The Star-Herald

Hurricane survivors start new life in The County

This column by the Aroostook County Action Program is meant to give a voice to people in Aroostook County who “Champion Change” — mostly in their own lives, but also in their community. Our hope is that by sharing real stories of people we’ve come to know through our “community action” work, that readers will experience some amount of change within themselves.

Part 3

In “It Came at Night” Part 2, Adry and Jesus made it off their hurricane-ravaged island homeland and to Aroostook County via Florida and with the help of some family connections.

ACAP Coach Heidi Rackliffe connected Jesus with a job coach who quickly assessed that Jesus was a skilled construction worker. Although construction work on the islands can be quite different than construction work in Aroostook County — different building materials, different codes, etc. — the skills Jesus possessed were transferable and he had a base of knowledge to help him learn on the job. Jesus completed a four-week on-the-job training with Buck Construction, who then hired him full time.

With Jesus earning enough income to support the majority of the family’s living expenses, and the kids enrolled in school in Presque Isle, Adry is now beginning to look for work for herself.

“We’re happy. I like this place. The people here are kind and good,” said Adry. “I don’t want to return to Vieques again.”

Language has been a slight barrier, but Adry learned to speak English when working at her former bank job due to the large number of English-speaking tourists who frequented the island. She does most of the translating for the family.

“People have patience and try to speak slow for me,” said Adry.  

The teachers in the kids’ school are working diligently to bridge the communication gap as well. They’ve paired the two children with another girl who speaks Spanish and the teachers are making an effort to learn their language while teaching them English. The children are flourishing in their school environment, and their daughter is an honor student.

“Here is very different,” said Adry. “Here the people are willing to help. It’s very different than in other places.”

Rebuilding can be difficult for anyone who suffers a tragedy, but to do so in an entirely different area, with language and cultural barriers, might seem overwhelming to some. Adry said for them, the hurricane was like a blessing in disguise, taking them from a situation they may never have left, and putting them on a path to a much better life for their children.

“Puerto Rico is not getting better right now. It’s not a good place to live. I think God put us in a situation to help us understand that there were better options. We would never have made the decision to get on a plane and move out of the islands to go to the States. That changed when Maria came. It changed our hearts, too. Sometimes, God takes you out of something to show you something can be better,” said Adry.

While there have been pitfalls and stumbling blocks along their path, the couple is working on a long-term goal of purchasing a house in the area and putting down permanent roots.

“Here is a good place to find work, to start a better life, and it’s a good place to grow the kids,” said Adry.

Aroostook County Action Program administers more than 40 programs in the community that help people meet their basic needs and that offer support, education and encouragement. For information, visit our website at acap-me.org or call our office at (207) 764-3271.

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