All that is left of Peddeidra Baillou’s childhood home in East Grand Bahamas, once a three-bedroom residence, is a concrete slab surrounded by ravaged trees and homeless neighbors.
Two weeks ago, the country was struck by Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 storm with 183 mph winds.
Baillou’s family in the Bahamas—including her 10-year-old daughter, Malaisha—evacuated to Freeport save for her brother, Pedro. During the hurricane, he was forced to flee the home through a window and spent two days clinging to a mango tree.
The 27-year-old North Campus student studying dental hygiene depended on her father to pay for her education and living expenses. Now, she has to find an on-campus job to pay her bills.
“That’s what had me so terrified. He’s without a job. We’re without a home. We’re without anything at this point,” Baillou said. “Who do I turn to? How can I say ‘Hey, I need this’? I don’t even want to think about it. The only thing you can do is stay strong and focused.”
In response to hardships like Baillou’s, Miami Dade College is providing aid to Bahamian students and waiving out-of-state tuition fees for displaced citizens seeking solace in Florida. Individuals seeking financial assistance must present a government-issued Bahamian identification.
“We will accept all students who are interested in enrolling at MDC,” said Kathy Maalouf, vice-provost of student affairs.
Students can register for the fall semester mini term sessions and upcoming spring term. The College contacted nearly 72 current students from The Bahamas to offer financial and academic assistance.
Baillou was contacted on Sept. 4 by MDC. She was given a book stipend for the fall semester, but still pays out-of-state tuition.
“When I went [to the Dean of Students office], I broke down in the office. I know [MDC] is there to support me, but they’re actually concerned about individual students,” Baillou said. “It’s a huge burden off my shoulders.”
MDC’s Foundation allocated $50,000 and raised $7,500 during I AM MDC Day on Sept. 6 to aid the displacement efforts and provide student scholarships. It is not clear how the funds will be allocated because relief efforts are “in the early stages.”
People can donate canned goods, water, first-aid supplies and other small items at donation boxes setup at Student Life locations college-wide. Larger items can be donated at the following locations in Miami:
Miami-Dade County Main Library
101 West Flagler St.
Stephen P. Clark Government Center
111 N.W. 1st St.
Joseph Caleb Center
5400 N.W. 22nd Ave.
Miami-Dade County Office of Emergency Management Warehouse
8008 N.W. 14th St.