gain productive careers, Mrs. Ford is looking at opportunities to ensure jobs for others who already have careers. These include jobs in Information Technology, and Accounting, among others.

The recovery effort could not be possible without the assistance of the Jamaican Diaspora throughout the United States. Both Mrs. Ford and Mr. Adams echoed similar sentiments as they spoke of the generosity of those responding to the call for assistance.

Corporations like GraceKennedy and Royal Caribbean Patties in New York donated pallets of food along with monetary contributions. The Reverend Dennis Grant of Restoration Ministries in Fort Lauderdale has provided temporary shelter and monetary contributions to some families.

While other monetary contributions continue to come in from members of the Jamaican Diaspora in Chicago, New York, Florida, California and the wider Houston community, Mrs. Ford continues her appeal for ongoing support. Contributions can be made payable to the Jamaica Foundation of Houston and can be mailed to the office of Jamaica Honorary Consul at 7737 SW Freeway, Suite 580, Houston, Texas 77074.

Other persons who have extended their support include Jamaican Attorney- at-Law, Omar Fullerton, and Dr. Dinsdale Ford, obstetrician/gynaecologist. Both are private practitioners in the Houston area. Mr. Fullerton is giving pro bono services to the students to ensure proper immigrant status in their relocation efforts. Dr. Dinsdale Ford has also provided medical assistance to the displaced family members.

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