While death from the Coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to ravage the New York community of Barbadians and put their businesses into a tailspin, there are emerging outstanding ones who are either volunteering their time or showing patience and understanding in challenged enterprises.
Barbados Counsel General in New York, Mackie Holder, told Caribbean Life that as of Tuesday there were 40 confirmed Bajan deaths from COVID-19.
“It is likely the figure is more, once we verify other reports. And as we obviously would not have all reports,” he said.
While the fatality figure for Barbadians in New York is edging up to the 50 mark, other Bajan-New Yorkers are offering services for both the dead and living in these daunting circumstances.
For instance there is Barbadian undertaker who struggles to accommodate family requests to store and bury their dead relatives.
“I am asking my Bajan and Caribbean clients to be patient. … I have had to turn down families because I have no place to put their loved ones. Right now, I have several people waiting for word about the burial of their relatives and friends,” the Barbados Nation newspaper reported Steven LeGall, a Brooklyn funeral director saying.
The founder of the funeral service that bears his name explained, “I have to wait until today to get a date to take bodies next week to be cremated. I took five bodies already this week. I can only take five at a time for next week.”
Speaking to the newspaper in mid-April he said, “as for cemeteries, they are giving funeral homes a date in May to bury the loved ones of families. It is really disheartening. You want to provide the services, but you do not want it this way. …Families are suffering.”
“I don’t have any place to put people. Still, I must try and help the families who turn to me. My capacity is 25 bodies, but I already have 50 in storage.”
While LeGall struggles to keep up with demand, another Bajan-New Yorker, an entrepreneur, has no business now.
Sandra Went runs a jewellery enterprise, L.S. Lapidary / LaFrantz in Manhattan, and is lamenting the lack of relevance of her business that had to be closed in March because it falls among the non-essential services amid this COVID-19 pandemic.
“Jewellery is different from key necessities of life — food and shelter — so we come lower down the chain of needs and expenditure,” she pointed out to the Nation newspaper that has been reporting on the status of Barbadians abroad in this pandemic.
For this jewellery designer who deals in diamonds, gold, pearls and other precious metals the forced closure could not have come at a worse time.
“It is the season for school graduations and plans for June weddings and families have ordered jewellery for these important occasions.”
On the other side of the spectrum falls retired New York detective Dr. Judy Newton who is volunteering her services to her community of Flatbush by working at food pantries.
Newton served as an officer for 28 years then retired in 2012.
Helping out at food pantries increases her contact with Barbadians, mostly unemployed.
She said that like many other Americans, many Bajan-New Yorkers are yet to receive the financial assistance promised by the federal government.
“They are under a lot of stress because of the daily contact and risk of infection and the possibility that they may bring infection back to their loved ones or Barbados.
“I know about 12 Bajans, including family members, who passed away from COVID-19 and there are at least 26-plus of Bajan heritage who have died.”
In taking pantry meals to persons the 61-year-old gets a close-up view people’s circumstances in this pandemic and even offer advice.
“One family that I delivered food to is happy that there are proposed testing centres in some of the complexes. I asked them to call the hotline number to inquire where the testing site locations exist. I also informed individuals who need assistance with food that they are numbers to call for meal delivery.”