Vincentians in the United States on Sunday displayed their true patriotism by lending a helping hand, when most needed, and by providing much-needed relief to nationals affected by the recent storms at home.
Heeding a fervent appeal by New York Consul General Howie Prince, who also chairs the Brooklyn-based SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) Relief, Inc., nationals converged on the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn to offer support, and to provide funds and supplies.
They brought, among other things, food items, toiletries, clothing and shoes to fill barrels and boxes; and wrote checks to SVG Relief, Inc., which organized the event in conjunction with the Garifuna Indigenous People of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, also based in Brooklyn.
Most members hail from Sandy Bay and other areas north of the Rabacca Dry River, which were mostly affected by the Trough system that impacted the country in recent weeks.
Marsena Ballantyne, the group’s Sandy Bay-born president, told Caribbean Life that her group had already shipped eight barrels of supplies, compliments the Brooklyn-based Standard Shippers, owned by Biabou native Gideon “Fessy” York, to help provide relief to residents.
She expects the barrels to arrive home by Dec. 23 — in time for Christmas.
“We’re doing this right up to the end of December,” said Ballantyne, a Councillor at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Mission to the United Nations, as she sorted items to be shipped home. “We appreciate the overall response. Words cannot express how I feel.”
Nearby, Laverne McDowald-Thompson, president of the Brooklyn-based umbrella Vincentian group in the United States, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc., said she was happy that nationals responded well to the appeal.
“I feel very good that there is good participation in this,” said the former Chateaubelair Methodist School teacher, who is also a member of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Relief Committee, Inc., as she, too, sorted supplies.
“We’re so touched by the situation, and I just feel this is what I can do to help our people,” she added. “You feel good that, when things like this happen, it brings out our people. We’re doing this to show them [storm victims] that others are thinking about them.”
McDowald-Thompson said she was also very pleased that Vincentian organizations in the U.S. did not hesitate in responding to the appeal.
“We can only to do this together,” she stressed.
In brief remarks to nationals Sunday afternoon, as they assisted in the relief effort, Prince, the former head of the National Emergency Management Organization, disclosed that the group VincyCares had solicited $1,200.00 from patrons the night before, at its annual Dinner-Dance and Awards Ceremony, at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center.
He described as “tremendous” the support of nationals in aiding the relief effort, adding that there is “still a window” to donate relief items.
Three executive members of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Association of Washington, D.C. also trekked from the nation’s capital on Sunday to turn over supplies gathered during the group’s drive earlier in the week.
President Lennox Simon, a lawyer, told Caribbean Life that he, Vice President Leonard Crichton, and Albie Crick, chair of the educational programs, packed the donated items in a Sports Utility Vehicle and took the five-hour journey to Brooklyn in the bitterly cold and snow-threatening weather.
“This was a hectic weekend for SVGNA members; however, it was for a worthy cause, since charity begins at home,” said Simon, stating that supplies handed over included canned and non-perishable goods; sterile baby materials — diapers and bottles, etc.; adult and children’s clothing; toiletries; and household items – pots, pans, plates, etc.
In an e-mail message to nationals on Dec. 1, Prince said the country “has again been adversely impacted by a series of floods, consequent on the passing of low level troughs,” warning that “the situation is bad.”
Extensive flooding in the northern parts of the country, with North Windward the hardest hit, he reported.
“Things are particularly bad in Sandy Bay, where 118 persons are in shelter at the Sandy Bay Primary School,” Prince said “Eight of these families lost everything, including house and household items.”
The New York Consul General also reported that 50 persons were in a shelter at the Rose Bank Community Center; 11 persons were in a shelter at the Spring Village Community Center; three bridges were destroyed in Sandy Bay; and eight bridges in total were “severely impacted in the country.”
“There is significant road network damage, which could run in the tens of millions of dollars,” Prince said.
Donnette Lewis who hails from Sandy Bay, told Caribbean Life, as she, too, sorted relief supplies Sunday, that it was “a tremendous feeling to see everyone — all the organizations, along with the Consul General — coming together to help with the trough system and the families above the Dry River, as well as other areas affected.”
Going forward, Ballantyne said nationals in the New York metropolitan area can drop off relief supplies at 5218 Church Ave. between East 52nd and 53rd Streets, in Brooklyn.