“It was very difficult. We had children, some very old people and some with some kind of disability”
Gregoria Frómeta usually speaks her mind.
But when it comes to talking about the day Hurricane Matthew swept through her hometown of Mata-Guandao in Cuba, she figures some things are better not remembered.
"Never seen something like this," says the mother of three children, who is a retiree.
Cuba is no stranger to hurricanes, but Gregoria says Matthew's strength was the most intense she has ever seen.
The havoc the Hurricane left is still visible months later. But life slowly returned to normal in the village of Mata-Guandao. It’s common for people to come knocking at her door: everyone here knows Gregoria, who has dedicated her life to being active in her community.
During the storm, 95 people took shelter in her home.
It is not big space, but within these walls several families cried, prayed and survived the hurricane.
“It was very difficult. We had children, some very old people and some with some kind of disability,” she recalls.
Everyone brought what they could and the important thing was to look out for the next day. But in the morning, Gregoria did not recognize the neighborhood. The landscape, earlier full of coconut trees, was almost laid bare.
The road to recovery will require a lot of hard work.
In Mata-Guandao and neighbouring Rosa de Mata, Oxfam Canada helped more than 2,000 families recover their livelihoods, thanks to funding from the Canadian Humanitarian Assistance Fund. Safe water, hygiene and sanitation were the central elements of the first response.
Gregoria explains the water filter and the tank were very important in her house. She still uses most of the contents from the hygiene kit, and the filter features prominently in her kitchen.
“The recovery is little by little, we should not despair,” she says softly, as if talking to herself. “We are alive and that is the important thing.”
A smile forms on her face.