Families of Halifax students continue to confront hurricane aftermath

"To this day, they still don't have electricity or water," said Samara Burton, a second-year student at Dalhousie University whose family home in Dominica was damaged by Hurricane Maria.

'To this day, they still don't have electricity or water,' says Dalhousie University student Samara Burton

View of damage caused by Hurricane Maria in Roseau, Dominica. (AFP/Getty Images)

Samara Burton returned to Canada for her second year of university in Halifax just 3½ weeks before her family's home in the small Caribbean island of Dominica was struck by Hurricane Maria.

Samara Burton. (Samara Burton)

The house lost parts of the roof, while others in the family's neighbourhood were completely destroyed.

"To this day, they still don't have electricity or water," said Burton, a second-year computer science student at Dalhousie University.

The Category 5 storm pounded Dominica with 260 km/h winds on Sept. 20. Maria, the second major hurricane to hit the Caribbean last month, wreaked havoc on several small islands, including St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Dominica.

Burton said it was unsettling when she could not communicate with her family the first couple of days after the storm.

"It was very difficult to go to class because everything was so normal and people were just moving on with their lives and I couldn't focus on anything, really," she said.

Burton's parents are now accessing water through a small tank in their house. Relatives from overseas have sent them a generator, food and other necessities. They're also receiving rations.

"Outside of that, it's been very difficult in terms of getting batteries," Burton said. "It's impacted the whole island, not just certain parts. It's very difficult to get anything because a lot of the supermarkets were damaged."

Rev. Rhonda Britton. (CBC)

In an effort to raise money for the recovery in the Caribbean, on Saturday a group of African-Nova Scotian churches, in partnership with Sobeys, are holding a series of breakfasts across the Halifax region and Truro.

"We decided since the islands were being devastated, and we have a number of people in Nova Scotia who are actually from the islands or have relatives in the islands, that it would be nice to be able to contribute to the disaster relief in those areas, especially since they were being totally wiped out," said Rev. Rhonda Britton, vice-president of the African United Baptist Association of Nova Scotia.

"Even though parts of the island are recovering, we know that people are in desperate need of water and cannot get clean, healthy water."

Beautisca King, a Bahamian student in her third year of chemistry at Dalhousie, said she welcomes the fundraising efforts.

"It made me really excited to know that even way in Canada people are still concerned about other black communities way down south, in the Caribbean especially," said King, who is president of Dalhousie Caribbean Connection, a student society.

Beautisca King is president of Dalhousie Caribbean Connection. (Beautisca King)

The breakfasts are one way Sobeys is trying to mend its relationship with its black customers.

Last November, the baptist association, which consists of 19 black churches and 3,000 members, ended a boycott of Sobeys after the grocery store chain agreed to train all its employees on racial profiling and discrimination.

In 2015, a Nova Scotia human rights tribunal ruled that Andrella David, who is black, was the victim of racial profiling when she was wrongly accused of shoplifting at a Tantallon Sobeys in 2009.

The board of inquiry ordered Sobeys Group Inc. to pay David $21,000 and provide her with a written apology. Sobeys spokeswoman Cynthia Thompson said the training has been completed.

"We've also been talking regularly about how we can as an organization do better, raise awareness within our stores," Thompson said.

Sobeys is trying to mend its relationship with black customers. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The breakfasts will be held from from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the following Sobeys locations: Mumford Road and Windsor Street locations in Halifax; Tacoma Drive and Highway 7 in Dartmouth; Upper Tantallon; and Prince Street in Truro. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12.