Nfld. & Labrador

Horror from afar for Bahamian students in N.L. planning fundraiser

As Hurricane Dorian ripped through the Bahamas, students studying in St. John's watched from afar with concern, waiting for word from their families.

La-Kevia Neely, Shanae Sands and McKishine Wilmott say Facebook page to be started with fundraising details

From left, Shanae Sands, McKishine Wilmott and La-Kevia Neely say they're organizing with their fellow Bahamian students studying in St. John's to do what they can to help people back home displaced by Hurricane Dorian. (Paula Gale/CBC)

As Hurricane Dorian ripped through the Bahamas, students studying in St. John's watched from afar with concern, waiting for word from their families.

"That was, for for me, the most frightening part," says La-Kevia Neely, from the Bahamas but studying at Memorial University.

"The waiting part and the anxiety of just not knowing they were OK was, I would say, the worst thing about it. And then you have this feeling of being helpless."

Watching news coverage and seeing posts on social media of the havoc Dorian caused in her home country, Neely said she was a bundle of nerves, only able to offer emotional support.

Neely said all of her family members, luckily, are accounted for, though some of them will have to start all over.

"In Freeport, my cousin, she had just finished building her house earlier this year. It's now completely destroyed," Neely said.

"She has to start 100 per cent over — which goes for many people. Either their flooding was extensive … or you have to start completely over from scratch."

And more difficult, Neely said, is a lot of the areas hit with the worst of the storm are areas where people don't necessarily have enough disposable income to enable them to start their lives over.

A man walks through the rubble in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian on the Great Abaco island town of Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, on Sept. 2. (Dante Carrer/Reuters)

"It's just really difficult because a lot of areas that were affected were per se not high class, really wealthy people, so it's gonna be difficult for everyone to just have to start over and maintain all over again."

Neely, along with her fellow Bahamian students studying in St. John's, are doing what they can to help out back home, and are organizing the 30 or so Bahamian students in St. John's to plan fundraisers, organize donations, and offer one another support.

"That was our first question, it was, 'Hey, how are you doing? Is everyone OK back home?'" said Shanae Sands, of meeting with fellow Bahamian students last week.

Every little bit counts.- McKishine Wilmott

"We just wanted to make sure that we could help anyone that's family was directly affected by the hurricane first."

Sands said her family in Grand Bahama and Abaco weren't injured and didn't lose their homes, but a number were displaced due to flooding.

"They're just trying to get their head around what has happened," she said.

"It has been the strongest hurricane we've experienced in the Bahamas, so it's just been a lot to just take in."

'Material things can be replaced'

The waiting was hard, too, for McKishine Wilmott, who wasn't able to get in touch with her family until days after the hurricane ripped through the Bahamas, before tracking up the U.S. coast, into the Maritimes and then Newfoundland and Labrador.

"With the hurricane aftermath, it was very difficult to reach the majority of my friends and family, but thankfully everyone has been accounted for. Everyone is alive and well," she said.

"Material things can be replaced. My brother did lose everything in his home, my aunt actually lost a big part of her home as well and has a few injuries."

An aerial view Wednesday shows the damage caused by Hurricane Dorian to Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Wilmott said the devastation Dorian wreaked on the Bahamas was beyond compare, and it will be a long time before her community knows the full extent of damages.

"With a hurricane of that magnitude, it's nothing you could really prepare for," she said.

"It was the first time that we ever experienced something of that strength. We have a powerful nation at home, I know everyone will survive this."

Sands, Neely and Wilmott say they're working with their 30 or so fellow Bahamian students in St. John's to brainstorm ways to send whatever help they can back home.

Homes lie in ruins one week after Hurricane Dorian hit the Mudd neighborhood, in the Marsh Harbor area of Abaco, Bahamas, on Monday. Dorian, the most powerful hurricane in the northwestern Bahamas' recorded history, has killed at least 44 people in the country as of Sunday, according to the government. (Fernando Llano/Associated Press)

They met last week to discuss starting a Facebook group, to be called Bahamian Society NL, where they'll share information.

They also plan to organize a fundraiser in the coming weeks, as well as gather donations for items needed in the Bahamas that they can send from Canada.

"Every little bit counts," said Wilmott.

Details have yet to be finalized, but the three students said anyone wanting to help should keep an eye out for the Facebook page to start up — that's where they'll share information as they confirm it.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show