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Bishop calls on public to help those affected by hurricanes

SOLIDARITY: Bishop Martyn Snow says that he wants communities in the region to resume their normal lives as soon as possible

THE BISHOP of Leicester has launched a charity appeal to raise money to help the worst-hit people of the Caribbean who are still struggling to recover from losing their homes and livelihoods in Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year.

Each year, Bishop Martyn Snow launches a charity appeal for the Diocese of Leicester, which comprises more than 300 churches. This year the appeal will raise funds to be distributed in partnership with sister Diocese of North East Caribbean and Aruba.

Churches including St Peter’s and St Stephen’s in Highfields, Leicester, have congregations with a high proportions of African Caribbean people, many of whom have loved ones and friends affected by the devastating hurricanes on the islands of Anguilla, Barbuda and Dominica.

Hurricane Irma left hundreds of thousands of people without homes or businesses across many of the islands in the Diocese. Many Barbudans, for instance, are still forced to live on a neighbouring island, unable to return to Barbuda where almost all the buildings were significantly damaged or destroyed, and the power supply and utilities are still not fully restored.

The havoc wreaked by the hurricane was reported around the world in the immediate aftermath but although media coverage has now all but ceased, little progress has yet been made in the rebuilding effort, leaving thousands of people still struggling to survive and with no imminent hope of returning to normal life. Much still needs to be done.

Bishop Errol Brooks of the Diocese of the North East Caribbean and Aruba spoke of the ongoing challenge of recovering from the trauma of the hurricanes.

DAMAGE

He said: “I have experienced many hurricanes dating back as far as 1955. Never have I experienced any as vicious as Hurricane Irma. Official bulletins stated that the hurricane was packing winds of 200 miles an hour.

“The reports were that the same was true for Hurricane Maria. While the islands of St Barths, St Maarten, Saba and Anguilla suffered much damage, 89 per cent of the housing on Barbuda was destroyed.

“The residents on that island were evacuated to sister island, Antigua. Much of the housing, forestry, agriculture and infrastructure on Dominica was destroyed. The recovery effort on these islands is progressing slowly.

“Apart from providing counselling and securing relief supplies, we have made requests for financial assistance from partner churches within and outside our province. We have had some positive responses. Again we are happy that the Diocese of Leicester is willing to raise funds on our behalf. This is a tangible expression of the bond which we share as members of the Body of Christ.”

The Rt Revd Martyn Snow said: “We want to help people resume their normal lives, and knowing that so many of our brothers and sisters are still struggling, it is only right that we take action and do what we can to help in addition to praying.

“We also want to send a message of solidarity with those who are still suffering and to let them know their ongoing plight is not forgotten.”

St Stephen’s parish priest, Father Richard Irving, said: “It is of great comfort to people here in Leicestershire that the church has noticed the plight of their friends and loved ones who are still suffering so much.

“As well as raising money to help we want them to know that we continue to stand alongside them and to pray for them.”

Lusa Ngoy, BAME enabler for the Diocese of Leicester, is helping Father Irving coordinate the Bishop’s appeal.

Ngoy said: “Every year, Lent takes us on a journey from ashes to resurrection. For many in the Diocese of North Eastern Caribbean and Aruba, it will be more than just a metaphor.

"I hope and pray that as we respond generously to Bishop Martyn’s Lent appeal, we may witness the extravagant generosity of God and the beauty of resurrection at work in and through all our lives.”

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