Vincentian groups launch fervent relief efforts

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consul General to the US Howie Prince.
Photo by Nelson A. King

As St. Vincent and the Grenadines is experiencing what has been described as “unprecedented circumstances” that have “uprooted the daily lives” of nationals, several Vincentian groups in the Diaspora have sprung to action to aid the homeland.

In this nexus, on Feb. 5, Consul General to the United States, Howie Prince took the initiative in reviving the Brooklyn-based SVG Relief, Inc. with the election of a new executive to spearhead relief activities in the US.

And, on Saturday, “a group of concerned Vincentians scattered across the Diaspora,” calling themselves SVG Disaster Relief Initiative Platform (SVG-DRIP), launched a virtual platform, stating that “our beloved St. Vincent and the Grenadines is currently facing a multi-dimensional crisis — coping with COVID-19, dengue fever and the recent effusive eruption of La Soufriere volcano.”

Prince told Caribbean Life that SVG Relief, Inc. was established in 2013 under the leadership of his predecessor, Selmon Walters, “to mobilize the USA Diaspora to prepare for and to respond to emergencies and disasters in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

At the Feb. 5 general meeting, prominent community activist and leading cultural figure, Verna Arthur, was elected chairperson, with retired registered nurse Celia Bramble serving as vice chairperson; lawyer Narissa Morris as treasurer; Ancilla Friday as secretary; and Atiba Williams as public relations officer.

Prince said SVG Relief, Inc. was “very successful in relief mobilization for disasters in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, including the provision of two 40ft. containers of emergency supplies and US$20,000 consequent on the devastating floods of December 2013.”

In a letter, over the weekend, to Vincentian groups in the US, Arthur noted that “over the years, SVG Relief, Inc. has come to the aid of our brothers and sisters in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in their times of need; and, on every occasion, you responded at a moment’s notice.

“We are once again issuing a clarion call as our homeland is experiencing some unprecedented circumstances, which have uprooted the daily lives of our brothers and sisters,” she said. “Your support is imperative in helping them move forward.

“From every perceivable angle, COVID-19, dengue fever and the effusive eruption of La Soufriere volcano have, undoubtedly, caused major anxiety in SVG,” Arthur added. “The uncertainty of not knowing when things will get back to some sort of normalcy is troubling.

“COVID-19 is challenging to all, but some more than others,” she continued. “Some of you have lost loved ones, and others are unemployed. Yet, despite your personal plights, you still find time to lend a helping hand.

“A thousand thanks are not enough,” Arthur said. “We remain grateful and humble by your kindness and generosity.”

She said that the local National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) has identified a number of items that are currently needed and that her group will be concentrating on the first five, listing them as surgical masks; KN95 masks; personal protective equipment (PPEs); respiratory masks; and cots and mattresses (full and double).

The drop-off point for items in New York is:  Standard Shippers, 950 Ditmas Ave., Brooklyn.

Arthur said SVG Relief, Inc. is also available for the picking up of items, and that community activist O’Brien Simmons (347-446-1827), an executive with the umbrella Vincentian group in the US, Brooklyn-based Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), should be contacted in this regard.

“The Vincentian community has already been mobilized to support our efforts,” Arthur told Caribbean Life on Monday. “Many have already responded and contributed to the cause.”

She said the target date for dispatching the first set of relief items is early March, stressing that “it is important we begin shipping items very soon.

“This effort is an ongoing process until we have satisfied our commitment to NEMO,” Arthur said.

As for SVG-DRIP, coordinator Sherrill-Ann Mason-Haywood said in a statement that it is “a dynamic platform designed to bring together Vincentians across the globe to rally around collective initiatives that increase the impact and reach of localized efforts to support SVG before and after major disasters and crises.”

She said the goal is “to leverage available technology to bring key stakeholders throughout the Vincentian Diaspora together to devise, collaborate and implement major joint initiatives to supplement disaster preparedness and relief efforts in SVG.”

“Through constructive dialogue and cooperation,” Mason-Haywood said SVG-DRIP has “now mobilized persons and groups throughout the Diaspora in the USA, United Kingdom, Canada, US Virgin Islands and St. Maarten to work together to kick-start a major, joint relief initiative.”

The initiative was launched on the virtual platform of VC3 television in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and on all other major social media platforms.

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