The Ministry of National Mobilization, Social Development, The Family, Gender, Youth, Housing, and Informal Settlements in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) says it is “grateful for the grand gesture” provided by the Brooklyn-based SVG Relief USA, Inc. during the country’s “most difficult period”, especially during the explosive eruptions of La Soufriere Volcano in 2021.
In a letter personally delivered to SVG Relief USA, Inc. on Friday, during an extraordinary meeting, at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn, the minister responsible for the above portfolios, Dr. Orando L. Brewster, said that the Government for Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines were “pleased” to have received a large number of items and monetary contributions from the group since its establishment in 2013 and after its name change in 2021.
Dr. Brewster said, in the letter, that, in 2013, SVG Relief USA, Inc. dispatched to St. Vincent and the Grenadines two 40-ft. containers filled with relief supplies and a donation of US$20,000.00.
In 2021, in phase one of the relief effort after La Soufriere volcanic eruptions, the minister said the group sent nine commercial bins with personal protective equipment (PPEs); four 40-ft. containers with personal effects for affected families; and a shipment of 29 power washers, 28 hoses, 325 cots, 23 wheelchairs, nine wet vacuum machines, nebulizers and other supplies.
Last year, Dr. Brewster said SVG Relief USA, Inc. donated 27 “brand new” refrigerators to 27 homeowners, in the North Windward area on mainland St. Vincent, who lost their homes due to the volcanic eruptions.
“The ministry responsible for social development and housing is, therefore, grateful for the efforts to date and looks forward for your continued support,” he said in his letter to the group. “Our government and people are, indeed, grateful.”
Dr. Brewster reiterated his government’s gratitude during Friday’s meeting, which included top SVG Relief USA, Inc. executives and rank-and-file members, as well as newly-appointed Ambassador-at-Large Vaughan Toney, a member of the group and president and chief executive officer of the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Centers; and Consul Olson Dallaway at the Manhattan-based Consulate General of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the United States. Consul General Rondy “Luta” McIntosh was, at the time, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for a Garifuna Homecoming exercise.
“It’s important, referring to the Book of Luke,” Brewster said. “After all 10 lepers were healed by Jesus, it’s important to say thank you.”
He, however, said that the country has not fully recovered, stating: “We’re not out of the woods yet; we still have persons in apartments.
“We’re still facing housing (issues),” added the minister, disclosing that the government expects a shipment of pre-fabricated houses from Guyana in April.
“So, it’s important when organizations, such as yours, can come on board,” continued Dr. Brewster before presenting the group with a plaque for its relief efforts. “I know your heart is still in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“I want, on behalf of the Government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to say a heartfelt thank you; the Government and Cabinet, a heartfelt thank you,” he said. “The prime minister sends his love and his appreciation.”
In response, Verna Arthur, chair of SVG Relief USA, Inc., said: “We want to thank you so much.
“We really, really appreciate you so much for the work you have done,” she added.
Later, Arthur told Caribbean Life that her group wholeheartedly welcomed Dr. Brewster, as he extended “sincere appreciation on behalf of his ministry and the prime minister to SVG Relief USA, Inc., and volunteers for the herculean work undertaken via our relief drive, in order to assist our brothers and sisters in SVG, as they grappled with the recent multi-dimensional threats: Dengue Fever, COVID-19 pandemic and the 32 eruptions of La Soufriere Volcano.”
Arthur, a prominent Vincentian cultural figure in Brooklyn, said the 2013 Christmas Flood in SVG was “the impetus” for the formation of the then SVG Community Committee, stating that the relief drive conducted by this committee resulted in the dispatch of two 40-ft containers of relief supplies and a donation of US$20,000.00 to SVG.
She said several Caribbean countries, which faced similar disasters, also benefited from “the generosity and expertise” of the SVG Community, when the committee “mobilized and gathered relief supplies for their countries.”
Arthur said that, in February 2021, SVG Community Committee was “morphed” into SVG Relief USA, Inc., a not-for-profit organization established in response to a “clarion call” from the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) “on behalf of our brothers and sisters in SVG, as they grappled with the multi-dimensional threats of the Dengue Fever, COVID-19 pandemic and the eruptions of the La Soufriere Volcano.”
As a result of these challenges, she said NEMO forwarded a list of “needed critical items” to the organization.
“Vincentians in the Diaspora were mobilized and responded to the call,” Arthur said. “Our much-needed donations and volunteers were also some of our Caribbean brothers and sisters, and Americans.
“The eruptions of La Soufriere Volcano were a disaster of great magnitude, and, undoubtedly required all hands-on-deck,” she added. “It is for that reason we expanded our reach and fostered new relationships with SVG Red Cross, Lions South, Rotary South and the Salvation Army. By doing so, we continued to help NEMO tackle areas other than the shelters, and helped to alleviate any extra burden due to their limited staff.”
Arthur said SVG Relief USA, Inc.’s subsequent Fact-Finding Mission resulted in several meetings with stakeholders and “tremendous assistance” to NEMO, SVG Red Cross, Lions South, Rotary South and the Salvation Army.
“Our relief drive was a resounding success,” she said, thanks in part to the Brooklyn-based Vincentian shipping companies Square Deal Shippers and Movers, Standard Caribbean Shipping and Standard Shippers, as well as United Parcel Service (UPS), US Red Cross, volunteers, hospitals, faith-based organizations, small businesses, community leaders, block associations, schools and other individuals.
“This entire assignment was a labor of love for everyone involved,” Arthur added. “The only question asked was: ‘How can I help?’ I am here to work.”