Vincy group reaches ‘home stretch’ in Phase I in volcanic relief drive

Verna Arthur, chairperson of SVG Relief USA, Inc. addresses news conference.
Photo by Nelson A. King

Verna Arthur, the chairperson of the Brooklyn-based SVG Relief USA, Inc., the main relief organization that coordinates relief for volcano-ravaged St. Vincent and the Grenadines, says the group has reached the “home stretch” of Phase One with the relief drive.

“It was remarkably successful,” Arthur told Caribbean Life on Sunday, stating that the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center, which was the hub of relief efforts in Brooklyn, is “back to a state of equilibrium.

“Thanks to Vaughan Toney (the president and chief executive officer) for providing the space, and has indicated it is available whenever needed,” she said.

Arthur disclosed that the “remarkable success” of Phase One resulted in the dispatch of nine commercial bins with Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) to address the COVID-19 pandemic in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“This was our first donation prior to the effusive eruption of the La Soufriere Volcano,” she said.

During Phase One, Arthur said four 40-ft containers — with a variety of items, including non-perishable food, personal hygiene kits, medication, infant supplies, female sanitary products, water, cots, clothing, wheelchairs and buckets — were also shipped home.

She said another container of supplies will be shipped soon.

In addition, the relief coordinator said 29 power-washers, 28 hoses, 325 cots, 23 wheelchairs, nine wet vacuum machines, nebulizers, and other medical supplies for each clinic in St. Vincent and the Grenadines — courtesy the Red Cross USA and the United Parcel Services (UPS) — were shipped during Phase One. UPS air-lifted these supplies, Arthur said.

Relief volunteers celebrating with the Vincentian national flag, to Shaggy and Sean Paul’s “I will rise again.” Photo by Nelson A. King

She said donations, including monetary, were received from hospitals, faith-based organizations, small businesses, community leaders, block associations, schools and other individuals.

Arthur said the next phase, Phase Two, was recently kicked off with a fact-finding mission in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“SVG Relief USA, Inc. is committed to transparency and accountability,” she said, stating that the two persons charged with the responsibility to carry out such mission are public relations officer Atiba Williams and member, Garnes Byron.

“The purpose of this mission is to assess the situation following the volcanic eruptions,” added Arthur, disclosing that the team is currently conducting meetings and interviews, and is visiting and assisting in the hard-hit areas.

Additionally, she said the team is compiling a “needs-list” from participating organizations.

“Our organization is the trusted messenger in New York for SVG relief efforts, and we are happy to have established a continued relationship with NEMO (the local National Emergency Management Organization), as well as forging new relationships with SVG Red Cross Association, Lions South, Rotary South and the Salvation Army,” Arthur said.

“The decision to expand our reach and partner with these organizations was an excellent one,” she added. “By doing so, we continue to help NEMO tackle areas other than the shelters and alleviate any extra burden due to limited staff.

“It is heartwarming to receive reports from the organizations (Red Cross, Lions, Rotary and the Salvation) expressing how pleased they are to receive items, and of such quantity,” Arthur continued. “These organizations are doing herculean work, while sacrificing their personal lives and families, to ensure that our brothers and sisters are receiving the much-needed assistance during these challenging times.”

She expressed “tremendous thanks” to volunteers, elected officials, hospitals, faith-based organizations, small businesses, non-profit organizations, community leaders, block associations, schools and other individuals, “who have participated/contributed in one way or the other to ensure that Phase One of our relief drive come to fruition.”

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