LAWTON, Okla._A Cameron University professor is working to help victims in her homeland who were ravaged by Tropical Storm Erika.
At least 31 people died when the storm slammed the island of Dominica in late August. Dozens remain missing, and more bodies are believed to be buried beneath the landslides that were caused when the storm dumped nearly a foot of rain in a matter of hours. The flooding caused widespread damage, wiping out roads and leaving people with nothing. Now, a donation drive is underway to help victims rebuild their lives.
All of Cameron professor Irene Corriette's immediate family still lives in Dominica. Fortunately, her family is alive, but waiting to hear from her family was nerve rattling.
Corriette was getting ready to teach a class when people began texting her, asking if her family was okay. Not realizing Tropical Storm Erika hit the island she was born and raised on. When she started seeing reports, her emotions kicked in.
"It was very sad, it was very traumatic, looking at the videos, the news reports, reading the articles. I really wanted to do something and I was having a hard time knowing I was far away," Corriette said.
She then began trying to call through to her mother.
"Communication was down, and that was what drove me crazy. I had to wait a few hours before I got through to just my mother and I literally spoke to her for five seconds," Corriette said.
The conversation was just long enough time to let Corriette know they were alive. She says she was relieved to hear they were safe and only had property damage.
"We were, one of the lucky families," she said.
Corriette then began figuring out how she could help her birthplace while in Lawton. She wanted to send supplies, but wasn't sure how to make that happen, since Oklahoma isn't near a coast. But she soon found a way to make it possible.
"DARDA, a Dominica organization based here in the U.S. set up a drop off point in Dallas," she explained
She then put the word out to campus organizations that might want to help. The International Club, MathCom and students from the Caribbean Alliance are joining up taking donations. Corriette says the most important items needed are bottled water and non-perishable foods. She says they are also taking in items such as clothes, bedding and first aid kits.
"We are hoping to we have the challenge of having to empty out the donation bins often so they can be refilled. We look forward to that challenge," she said.
There are two donation drop off locations on Cameron's campus: one at McMahon Centennial Complex and one at Ross Hall. You can drop off your donations at either spot from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. through Friday.