Members of the Sri Sathya Sai Baba Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago were yesterday morning nearing completion of 27 pre-fabricated houses at Orange Hill to be occupied by families whose homes have been deemed to be in danger of lahars, in north-eastern communities of the volcanic red zone.
The group of 56 volunteers battled the weekend rain and heat working well into the night and starting again early next morning to ensure that their labour of love was completed in the brief time they have in this country. When SEARCHLIGHT visited the building site on Monday morning, six houses remained to be erected.
The homes are a gift from the Organisatin which is a non-profit with humanitarian goals and objectives, with the full support of the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines(SVG).
Satnarine Paladee, a spokesman for the Organisation said following the explosive eruptions of La Soufriere volcano in April, “we decided to assist. Once we see a natural disaster that the people themselves could not get away from, we try our best to react to it, to serve the people with the greatest need.
“The Government of St. Vincent [and the Grenadines] only had to come into play because of the COVID restrictions. Because of that we had to create what you would call a working quarantine bubble, different things, and they were very, very helpful in everything that we asked for. Responding immediately, showing that they understood what we were about, service and service with love,”Paladee added.
“We made it very clear to the Government here that these homes should be given to the persons who are affected by this disaster, this volcano eruption,”Paladee told SEARCHLIGHT last Friday when work began erecting the houses.
He said the workers are drawn from all ethnic, and religious groups in Trinidad and Tobago who volunteered their time and left their families “to come here to serve, to serve the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines with as much love as we can. When we came here and felt the energy of the people, we felt that this is the right place to serve like this.”
The Sai Baba Organisation has been providing this type of humanitarian assistance since 2004 and has erected homes in Grenada following the passage of Hurricane Ivan, in Dominica following destruction by Hurricane Maria and in Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.
He explained that all the metal pre-fabrication work is done by the team, but having learnt a valuable lesson in Dominica when the assembled metal frames that were shipped in crates became warped creating problems, the assembling is being done in SVG.
The steel frames are mounted on concrete foundations and Paladee said they have provided added coating as a barrier against sea blast.
The homes are erected “using some of the latest building technology” and are fire-proof, hurricane resistant and also resistant to earthquakes and termites.
Paladee refrained from giving a dollar value for the houses noting that, “While the dollar value is important, it is secondary to the love that we can generate by being here. We are more about generating love, letting the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines know that though they experienced hardships during and after the eruptions, the God that they pray to, the God that we all pray to, have not forgotten them”.
He added that all the intended residents have to do “is move in with their clothes and utensils. In every home there would be beds, mattress, pillows, and kitchen cupboards and wardrobes. They will be getting a home they can just walk into and begin to enjoy a better material life.”
These pre-fabricated homes are the first to be constructed; a further 40 concrete two and three bedroom houses are to be built to accomodate displaced residents who cannot return to their former places of residence due to the potential danger from lahars and flooding.