Vincentians and other Caribbean nationals in New York over the weekend rallied around St. Vincent and the Grenadines in its plea for urgent aid amid continuing explosive eruptions of La Soufrière volcano.
Hundreds answered the call, bringing relief supplies and assisting in the packing of boxes, barrels and crates, on Saturday and Sunday, at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center, 671 Prospect Pl., Brooklyn.
“I got a little teary-eyed when I entered FOCH (Friends of Crown Heights),” Verna Arthur, chairperson of the Brooklyn-based SVG Relief USA, Inc., organizer of the massive relief drive, told Caribbean Life. “It was very heart-warming.
“It’s expected that Vincentians would respond to our country’s clarion call, because that’s what we do without hesitation, but the outpouring of support of our Caribbean brothers and sisters, and other countries, is astounding,” she added. “Vincentians are very resilient, and we are in this for the long haul. And when this volcano goes to sleep, we will ‘Lift SVG Higher.’
“On behalf of SVG Relief USA, Inc., thanks to all who have contributed thus far, and thanks to our volunteers,” Arthur continued. “Without you, this drive would not have come to fruition. And to the members of SVG Relief USA Inc., you rock.”
Lennox Joslyn — chairman of the Fundraising Committee of the Brooklyn-based Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, USA, Inc. (COSAGO), the umbrella Vincentian group in the US, an affiliate of SVG Relief USA, Inc. — also told Caribbean Life that he was blown away by the outpouring of support.
“Tremendous turnout!” said Joslyn, a Queens resident. “The strongest support that a Vincy committee in New York has seen over the years.
“I love this coming together,” he added. “It’s a wonderful experience, and I wish we can do this all the time.”
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, and Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, were also on hand.
“We all have a responsibility to lift each other up in times of disaster — to do what we can, with what we have, for people and communities in need,” Williams told Caribbean Life afterwards.
“I urge my fellow Caribbeans, my fellow New Yorkers, to join me in helping to support the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, to get them crucial funding and supplies, as they face the compounding crises of a natural disaster and the ongoing pandemic,” he added.
The Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Progressive Organization of New York, Inc. (SPOONY), the New York arm of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, also urged nationals to chip in in the massive relief effort.
“SPOONY is one of several organizations of Vincentian origin collecting donations to be sent to the island,” said SPOONY president Stephen “Scombo” John, a former unsuccessful electoral candidate in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in an appeal to supporters and friends.
“One hundred percent of our collections would be sent to help relieve the pain and suffer of our brothers and sisters,” he added. “If you are able, we ask that you join us in this effort.”
John said his group was expected to collect on Saturday toiletries, blankets, sheets, clothing and monetary donations at Café Omar, a lounge, on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn, owned by Vincentian podiatrist Dr. Kendall Stewart.
The Orlando-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Central Florida Organization (SVGCFO) has also asked nationals in the area to help in the massive relief effort.
The group organized a Volcano Relief Disaster Drive on Friday, April 16, and Saturday, April 17.
According to public relations officer Lydia Daniel, the group is accepting cash donations, as well as food, bed sheets, towels, toiletries, mask, kids items (pampers, baby food, wipes), cough, flu, allergy medicine, cots, portable potties, blankets, and goggles, among other items.
The Lions of District 20-K, which comprises clubs in Brooklyn and Queens, is also conducting a relief effort to aid victims of La Soufrière volcanic eruptions in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
According to Second Vice District Governor Lion Ingrid Andrews-Campbell, a Vincentian national residing in Brooklyn, the Lions will be donating non-perishable food, pampers, diabetic supplies, hygiene kits, hand sanitizers, gloves, toilet tissues, paper towels, cleaning supplies, masks and water, among other items.
Andrews-Campbell told Caribbean Life that she will be coordinating “this continuous effort” on behalf of District Governor Jackie Phillips from the Lions of Brooklyn and Queens.
Andrews-Campbell said she will also work closely in this initiative with Junior Bacchus, local coordinator of Lions of SVG Disaster Response.
“Working together with local Lions and Lion leaders, we assess urgent needs and quickly deliver aid to disaster victims,” she said. “Lions know that a disaster can affect anyone’s community, whether it’s halfway around the world or right at home.
“After immediate needs are met, victims of disasters are not forgotten,” she added. “We remain committed to the important process of rebuilding homes and lives, often long after a disaster occurs.”
Brooklyn Borough President and New York City Mayoral Candidate Eric Adams has joined the Caribbean community in New York in offering, and appealing for, assistance to volcano-ravaged St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
On a rainy, dreary afternoon two Sundays ago, Adams joined Prince and a group of Brooklyn-based Vincentian community organizers in appealing for desperately-needed aid.
“The Caribbean community has been there for us time and time again, including many of our frontline workers,” Adams told Caribbean Life afterwards. “We need to be there for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in their time of need.
“I encourage all Brooklynites to drop off donated supplies at Friends of Crown Heights, at 671 Prospect Place, or contact the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consulate at (212) 687-4490 to make a monetary donation. “We will get through this together.”
Dr. Judith D. Newton, a Barbadian-born candidate for the 46th Council District seat in Brooklyn and president of the Newton Foundation, named after she and her husband, said “this is the time for our local, national and international community to engage in effective communication and collectively identify priority items needed for use by Vincentians to help them recover and go about their daily lives.
As a first responder, Newton, a retired New York Police Department (NYPD) detective, told Caribbean Life that her “heart goes out to all Vincentians and Caribbean nations that are affected.
“I wholeheartedly pledge my support, am ready to travel to the troubled zone to assist with item distribution, and will donate to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in this time of need,” she said, urging “all elected officials to join together for the common good and advocate for (New York) Governor (Andrew) Cuomo to move the needle and help us get those necessary supplies to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ New York Consul General Howie Prince gave “a loud thank you to everyone for your various contributions to making last weekend’s mobilization efforts (at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center) a resounding success.
“All of your work, efforts, advocacy and contributions are noted with thanks,” he said. “Special thanks to SVG Relief USA, Inc., COSAGO and all individuals and groups for helping us. Special applause to (Brooklyn-based) SVGDRIP for rising to the occasion as our information clearing house.”
Prince disclosed that a 40ft.-container was filled from the weekend’s initiative, “which has been moved by Standard Shippers for onwards trans-shipment to SVG.”
He said a second “40-footer” is now in place to be filled, and will be shipped, at no cost, by the Brooklyn-based Square Deal Shippers and Movers.
“I am reliably informed that the supplies on hand at Friends of Crown Heights will fill two 40ft.-containers,” added Prince, stating that Carl Munro, owner of Standard Caribbean Shippers in Brooklyn, has donated “free shipping for the third container.”