After the last fire ravaged the Mudd, it prompted Emmanuel Fernander to start thinking about the future needs of the Haitian community.
The fire took place in the early morning hours of Jan 28, 2018.
“I started thinking and talking to some friends to see how we could come together and do things for ourselves and better ourselves in a way where we could help each other,” Fernander explained.
Fortunately, there were like-minded people who agreed with him, so the first meeting for the Bahamas Haitian Community Association (BHCA) was held a few weeks later on Feb. 11.
Fernander said that BHCA was established because of people like him who have given a lot of thought about the Haitian situation particularly on Abaco. Unfortunately, he said many people before him have tried to make a difference only to reach so far and stop for various reasons.
When he considers situations involving fires, he doesn’t believe people should wait until the Government of The Bahamas or the Department of Social Services comes through to offer assistance.
“We have those who can help themselves and don’t need to depend on others to do for them,” he pointed out. “If there is an emergency in the community, for instance, say someone needs medical assistance, or a person may be suffering from a disease, and doesn’t have money to buy the medication…
“I feel like if we know something like that is happening among us, we can go ahead and say, ‘Hey, let’s get together and help this person because this person is sick bad or this person needs to go to the clinic, or this person needs to go to the hospital because they are in need of stuff like that’.”
Fernander said that is why he put the association together. He reasoned that there are a lot of things that they can do if they work together.
“I’m pretty sure we will have a better society and a better community,” he affirmed.
Fernander said there are 13 people in total including himself who are part of BHCA. He said there are people on different parts of the island who stand with the association as well to help people.
Therefore, help is not only available to Haitians.
“Anybody could go through a little situation and hard times,” he acknowledged, “so if we have it, we can say, ‘Let’s help this person’.”
In the meantime, however, another pressing concern is the garbage situation in the Mudd, Fernander indicated.
“We have a very serious garbage situation,” he lamented. “I am tired of hearing people talking about us and saying how nasty we are. I have seen videos of people putting the community on blast. I said one day someone needed to step forward and make a difference in the community and make things happen and look good.”
It appears that he and the association members have stepped up to the plate. Fernander said there are garbage bins at the field, but when the dump truck comes to pick up the trash whatever they can’t carry stays right there on the ground.
“You have people living close to the garbage, and they complain about the scent,” Fernander disclosed. “But they are doing well because they move the garbage at least twice a week, so it doesn’t have time to deteriorate and smell so bad.
“When it takes long to move, people come to throw garbage and throw it anywhere. We tell the people that we need to make a difference, clean up and make the area look good. I am tired of feedback and reports about how nasty we are.”
Going a step further, Fernander went to a Local Government representative, and sat down and talked with him. It was confirmed that others had come forward to assist with keeping the area cleaned, but stopped perhaps discouraged by so great a task.
“What makes people discouraged is that people come back and do the same thing, but I told them it’s not going to happen overnight. If you clean this weekend and wait another month, things would pile up. Unless there is an emergency or it’s raining, we will clean every weekend to ensure everyone has a safe and clean environment,” he pledged.
BHCA members have already set the wheel in motion with their clean-ups of the Marsh Harbour soccer field area on Dec. 1 and Dec. 8 where the bins are located.
Added to the garbage situation is the issue of a lot of derelict vehicles all over the place.
“One person can’t do a lot, but if we group ourselves together and talk to people about it or get people to give or volunteer, we can clean up the community in which we live. We have to look at the consequences and effects garbage will have on the community and we have to educate the people.”
Fernander said there are plans to host an event on the soccer field for the holidays, and they were given the approval once it benefits the people living there. He said the representative didn’t like the idea where people would come and do shows for their own benefit, but never invest anything or in something that could benefit everybody.
Fernander said they are trying their best to keep the area clean especially with Christmas and New Year’s Day coming. BHCA is planning a soccer tournament for the holidays because not everyone has the priviledge to travel or go places, but they can enjoy activities right around the community. The association has already written to all the soccer teams to find out how many are interested in participating in the meantime.
In the future, BHCA looks to offer assistance to parents who need to purchase school supplies for their children such as shoes and school bags. After all, Fernander said it’s all about doing “positive things and helping people” while encouraging the youth to stay out of trouble.
The association plans to create activities to raise funds to fix up the park, repair benches and basically restore the area to “back to the way it used to be.”
Fernander said there are people who volunteer to help them because they see the need and appreciate what they are doing. Some of the association members work on Saturday, so it leaves them shorthanded sometimes. Occasionally, others will donate water and juice to give to those who are working or feed them.
“You only need one person to make a difference; you only need one person to start,” Fernander said with conviction. “Everyone can’t think negatively. There has to be some kind of positive energy around you to keep you moving and motivated.”
He is pleased to see that people are beginning to understand the importance of cleanliness because of their efforts. The BHCA members also walk door to door to let the residents know to keep their garbage at home when they see the bins full.
Of course, he realizes that some people don’t care about what they are accomplishing, but he won’t let that get him discouraged.
Fernander’s goal is to make sure they have a clean environment that everyone can enjoy and have fun in.
For their community clean-up on Dec. 1, he said Maxwell’s Supermarket and Price Right helped provide forklifts to move some of the old cars, but the wrecker didn’t come on time to move them, so they couldn’t do much.
So far, Fernander said no businesses have provided any sponsorship to BHCA, but they are awaiting replies from the ones they have written to.
If anyone is interested in assisting the Bahamas Haitian Community Association (BHCA), they are in need of the following equipment: rakes, weed whackers, lawn mowers, wheelbarrows, shovels and fencing.
“They will see the change and difference around the community,” Fernander envisioned. “We have a lot of plans and know what we would like to see. As a team, we will see how we can make it happen.”