In September 2019, Hurricane Dorian devastated the northern Bahamas. The category 5 storm brought historic wind, rain and storm surge that created the worst natural disaster in the country’s history. The islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco experienced 48 hours of hurricane-force winds that destroyed entire communities.
When Dorian hit Abaco, Denrodo Roker, partner and operator of Abaco Bus & Transportation Services, and his family, including his fiancé, their two young daughters, his mother, sister and her two sons, sheltered in their home. But as the storm raged on, the 200+ mile per hour winds “ripped the house to shreds,” according to Mr. Roker.
When the foundation of the house began to break apart, Mr. Roker and his family were forced to flee mid-storm. They used bedsheets to tether themselves together and made their way through the ferocious winds and zero visibility to the relative shelter of the company bus (pictured above), which was parked just outside. They waited out the rest of the storm in the bus, even as flying debris broke windows and hatches.
Fortunately, the bus held together and remained upright, and the family survived the hurricane. However, the bus sustained massive damage and was no longer operational, forcing Mr. Roker to close his transport business.
After Hurricane Dorian, Mr. Roker and his family relocated to Eleuthera for work. But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. They lost their jobs and decided to return to Abaco to try to rebuild both their home and transportation business.
To help Mr. Roker to repair his bus, Mercy Corps awarded him a $20,000 Abaco Restoring Industries and Sustaining Employment (ARISE) Initiative grant. The funds also allowed him to keep his contract with the Bahamas Ministry of Education valid and rehire employees as necessary.
“This grant is a blessing and a much-needed shot at restarting a vital service to the community, as well as my family’s primary source of income.”
– Mr. Roker
After many months of repairs, Mr. Roker expects to have his bus fully operational in time to provide regular school bus services when in-person learning resumes (as of Feb. 5, 2021, schools on Abaco remain closed). In the event that schools remain closed for a longer period due to the pandemic, Mr. Roker plans to run a shuttle route on Abaco or make his bus available for private clients.
The Center for Disaster Philanthropy awarded Mercy Corps a $475,000 grant from the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season Recovery Fund to support livelihoods on Abaco through their ARISE program. The program combines business recovery grants with remote business training and mentorship activities to help micro, small and medium enterprises in the Bahamas recover from Hurricane Dorian and build their resilience to future shocks like hurricanes as well as the current coronavirus pandemic.
We are inspired by Mr. Roker’s incredible story of survival and perseverance, and we are proud to support Mercy Corps’ efforts to help families like Mr. Roker’s rebuild their lives and livelihoods.