Helping Dominica to rebuild itself

  • Noah Steinberg-Di Stefano
  • Nov 16, 2018

Noah Steinberg-Di Stefano of Lutheran World Relief's Emergency Operations team recently visited Dominica to monitor the progress of Hurricane Maria relief effort.

Across the tiny Caribbean island nation of Dominica, the sounds of construction — hammers hitting nails and saws ripping through wood — fill the air.

It has been nearly 15 months since Hurricane Maria thrashed Dominica, destroying or severely damaging 65% of its homes, and its people are hard at work rebuilding their communities. And thanks to your support, workers are receiving construction training and tools to build structures that will meet strict building guidelines, making the country more resilient to the next hurricane.

Lutheran World Relief has been supporting the local Habitat for Humanity’s efforts to provide training in healthy housing, carpentry, masonry and resilient construction standards, creating a cadre of women and men throughout Dominica who have learned a new trade and are using it to rebuild their country.


I recently traveled to Dominica as part of my work on Lutheran World Relief’s emergency operations team to see this recovery in action. Walking down a steep path off a mountain road in the town of Salisbury, about a 30-minute drive from the capital of Roseau, I found Ferny James, 35, and Lina Nicholas, 52, who had both completed the training and were hard at work erecting wooden beams for the wall of a new house.

“I feel a strong sense of pride rebuilding my country,” Ferny tells me with a smile on her face. “Everyone has played their part. If it wasn’t for all of us working together, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Prior to Hurricane Maria, Ferny was working at a local TV station, but lost her job shortly after. Many local businesses have gone under since the hurricane and have not been able to bounce back. The one industry that is thriving is the construction sector, with rebuilding work to be done all over the island. Ferny and many young people like her are trying to seize the opportunity use their newfound skills to rebuild their country.

“We know rebuilding will take a while. I am confident I’ll be able to find work in construction,” she says. “It’s a change for me, but I love working with my hands, so I am happy being a part of this.” 

Driving north from Salisbury, we head to the Kalinago territory, a protected indigenous area that is home to the original inhabitants of the Caribbean, whose lineage goes back hundreds of years. Perched high atop a mountain overlooking the ocean, this 9-square-mile protected area was severely damaged by Hurricane Maria. Roads were impassable for weeks and nearly all the houses in the community were destroyed or severely damaged.

After completing the 2-week training course, participants received a kit with the basic tools they would need to find work on a construction team. I spoke with two young men, Rowan Francis, 24, and Dahl Wayland, 27, about what the training meant to them.

“As young men we want to learn a trade so we can be respected and progress in our lives, says Dahl. “I feel really grateful for what we have learned in this training because we have learned how to build properly, so houses can be stronger in our community.”

In the coming months, Lutheran World Relief will continue to work with Habitat for Humanity to help people recover their livelihoods and pave the way for a stronger future. Fueled by the hard work of our partners like Habitat for Humanity and International Organization of Migration, as well as the relentless optimism of Dominicans committed to rebuilding their country, we have seen the power of collaboration in helping a community get back on their feet.

“I feel so elated when I am able to see the process come full circle,” says Natasha Graves, project coordinator with Habitat for Humanity. “I have been able to work with people to build the knowledge they need to build a strong house for their brothers and sisters.”


Noah Steinberg-Di Stefano, Nov 16, 2018 email