We serve with pride Ja­maica

Ja­maican work­ers help re­build Lake Charles, Louisiana, af­ter hur­ri­cane dev­as­ta­tion

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Karyl Walker/Gleaner Writer

THERE IS not a large Ja­maican pres­ence in Lake Charles, Louisiana – the sec­tion of the south­ern state that was blud­geoned by Hur­ri­cane Laura six weeks ago. But since the pas­sage of pow­er­ful Hur­ri­cane Laura, a num­ber of Ja­maicans and other Caribbean na­tion­als have been very ac­tive in the re­cov­ery work be­ing con­ducted there. The work­ers were forced to hun­ker down as Delta passed, but as soon as flood­wa­ters re­ceded, they were back on the job.

Most of the 78,000 res­i­dents of Lake Charles have had to live without In­ter­net and ca­ble TV ser­vices since the pas­sage of Laura.

Ev­i­dence of Laura’s wrath is ever-present as houses and trailer parks are still in dis­re­pair and many busi­nesses have no roofs, win­dows, or doors. Many have been com­pletely flat­tened by the pow­er­ful winds as­so­ci­ated with Laura. Even with the ap­proach of an­other pow­er­ful sys­tem, the work­ers, in­clu­sive of lines­men, grounds­men, drivers, sub­con­trac­tors, and con­trac­tors, worked fever­ishly to erect fi­bre-op­tic ca­bles and other fix­tures nec­es­sary to re­store the ser­vices.

Lake Charles faced the wrath of Hur­ri­cane Delta, which pelted a dou­ble blow, caus­ing se­ri­ous flood­ing, up­root­ing light poles, and down­ing power, ca­ble, and tele­phone lines.

The sec­ond weather sys­tem was more of a rain­maker, how­ever, and didn’t dish out as much pun­ish­ment.

GRATE­FUL

“We are so grate­ful for the work that you guys are here do­ing. We need the help, and our lives have not been the same since Laura. The work you guys are do­ing will help us to re­turn to nor­mal rou­tine. Thank you so much,” Nola Hunter, who works at a Cir­cle K gas sta­tion, said.

Bar­ron Rhodd su­per­vises a crew of eight Ja­maica-born work­men who have been busy ful­fill­ing his con­trac­tual ar­range­ment with Sud­den Link, the com­pany

re­spon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing In­ter­net and ca­ble TV ser­vices in that sec­tion of south­ern Louisiana.

“This is my call­ing. Me and my crew live to pro­vide this cru­cial ser­vice to the peo­ple who are badly af­fected and for those who have not yet had the ser­vice. Our goal is to get this project over with by Christ­mas so these peo­ple can be happy,” Rhodd told The Gleaner.

This is the first gig for Wor­rell Whit­taker, a Ja­maican who re­sides in Broward County, Florida. Whit­taker was pleas­antly sur­prised by the kind­ness and warmth dis­played by the peo­ple of Lake Charles to­wards the work crews in a part of the South­ern US of­ten branded as be­ing in­flu­enced by neg­a­tive racial stereo­types.

“The peo­ple here are so warm and ac­cept­ing. They wave to us and tell us thanks for our work and even bring us lunches. When I heard I was com­ing to Louisiana, I was a bit ap­pre­hen­sive, but that feel­ing was quickly wiped out when we came to Lake Charles. The peo­ple love my ac­cent and are very warm,” he said.

There are about 40 Ja­maicans, along with Guyanese and Ba­hamian na­tion­als, work­ing on the restora­tion project, and all are gun­ning for a re­turn to work.

The work­men be­gin their daily tasks at the crack of dawn and work right through each day un­til the light fades. Many stay in ho­tels or rented houses that are more than an hour away from the work sites as all ac­com­mo­da­tions in Lake Charles have been ei­ther de­stroyed or are al­ready booked out.

“We serve with pride and rep­re­sent Ja­maica with hon­our ev­ery­where we go. We will do the same here for these warm peo­ple of Lake Charles,” Rhodd said.

CON­TRIB­UTED

Crew­men at work in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

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