SCOTTS HEAD, Dominica – For more than two decades, the people of this community on Dominica’s southern tip enjoyed dishes from the popular Chez Wen Cuisine.
The restaurant, located on the Scotts Head Bayfront, was popular among tourists and visitors from other communities for its variety of creole dishes, especially seafood supplied by area fishermen.
The thriving business was started by Eugenia Jervier in 1996. Ten years later she passed it on to her daughter Anna, who was already helping her to run the daily operations.
All that changed in September 2017, when Chez Wen Cuisine became one of the casualties of Hurricane Maria.
“I lost everything, 100 per cent,” Anna told Barbados TODAY.
When the rain and wind subsided the next morning, only the concrete floor was left.
She said: “When the guys came home about 11, they came to check my cousin. I told him to go and see what’s happening he told me ‘Anna there’s nothing’. I lost everything.
“I didn’t put aside anything [before the hurricane] because I couldn’t get anybody to help me; people were busy sorting out themselves.”
The waves from Maria reached as far as her home, which is located across the road from her restaurant. The storm swept away everything in its path.
Jervier’s business has become another exhibit of the vulnerability of the world’s small island developing states to global warming.
Just yesterday, the Inter-government Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report warning that the impact of climate change is already evident in more intense storms and dwindling marine life.
Residents and marine life on coastal areas in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are particularly vulnerable to global warming.
When world leaders met for the Climate Summit in Paris in 2015, they agreed to try to limit global warming to an average of two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Small states pressed for a cap of 1.5 degrees.
At their meeting at the United Nations this week, Caribbean leaders warned that SIDS face an existential threat from more frequent, more intense hurricanes.
Chez Wen Cuisine reopened last October to coincide with the World Creole Music Festival, and Jervier says business has been gradually picking up.
She received assistance from the government, her mother and fiancé, but she admits that starting over has been hard.
She told Barbados TODAY: “It was a lot of work, a lot of stressful nights a lot of sacrifices had to be made to get to where I am today and we still haven’t finished yet as you can see. It’s still a work in progress,” she said.
The rebuilding has also taken an emotional toll on her.
She continued: “I think that was the time I cried the most, in rebuilding. A lot of [nights] going to sleep with tears dropping out of my eyes, because it was really hard.
“So thank God for where I am today.
“Maria did bad but it did good. Because I always wanted to do something like what I have today but I never got the opportunity”.
Another Scotts Head resident, Elaine Jervier, told Barbados TODAY that since Hurricane Maria residents are making sure they are prepared for the hurricane season.
She said: “It was a first time experience for me and it was really bad.
“Right about now every time we hear about a hurricane or a storm coming in everybody gets scared because we don’t want another Maria to happen to us so we will get our canned food, and move into shelter where it is much safer.
Maria taught us a lot. We didn’t know in terms of hurricanes how to get prepared and we know now what to do if another hurricane comes again.
“Some people after Maria, they didn’t have anything. But right now I guess if a hurricane coming today people will have things at their home.”
Anna is also making sure to be prepared every hurricane season.
“I don’t want to go through that again where I lose everything,” she said.
But she acknowledged that no amount of preparation can save her and her community from a Category 5 hurricane. (MCW)