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Seven shelters still operational as government tackles obstacles

Seven shelters still operational as government tackles obstacles
Shelter manager at the Buccament Golden Years Centre Ann Jones (right) in conversation with Ambassador of Japan to CARICOM Tatsuo Hirayama (centre, left), Jan-Willem Wegdam of The International Organisation for Migration (extreme left) and another official

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Despite the efforts of the Government to have all evacuees out of shelters by now, it has not been able to do so and seven emergency shelters are still in operation.

Seven shelters still operational as government tackles obstacles
Frankie Cropper (left), one of the residents of the Buccament Golden Years Centre with Ambassador of Japan to CARICOM, Tatsuo Hirayama

These shelters are the Rillan Hill Community Centre, the Questelles Learning Resource Centre, Marriaqua Learning Resource Centre, Golden Years Activity Centre at Buccament, the Doris Mc Kie Learning Resource Centre at Upper Canehall, as well as Learning Resource Centres at North Union and the Biabou, which altogether house 97 persons.

An upswing in construction activities in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), is said to be among the factors contributing to the delay in resettling evacuees who have been in shelters since April 8, 2021one day before La Soufriere Volcano began erupting explosively.

The shelter manager at the Golden Years Centre, Ann Jones was recalled to resume work in that capacity when the nine evacuees who were then at the J.P. Eustace Secondary School were relocated to the Buccament Golden Years Activity Centre.

She and the home helpers who staff the Centre have been addressing varying behavioural patterns of the elderly residents there.

One suffers from dementia, another is blind and is expected to undergo cataract surgery, and others have their mood swings, but as the staff indicated, they are a group of gentlemen who are at peace with themselves.

Family members visit regularly and although some want their senior relatives to return home a number of factors have converged to delay this happening.

Their consistent receipt of the recommended nutritional requirements is said to be among these.

The Ambassador of Japan to St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), Tatsuo Hirayama who was on a three day official visit to SVG this week visited the residents of the Golden Years facility on Wednesday, January,19 2022. The Ambassador was accompanied on his visit by Jan-Willem Wegdam, Emergency Response Coordinator for the St Vincent Volcano Eruption of The International Organisation for Migration.

The Ambassador spoke with the residents, staff, and the shelter manager, and told SEARCHLIGHT that he was quite pleased with what he saw. He is sure that all will be done to make the remaining years of the residents as comfortable as possible.

At the Questelles Learning Resource Centre where seven evacuees are housed, shelter manager Dornette James said the six males and lone pregnant female are like a family.

The resident males are usually out during the day doing whatever odd jobs they can find, from roadside cleaning to landscaping; James said they do their “little jobs” and are very well behaved.

She said although there is occasionally a bit of frustration among the residents about being unable to return home, they have accepted that the delay is for their own well-being.

Some have homes which were severely damaged by the eruptions and one built his house on the banks of a river which is undermining its foundation.

Minister of Social Transformation, Orando Brewster is confident that the government will get those persons into permanent homes this year, but said there are obstacles confronting the government in doing so.

The government plans to construct homes at Orange Hill for evacuees who were deemed to be living in areas that are dangerous.

There also is an ongoing programme through which homes which were damaged in the red zone are being repaired. However, Brewster said delays are being encountered due to a shortage of building materials as construction has increased islandwide over the past months.

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