Bovena Tucker is sick with worry, having not heard from her husband and three adult children since Hurricane Dorian struck their home in the Bahamas three weeks ago.
Tucker is living with her three youngest children and her friend Natalie Poirier in a sparse three-bedroom duplex in Moncton’s west end.
She is trying to claim refugee status in Canada. She doesn’t have a work permit, and the children aren’t yet cleared to go to school, leaving all of them with too many hours to sit and worry.
“I don’t know what to do,” Tucker said.
She said she last spoke to her husband, Arnold Cherie, on Saturday, Aug. 31. The storm landed Sept. 1. Since then the weeks have ticked by without news.
Her children who stayed in the Bahamas are Dwayne Robinson, 26, Christiano Gayl, 24, and Shankell Robinson, 23.
“I don’t hear from nobody there,” Tucker said. “If I was to hear from somebody there … to let me know what is what, they are OK, I just want to know they’re fine.”
Bahamas was left devastated by Hurricane Dorian after being battered for three days. It was the most damaging storm to strike the island nation and left in its wake a flooded landscape dotted with pulverized homes and beached boats.
The death toll now stands at 50, but 1,300 people are listed as missing. Officials have cautioned that this is a preliminary list and there are many people still trying to connect with family.
Tucker and her family lived in a house in Freeport, which was hit by flooding.
Tucker hopes the reason her children and husband haven’t reached out is that they aren’t able to use or charge their phones.
“I’m trying to keep the positive vibe that, you know what, the house destroyed but they’re alive … material things are nothing.”
Tucker has been scouring social media and a “find your family” website set up after the storm. She has also tried reaching officials with the Red Cross service that helps find families.
Aside from the constant question of her family’s safety in the Bahamas, she is trying to make a new life in Canada without an income.
“Before the hurricane came, my husband sent money,” she said.
Tucker said she’d gladly change places with the people she left behind, but since she can’t, she’s trying to figure what to do to get by here in Canada with no money coming in.
For now, Tucker is relying on the kindness of her friend Natalie Poirier. The two met at Crossroads for Women, a Moncton women’s shelter in March.
“We just kind of had an instant connection from the moment we met,” said Poirier.
They all moved into their rental duplex a few months ago.
“I met her children and I found that they were beautiful people, so I just kind of got attached.”
Poirier plays easily with Tucker’s six-year-old daughter British, who dangles on her back. They spin and laugh, while Tucker watches, but seems distracted by her phone.
“I used to see her every day on her phone speaking to her husband, and now she just she’s just waiting,” said Poirier.
Money is tight and Poirier is paying the bills. The women went to the food bank when the money ran out this month.
Targets of violence
Poirier said she plans to do whatever she can to help the family, but it’s been difficult to watch the pain and uncertainty they are experiencing.
“I mean, especially since the hurricane, it’s been devastating to see her try to manage her emotional states as a result of not having any contact from her family,” said Poirier.
Tucker said she brought British and her other two sons, Brian, 18, and A.J., 12, to Canada after her family was twice the target of gang violence. The plan is for her husband and the three eldest kids to eventually follow if her refugee claim is successful.
She said she used all but $70 of the family’s savings to bring herself and the three kids to Moncton. Now that’s gone too.
Hoping to get a job
Tucker said she applied for refugee status and is in the midst of the process. But the kids can’t go to school yet, and she won’t have a work permit until everyone receives a medical exam, which is scheduled for later this month.
“I want to work, I love to work, I’d love my kids to be in school.”
In the meantime, Tucker said she’s doing her best to track down her missing loved ones and stay strong for the family she has with her.
“I’m going to hold on, I’m going to trust God,” she said.
“I need to keep the faith, I cannot give up on life.”