Hurricane Irma one year on: Julien, one of the beneficiaries of TSF's help tells his story

Publication date: Sep 03, 2018 06:00 PM - Last modication date: Sep 05, 2018 10:38 AM
Julien, one of the beneficiaries of TSF's help tells his story

"As we approach September 6th, we are all stressed and hope for a quite cyclone season. A year on, a large number of people are still living in tents or under tarpaulins that serve as their roof. The population holds on and adapts ... " These are Julien’s words, a young entrepreneur, living in the district of Rambaud, on the island of Saint-Martin. He was one of the beneficiaries of TSF’s help but also one of the many victims who greatly helped our teams during their operations.

On arrival on September 11th, one of TSF's first priorities was to connect the Departmental Operational Center in order to facilitate the response of the actors mobilised for the emergency. Two other connections were subsequently installed for the benefit of the relief coordination, one for the Civil Security Operational Center, in charge of coordinating the action of the fire service and one for the Logistics Operational Center, installed at the airport and directed by the French army. The permanent link between all these centers was vital for an efficient relief coordination and for the management of material aid arrivals from abroad. In parallel, mobile TSF teams carried out humanitarian telephone operations and deployed Wi-Fi zones for the populations in the affected areas. Many people still had not been able to contact their loved ones since the disaster. More than ten days after the passage of Irma, the vast majority of people benefiting from TSF operations contacted their family for the first time.

"The help of TSF has been paramount. I sympathized with three of their technicians hosted next to my home. When Maria then hit Dominica, two members of TSF went there. My neighbor, Dominiquais, had no news of his family staying there. TSF found them and allowed them to talk on the phone. I saw my neighbor crying with joy, relieving his tension, smile and be happy! "

After surviving the passage of the hurricane sheltered at home, under a concrete slab, Julien discovered that he had the soul of humanitarian! His home location, protected by a hill, meant it was relatively spared from serious damages. So, very quickly, he decides to act with his neighbors: "We were 3 then 5 then 10 up to 20 volunteers," he continues, little by little they organized the help: "We went to find food, medicines, water and gas to fuel barbecues in order to eat hot food. With my neighbor, a nurse, we helped set up a clinic and clean up a school so that parents could care for their children in care."

For him, Irma was somewhat of a positive experience: "The humanity that I experienced in the heart of my neighborhood, allowed me to have confidence in myself and to grow in maturity." He later created, with his father and his brothers, a small family business: a custom aluminum gutters manufacturing company. "Irma allowed me to know what I really wanted. Altruism has also won many "survivors" who did not know this part of goodness in them. Everyone changed after Irma... "

While the Caribbean islands were just recovering from Hurricane Irma, two other major hurricanes, José and Maria, were making their way through. Maria hit the island of Dominica heavily on September 19th, destroying nearly 90% of the infrastructure. TSF has therefore extended its operations in the region by redeploying part of its team from Saint-Martin to arrive in Dominica on 21 September.

During these interventions, more than 1,360 people benefited from 1,500 minutes of free calls to reach their loved ones, and nearly 8,800 people could connect to the Internet in one of the free WiFi zones deployed by TSF on the islands of St. Martin, St. Barthelemy and Dominica. More than 3,700 GB of data were exchanged, allowing humanitarian actors to coordinate relief operations, and allowing the affected populations to strengthen their resilience getting temporary Internet access to reach their loved ones via social networks and instant messengers.