Caryl's Story

Surviving Hurricane Maria

Caryl was at home with her boyfriend and three children when Hurricane Maria reached their island and destroyed everything in its path.

I opened the door as the eye was passing and I look at my neighbour’s house and that had gone. We couldn’t move because of all the trees, I couldn’t run with my kids because we would get hurt so we had to stay at the house.

Hurricane Maria made landfall as a Category 5 storm with windspeeds of 155mph. It destroyed all of the buildings in Dominica as it passed through the island and continued on it’s destructive path.

Caryl outside her home in Dominica

Caryl lived with her family in La Plaine, a village in the east of Dominica. Caryl spoke of the beauty of her village before it was completely destroyed. “It was a very beautiful area surrounded by trees, vegetable patches, and flowers. I liked being in the yard doing my own thing.”

She told us, “I use to grow dasheen and figs, and this was food just to eat for the family. Because of the countryside, we plant our own food we eat entirely of our own land.”

Hurricane Maria was very scary, I’ve never seen a hurricane like that. That is the first time I experienced anything like this, it was so big I thought everybody was dead.

The next morning, she described her village as “another world, a strange planet.”

After staying up all night with her children waiting for the storm to pass — Caryl’s life, home, and village were completely changed.

The destruction changed daily life for many in the community. The roads were destroyed so there was no access to markets and no way to get to work. To reach anywhere you had to climb over trees and try to avoid the galvanized iron that had been flung from the roofs.

You had to be careful because there were so many nails, everything was such a mess. It was tiring, and you can’t have a shower, we got a rash from the water, we were thirsty and after a while the heat of the sun was unbearable.

Caryl and her community found ways to come together to recover from the traumatic experience. Church and a small bar that had music were places for people to escape to, but also a place for folks to get together and talk about what happened together.

Caryl also received support from ShelterBox thanks to supporters like you. “Receiving the ShelterBox tent changed my life in a big way.” Caryl was using the tent while her family began to rebuild their home – she even learned how to mix concrete! Nine months after the storm, Caryl’s children were back in school and her community was back to normal.

“Here everyone is getting their roofs done… everyone’s getting their house done and even stronger.”


How we're preparing

The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season has already seen a record-breaking number of named storms. Learn more about how we’re preparing to help families.

Our Aid

What aid items do our supporters provide families around the world? Take a look at the shelter options families receive.

Disasters Explained: Hurricanes

Do you know the difference between a hurricane, cyclone, and typhoon? They are all names for tropical storms! Read more about what makes them so deadly for families around the world.