A Putney man is helping people in Haiti who have lost their homes and belongings after the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma.

Guylee Simmonds, 26, from Chartfield Avenue, has been in the Caribbean for the last year working with Bromley charity Hope Health Action (HHA) to help provide assistance for any potential emergency responses needed.

Hurricane Irma has now moved from Haiti and into Florida, in the United States, however Mr Simmonds is supporting local builders in building suitable infrastructure to protect against natural disasters as well as conduct needs assessment at local hospitals for outpatient care.

Asked about the current mood in Haiti, he said: “It is almost a bit strange considering the panic and the worry that exists as Hurricane Irma approached.

“It has gone back to normal and all of our outpatient care has resumed. It is almost as though there wasn’t a hurricane last week, which is actually quite concerning because the vulnerability of Haiti is very great and people really were not prepared.

The qualified architect said people are not as aware of the damage done given media coverage is not as broad as it could be. However, residents have lost their homes and belongings due to flooding, particularly in “lower-lying areas”.

Wandsworth Guardian:

Guylee Simmonds. Photo: Hope Health Action

He added: “In Cap-Haïtien, where HHA is based, the poorest areas are built on essentially on rubbished piles next to the area and they are particularly susceptible to storm surges and flooding damage.

“There is already a high risk of waterborne disease which only increases in periods of high flooding, but I think generally the atmosphere has been back to normal and worrying about the catalogue of natural disasters in Haiti has been affected by.

“When the day-to-day life is already a struggle for Haitians, with so many people living below the poverty line and being strategic, preparing for a future disaster is not a privilege that people here have.”

Guylee has helped assess short- and long-term threats of Hurricane Irma, including limited food supplies, vulnerable building infrastructures and potential diseases and illnesses.

He has also worked with medical professionals and taught builders about how to build better and safer constructions.

Wandsworth Guardian:

Some of the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma

A “real positive”, he says, is that the logistics department at the hospital is taking control as the charity’s mission is equip and empower residents to be more effective in their jobs.

Mr Simmonds added: “In the wider community, positive mind sets from people who have lost a lot and the smile that you get from people even when they are suffering so much is quite hard for us to comprehend and very humbling.”

However, low points include the “real fear of what the hurricane could have done if we would have had a direct hit”.

Wandsworth Guardian:

Builders are now trying to construct safer and more stable infrastructures. Photo: Hope Health Action

The 26-year-old said: “That fear is ongoing because we worry about what the next storm will bring and storms in future years, as well as other natural disasters, and the damage they can cause in a country which is so underequipped to respond.”

Hope Health Action has been working in Haiti for the past ten years, helping to found a 110-bed facility which cares for more than 20,000 patients and supports 260 Haitian staff in Cap-Haïtien.

To find out more, visit: www.hopehealthaction.org.