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St. Vincent volcano eruption hits close to home for Ladner family

Tobys spend their time between here and Caribbean Island

Paula Toby is in Ladner, but her heart is about 7,000 km away in the Caribbean.

Toby’s husband is currently living in St. Vincent that is dealing with the eruption of La Soufriere on the northern tip of the island. The volcano had been dormant since 1979 and started showing signs of activity in December. That was right about the time Toby and her two school-age children were planning to move back to St. Vincent.

“My husband moved here in 2006, went to school here and started a business here. We were very much settled and making a life here,” explained Toby. “We had a catering business that basically meant working unsociable hours. An opportunity presented itself for us to go back where his family roots were. Me and the children spend several months there and several months here, so we are kind of in between.

“With COVID our stay here ended up being in a lot longer. At Christmas time we were going to go back for couple of months then the volcano started showing some activity.”

The eruption has resulted in about 16,000 residents being evacuated and forced to live in emergency shelters such as schools and churches. The added challenge is the natural disaster is taking place amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Toby’s rented home fortunately is at the southern end of the island, about two hours away from La Soufriere. However, the volcanic ash has impacted the entire island and scientists are saying the eruptions could continue for weeks.

“It’s harvest season right now and all the crops are devastated by the weight of ash with fruit trees snapping,” continued Toby. “What people are seeing on TV is the volcano erupting. What they are not showing is the entire island is covered in sulphuric ash. It’s weighing down power lines and water sources are contaminated.”

Toby’s husband Magavon is involved in the humanitarian efforts that includes delivering water to remote villages. He has also spent about $2,000 of his own money on basic food supplies.

Toby is doing what she can here.

Her kids are both in Grade 1 at Nielson Grove Elementary and a St. Vincent awareness campaign has been launched in their classes. It will also be brought to parents’ attention through the school newsletter that will provide a link for donations through a Toronto-based non-profit organization.

“My two children will share some of their St. Vincent experience from a volcano perspective. I will also be providing some images of the devastation and how it affects the livelihood and quality of life there,” Toby added. “Global Medic is a Canadian registered charity that is putting together basic and hygienic needs.

“People that don’t even have much there are doing whatever they can to help. It’s a real humanitarian attempt to help preserve some quality life for people. Every little bit helps.”

Donations for St. Vincent emergency aid can be made through the Global Medic website.