As the popular Internet-based group VincyCares, Inc. recently held its gala 6th Annual Dinner / Dance and Awards Ceremony in Brooklyn, its role in making a significant difference in the lives of needy Vincentian students was put into better focus.
The group, which is only six years old, showed slides and featured the progression of students, who, over the years, have benefited from the Victoria Sutherland Scholarship Fund.
The fund was established to “assist less fortunate children who exhibit potential in academics, sports or the arts, but face financial challenges that may prevent them from achieving a secondary education,” said VincyCares, Inc. in a statement in the souvenir journal that was distributed to patrons at the sell-out event at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center.
The fund is named after one of the scholarship recipients, Victoria Sutherland, who, by a “chance meeting,” on Back Street in Kingstown, the Vincentian capital, six years ago, by Dahlia-Ann Howard-Lewis, prompted Howard-Lewis and Kenley “Shortmus” John, the group’s former president, to form VincyCares, Inc.
Sutherland, then 11 years old, was living with her grandmother and had travelled from the north eastern village of Sandy Bay to sell sorrel, at about 7 am one Friday morning, to make ends meet for her impecunious family.
Since its formation in November 2009, VincyCares, Inc. — which is currently led by the Brooklyn-based community advocate, graphic artiste and restauranteur Franklyn “Supadex” Richards — has facilitated nine scholarships for secondary school children in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The group has, among other things, also provided school supplies, collected at fundraising drives in Brooklyn, to all 59 elementary schools in the nation.
“On behalf of the children of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we extend sincere thanks and appreciation for your continued help throughout our six-year existence,” Richards said. “Thanks for helping us to distribute school supplies island-wide three times; thanks for allowing us to sponsor nine active full-time scholarships; thanks for helping us to provide the mentorships possible to ensure that these children succeed.
“We also say thanks to all of the private donors of scholarship who see it in their hearts the need to help, to change the life of a child in need,” he added.
“Thanks to the businesses which reached out in the past, and continue to reach out to us — whether in the form of donations or taking ads in our yearly journal. We say thank you.
“As we work in harmony to make this world a better place for our children, I pray that our hearts be open; and whatever positive energy we can generate, may, hopefully, create a spark that can lit the fire that will burn out the negative energies of our generation and replace it with love,” Richards continued.
He said his group hopes to award additional scholarships in forthcoming years from fund-raising events and from “generous supporters” in the Diaspora.
On Nov. 2, the nine scholarship recipients met with VincyCares, Inc.’s Kingstown-based board member Howard-Lewis, who received an update on their progress at school.
VincyCares, Inc. said the event, held at the Methodist Church Hall, “allowed the children the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation” with Howard-Lewis, “who keeps a close tab on their progress and works with their parents to address any potential concerns.”
Howard-Lewis said she was “extremely proud and encouraged” by the contribution VincyCares, Inc. continues to make in nation-building.
“As I watch our children mature, I often wonder what life would have been for many of them and their families if it had not been for VincyCares, Inc., and, by extension, all of you,” she said.
“I firmly believe that this organization came into being specifically for the purpose we continue to pursue,” she added. “When our children get together, it is as if they were meant to be with each other.
“They have so much in common, and we are now seeing the older ones encouraging and supporting the younger ones, as if they were their own brothers and sisters,” Howard-Lewis continued.
This year, VincyCares, Inc. awarded scholarships to two additional recipients, Mary Ann Woods and Rosique Toney.
Woods, who attended the Pamelus Burke Primary School, entered the Girls High School in September.
Toney, who entered the Thomas Saunders Secondary School, also in September, came from the Richland Park Primary School.
Other scholarship recipients: Phileen Cambridge, formerly of the Petersville Primary School, is a Form 2 student at the Girls High School. Her donor is Vince Matthews. Giovanni Lewis is in Form 3 at the Boys Grammar School. His primary school was the Bequia Anglican. Rickeisha Glasgow is a Form 3 student at the Girls High School. Her primary school was the Calliaqua Anglican, and her donor is Anita Botti.
Gail Ann Pierre is a Form 4 student at the St. Joseph’s Convent Kingstown. Her primary school was St. Mary’s Roman Catholic; donor is Sara Toyloy.
Tyricia Samuel is a Form 4 student at the Girls High School, who had attended the Chateaubelair Methodist School. Nieasha Richards, originally from the Belair Government School, is currently a Form 4 student at the Girls High School.
A former Sandy Bay Primary School student, Sutherland currently attends the Georgetown Technical Institute.
“I am extremely excited to be reporting that our Victoria is doing great,” Howard-Lewis said. “I must admit that, a year ago, I was becoming worried about Victoria. Well, what a difference a year makes!”
She said Sutherland is now pursuing a course in food and nutrition, and food preparation.
“By all indications, Victoria has found her passion,” Howard-Lewis said.