MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It has been more than three weeks since category-5 Hurricane Maria ripped through the Caribbean Sea.
The United Nations says the island of Dominica sustained a daunting amount of damage.
Tonya Whitfield’s trip to help fisherman in the village of Castle Bruce turned into a quest to live after Hurricane Maria was forecasted to hit the east Caribbean island.
“The house that I was in is right off the coast,” Whitfield said. “We put our food together, we created our safe room and then by 7 p.m. that storm entered Castle Bruce.”
She and five others sat in a small room and listened as the eye of Maria sat over the Island for hours.
“There is water coming from the ceiling and the floor, and the house is concrete, but it’s swaying,” Whitfield said. “So at this point we’re not really knowing what’s going to happen.”
Whitfield and her island family survived the storm but they saw what didn’t survive when they opened the door.
“I looked out and all the vegetation was gone. Everything that you could image that was a structure was gone,” Whitfield said. “Anything that was made of timber was gone.”
No food for days, Whitfield lost 20 pounds, but she never stopped helping others.
“People who lost way more than me. They lost their homes,” Whitfield said. “We were bathing in the river, we were trying to get water anywhere we could.”
After 10 days of no contact with family, Whitfield was eventually evacuated to the Barbados and returned home to Minneapolis last week.
But her heart never left Castle Bruce.
“I had to leave the people that I love and care about over there, I had to leave the project that I’ve been dedicating my life for the past five years,” Whitfield said. “I just felt like I needed to do something. Not only that, but the thoughts keep coming through my head. There’s no food.”
Whitfield’s volunteer efforts helped get four boats for the fishing village of Castle Bruce.
One was not destroyed, and is being used to shuttle doctors and medicine to people in need. But what is needed is more food.