Sunday, August 28, 2011

Downtown Nassau straw vendors want government assistance following damage to the temporary straw market by Hurricane Irene

Vendors want govt assistance following damage to temporary market

Vaughnique Toote
Guardian Staff Reporter

Downtown straw vendors are pleading with the government to provide them with some sort of assistance in the wake of Hurricane Irene, which wrecked the temporary market they have worked in for more than a decade.

Straw vendors were shocked when they visited their workplace Friday morning and discovered that intense winds had blown the roof off.

A number of stalls were damaged as well.

“When I heard on the news that it was destroyed, I was very upset because this is my bread and butter,” said vendor Anne Green.  “I don’t know what the government is going to do, I don’t know if they’re going to assist us.  It’s very bad because I have four children in school and you have your bills.”

Green estimates she will lose about 100 dollars each day the market is closed.

Elaine Williams questioned how long she and her colleagues would be out of work.

“What I’d like to know is how long we have to stay home and if the government will help us,” she said.  “Because it would not be right staying home for weeks with nothing at all.  I need some money to pay my lil’ bills.”

Scores of vendors tried to access the market to check their stalls and see the extent of the damage firsthand.  However, police officers blocked the entrances for safety purposes.

From the outside of the tent, damaged goods could be seen on the ground.

While the majority of straw vendors cleared their stalls before the storm, others left their products in plastic bags on tables in the market.

Vendor Ellen Russell said she lost most of her goods.

“I was on vacation so I left everything.  I just got back on the island late Wednesday and had to prepare my home,” she said.

“I have to replace what I had in there so I don’t have the stuff to sell even when we have a place to sell it in.”

Yesterday Minister of Public Works Neko Grant said the government has not yet decided what will happen to the temporary market.

Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette and his wife Robin took a look at the damage while on a personal tour of the area on Thursday.

“There is some good and some bad,” Symonette said.

“Hopefully it will speed up the completion of the new market.  Also as September comes it is traditionally a slow season for tourism.  So, hopefully we will be able make some adjustments and get towards the new market.”

Like many of her fellow straw vendors, Sharon Carey said she is anxious to hear from government officials on the way forward.  She added she is grateful to God because their situation could have been much worse.

“As I stand here, I can honestly say I am happy, and to God be the glory for the great and marvelous things he has done,” Carey said with a big smile on her face.

“We don’t have a roof, but we have our booths.  We’ll see what the prime minister does, if we get to stay here or we get to go into the new market.”

Aug 27, 2011