Rate of unemployment in Grand Bahama nearly 50 percent after storm
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Grand Bahamian Cecilia Bodie, a retired teacher and owner of a personal care line, is weighing whether to return to the island to rebuild her home which was destroyed by Hurricane Dorian nearly three months ago, or move to New Providence or the United States.
Bodie, who has been self-employed for over five years, said her business came to a halt after the storm.
While she did not categorize herself as unemployed, she noted her means of income has been “knocked to the ground”.
She said: “If I wanted to do that again, it means starting over”.
A post-hurricane social trends assessment of Grand Bahama, published on November 29, showed that there was a 60 percent rate of unemployment in West End; 47 percent in Freeport and 48 percent in East End.
Dorian struck the northwest Bahamas in early September. The record storm leveled communities, impacted over 29,000 people and killed at least 70.
Bodie said the unemployment rates should not come as a surprise.
“I am not surprised when I hear that it is 50 percent because I have friends who keep me updated, and I know that the businesses have closed and a lot of businesses have pulled out, and I understand why things like that have to happen,” she said.
“I don’t think anyone should be surprised.
Bodie said while she has sought to remain hopeful about the future of Grand Bahama, that path seems dubious.
“I really don’t know what is going to happen in Grand Bahama,” she said.
“I don’t know if anyone has really sat down and made a plan in terms of moving the island forward because if the companies are gone, employment is down and businesses are opening up — from what I’ve read and my understanding, and what I saw when I was there, the bigger companies like Dolly Madison [Home Center] and Kelly’s which were just trying to get back up, but they are nowhere near to what they used to be.
She said: “They had to let people go and that’s expected. People are trying the best they can to make it under the circumstances. I guess we just dive in.”
After the storm, Bodie travelled to the United States and stayed with friends.
She returned to Grand Bahama in October for a week, but said it was too much to process.
“I stayed and there was no water; I could not do any cleaning and with no transportation it was too cumbersome,” she said.
“I left. I just couldn’t take it too much longer, so I left.”
She added: “To be honest, I have not been really able to deal with that simply because there wasn’t the means to make any kind of improvement and the lack of transportation — you know Grand Bahama is really spread out — and the fact that I had to be dependent on people to get everywhere was just a bit much. It is not something I was comfortable with.”
Bodie left the country once again to be with her son, who is studying abroad.
Her mother, who requires care, resides in New Providence.
Bodie said she plans to return to be with her mother during the holidays, and then consider her next move.
Eyewitness News Online interviewed Bodie in the days after Dorian.
At the time, she was sending her two grandchildren on a cruise ship to evacuate the island, but remained behind.
She appeared traumatized, but hopeful that she could rebuild, noting she was “prepared to start over”.
Her home was gutted.
When asked whether she plans to rebuild yesterday, Bodie said: “I have speaking to some friends and I may change my mind two days from now and decide to rebuild, but right now I don’t see it — not in that location no.”
Bodie said she would like to return to Grand Bahama and does not wish to live in New Providence.
“I am not stressing myself out and I am in a good position because it is only me one. My children are located elsewhere and they are settling in. It’s just me, I could float and right now at the moment, that’s what I plan to do. I’ll go where I can be accommodated. Right now, I’m needed in Nassau.”