NY Vincy relief group halts pickup, drop off of volcanic relief supplies

SVG Consul General to New York, Howie Prince addresses press conference.
Photo by Nelson A. King

After spending the last five weeks sorting, packing and shipping relief supplies for volcano-ravaged St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Brooklyn-based SVG Relief USA, Inc. on Saturday announced that it was halting pick-up and drop off operations from the main hub at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center.

“As of today, May 22, 2021, we are putting an official pause on the pickup/drop off of our relief efforts,” Verna Arthur, SVG Relief USA, Inc. chairperson, told a press conference at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center, flanked by executive members and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consul General to the United States, Howie Prince.

“We are, however, receiving and continue to encourage monetary donations to help us fund the clean-up/recovery efforts, which is monumental,” added Arthur at the press conference attended also by many volunteers adorned in identical T-shirts.

She said SVG Relief USA, Inc. “continues to respond robustly to the clarion call from our brothers and sisters.

“Our members and volunteers continue without hesitation to help SVG comb through its way from the ashes,” Arthur said. “The positive energy exuding from our members and volunteers is, indeed, heartwarming and permeates FOCH (Friends of Crown Heights) every weekend, plus the one weekday selected for this enormous task.”

Relief volunteers celebrate, with the Vincentian national flag, to Shaggy and Sean Paul’s ‘I will rise again.’ Photo by Nelson A. King

As a result, she said her group has shipped nine commercial bins and three 40-foot containers of supplies to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and that it currently has enough items at Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center, the principal relief site in Brooklyn, to fill two more containers.

Though the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the official organization with which SVG Relief USA, Inc. is working with, Arthur said her group is also sending relief items to the local Red Cross, Salvation Army, and the Lions and Rotary clubs.

“Moving forward, we intend to ramp up our communications with NEMO and other institutions, which sit at the table with NEMO, as it relates to relief efforts,” she said, disclosing that representatives from SVG Relief USA, Inc. will soon be heading to St. Vincent and the Grenadines to meet with NEMO and other officials to assess the situation on the ground, assist with distribution of supplies and conduct other needed activities.

“We also plan on conducting fundraising events, in continuation of our St. Vincent and the Grenadines commitment, including the purchasing of high-ticket items, as needed, for the clean-up/recovery efforts,” Arthur added. “SVG Relief USA, Inc. is the trusted messenger in New York for the relief efforts of SVG. We are in this for the long haul, and will continue to help our brothers and sisters through these difficult times. We are our ‘brothers’ keepers’; and, yes, SVG will rise again!”

The relief group’s chairperson thanked the volunteers, including some Caribbean nationals, “for giving up five weekends and over five weekdays to ensure that relief items were prepared and sent to SVG.”

To date, she said St. Vincent and the Grenadines has experienced about 37 eruptions from the La Soufriere volcano, stating that “the damages and uncertainty of continued destruction are very troubling to say the least.”

Prince said “yeoman service,” in the wake of the volcanic eruptions, could not have taken place without the establishment of partnerships, pointing out that they began with the revival of SVG Relief USA, Inc.

SVG Consul General to New York, Howie Prince presents a gift to Jamaican volunteer, Patricia Matthews. Photo by Nelson A. King

He identified, among other main partners/players, the Brooklyn-based umbrella Vincentian group in the United States, Council of St Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations in the USA, Inc. (COSAGO); the Brooklyn-based SVG DRIP; the CARICOM Consular Corp and Caribbean organizations in the US; faith-based organizations; Friends of Crown Height Educational Center; the Brooklyn-based Vincentian-owned shipping companies, Standard Shippers, Square Deal Shippers and Standard Caribbean Shippers; Alliance of the New York Mayor’s Office; American Red Cross; and United Postal Service (UPS), which was expected on Monday to begin airlifting relief supplies to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“We’re a people who take humanitarian work at heart, and we don’t hesitate to get the work done,” said Laverne McDowald-Thompson, COSAGO president, while also thanking dozens of volunteers.

Sherrill-Ann Mason-Haywood, SVGDRIP coordinator, said the new alliance of Vincentians and organizations across the globe — primarily in the United Kingdom, Canada, US and the Caribbean — seeks “to bring entities together to dialogue, share and collaborate to better coordinate the efforts to support SVG.

“We are proud of the collective efforts of our partners, who together have already shipped over 20 40ft/20ft containers of relief to SVG, with others still to be shipped,” she told the press conference. “The value of these items will value in the millions of dollars.”

With phase one completed, Mason-Haywood said partners have pivoted their attention to more medium-term support to focus on cleanup; psycho-social and emotional needs of the people; and on rebuilding lives and livelihoods.

“This has been the ‘mother’ of all relief efforts,” said Atiba Williams, public relations officer of SVG Relief USA, Inc., who with assistant public relations officer, Garnes Byron, will be travelling to St. Vincent and the Grenadines shortly to assist, among other things, with relief operations there. “It’s something that we never experienced before.”

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