Hurricane Earl, which made landfall south of Belize City just after being upgraded to a Category 1 Hurricane on August 4, resulted in major flooding in the central and coastal areas of Belize. Belize City and surrounding villages were among the most affected.
Sister Carlette Gentle and five other Sisters of Charity of Nazareth currently live and serve in Belize. Sister Carlette, a native of Belize City, runs a new ministry called Living Independently in Full Existence (LIFE), an outreach program to the elderly. Read her reflection written just days after the storm for the Future of Charity blog:
God Reminds Us to Unite, By Sr. Carlette Gentle
I was all set with my topic of writing about my experience of retreat this summer. Then I returned back home and in a couple days we were facing the threat of a tropical storm hitting my home town of Belize. Of course some of us took it lightly. It might just bring some rains and wind. We have been faced with hurricanes before, but somehow it seems like it always misses the city. However this time, the tropical storm was supposed to increase in strength just before making landfall. The central point where the eye of the hurricane would hit? You got it – Belize City. So on Wednesday, August 3, 2016, Belize City was hit by what is now known as Hurricane Earl. Earl brought winds of above eighty miles per hour along with heavy rains and tidal waves of 4 to 7 feet. My community and I have the pleasure of living in front of the Caribbean Sea. Therefore when a hurricane is upon us, we seek safer grounds. We decided to evacuate more inland since the coast was predicted to get hit.
We moved inland to Cayo, one of our six districts. Even inland we had winds hitting us at about 60+ miles an hour accompanied by heavy rains. At about 12:06pm the TV I was watching to keep up with the storm went out, the fan stopped. You guessed it power outage. We were in total darkness. The only thing left to listen to was the sound of the drastic wind, heavy rains on the zinc roofing and debris flying around. I couldn’t sleep. I laid in the sofa with my ears attuned to all that was happening around me. I was praying. And when it sounded like the roof was lifting up in the apartment we were staying in I prayed like mad. The wind and rain continued for what seemed like forever. Later on I learnt that hurricane Earl was moving 20 miles per hour but slowed down just before hitting the Country. So it went from twenty miles per hour to fourteen miles per hour. Around 4:30am the winds subsided and rained eased. I thought to myself, we made it through and I sighed a sigh of relief.
When we got back to the City, I realized how much damage was done. There were down powerlines, houses fell off their foundations or were collapsed, roofing was flung all over the street like paper, homes were flooded with several feet of water and thick layers of mud. Century old trees were down and fruits scattered everywhere. The population was in shock and wondered what would happen next. And then the uniting was evident.
People came together to assist each other. Power saws were borrowed, brooms and energy were lent, water shared, tears were shed, hugs and embraces were given and a huge thank you to God that all lives were spared. It was evident that people were grateful.
So after all of this, my message is that we can unite. We can be there for our neighbours. We can look beyond the boundaries of religion, race, cultural backgrounds, economic status, family feuds, education levels, age, etc. and see our brothers and sisters for who they really are “Children of God.” We as a people can look beyond ourselves to reach out to others to show the unity and love that God so wants us to exhibit. “WE CAN” do this and sometimes it takes a disaster to make us aware of this.
We in Belize are thankful for your continued prayers during the hurricane and also as we aim to recover some level of normalcy.
Soon after the hurricane, Sister Carlette went to check on the elderly clients in the LIFE program and is happy to report that they are safe, though many sustained damage to their homes from the hurricane and flood.
The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth are accepting donations to be used to assist the people of Belize with food, roofing, and home repairs due to flooding and damage to property. To learn more about how you can help, please visit https://scnfamily.org/belize-hurricane-relief/.