Benson Aime, his partner and daughter have “few options” at shelter
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Benson Aime, 42, walked with his pregnant partner and their five-year-old daughter toward the Kendal G.L. Isaacs Gymnasium, the place they have called home for three weeks since being displaced by Hurricane Dorian.
The former family of four was returning from a failed visit to the Department of Social Services, because they got there too late. While they plan to return today, Aime told Eyewitness News Online his family’s track to recovery was uncertain with no money, no documents, and no job. The setbacks are compounded by the horrors experienced during the monster storm that ripped through their home and allegedly claimed the
life of their eldest daughter.
The 21-year-old Marlin Jervile is believed to have been crushed in a church with four others during the ferocious storm. It’s a blow that has yet to set in for her mother Louicine Pierre Louis, who is five months
“It’s hard, really hard, but you know…” she trailed off, remaining silent for the remainder of the interview.
Aime explained his stepdaughter was separated from them while they sought safer ground in Cross Harbour as the Category 5 storm detonated their community in The Mudd.
He said: “Her Mum said ‘let’s go, let’s go’ and she (Marlin) said ‘I’m coming Mum’. After that we went and she did not come. Friday was a bad day. She stayed in the house. A couple of friends told her not to stay
in the house.
“When she tried to come out, the rain was too strong,” he continued. “They tried to go to another house and another big church that they just started building. Five people went there. The winds blew so hard
everything dropped on them. All five died.” Turning to Pierre Louis, Aime reminded her to “try to be happy because you are pregnant and that would not be good for you”.
He said they were thankful to be alive, recalling how close they came to death. Their home and hundreds of others were flattened in the Mudd. The houses they sought shelter in were shredded by 220mph gusts and flooded with water.
“Where we were in Cross Harbour, we almost died too,” Aime said. “The house, all the roof was gone. The seawater came inside. We stayed in the middle of the room and stayed inside and the water was everywhere
— on the right, on the left. We stayed in the middle and prayed to God. When the rain stopped, we went to another house. The roof [tore] off that house and we just prayed again…everyone thought we died, but we
were very lucky.”
Before the storm, Aime worked a number of maintenance jobs in Marsh Harbour, from cleaning boats and painting to housekeeping and landscaping. In their old life, the family lived in a two-bedroom home in The Mudd with amenities.
Now the two adults and small child sleep on a double mattress in the gymnasium, with their few belongings beside them in a hall of over 800 other displaced victims. Aime described the “community living” as challenging at times. Holding his smiling daughter by his side, however, Aime noted it was easy to keep the five-year-old entertained because there are so many children living in the shelter.
“We don’t have a choice because we have nothing — no money,” Aime said. “For now, everybody wants to live in the shelter. We don’t have the money to rent a house, so we stay here at the shelter. I have heard talk
about the government building a couple of shelters in Abaco.” He was referring to the temporary family relief facility being constructed in Spring City, Abaco. The first phase, which includes 250 two-bedroom family units, is expected to be completed within three to four weeks.
Asked if he will seek to return to Abaco once the units are completed, Aime said, “We don’t know yet. We have to wait to see.”
At the shelter, the father said they are provided three meals per day: breakfast around 9 a.m., lunch around noon and dinner shortly after 6 p.m. He said, “The food comes on time…it’s good stuff.
Aime said he feels safe and has been treated well by authorities and staff at the shelter.
In addition to losing their homes and belongings, both he and his partner lost their passports, work permits and banking cards during the storm.
Aime said he went to the Department of Immigration last week in hopes of being reissued his work permit, which he claimed does not expire until 2021, however, he said he was told to pay $300.
“That’s too much money. I don’t have it. The work permit would be
expired in 2021. I paid my national insurance every month. When the storm came, I lost it. I have to go back to Marsh Harbour because the people I worked for are still there, so they have plans soon to do some
things. I don’t know.”