FOLLOWING THE eruptions at La Soufrière, the Lions Club St Vincent and the Grenadines, with help from Lions regionally and internationally and a number of entities, have so far delivered 3272 packages to evacuees staying in private homes.
Lion Junior Bacchus PMJF, the treasurer of the Lions Club St Vincent South, is the Disaster Coordinator of the SVG Lions’ response following the eruptions.
Speaking at the Kingstown building which had been offered by the National Insurance Services(NIS) for their use as a warehouse during this time, Bacchus disclosed that the club had been preparing to get ready to respond even before the volcano had its first explosion on April 9.
The Lions’ mantra is “where there is a need there is a Lion”, and “here in St Vincent on the 9th of April, there was really a need and the volcanic eruption was not the only thing that contributed to the frustration that the Vincentian people were facing,” Bacchus commented. Putting on pressure on the population there was also the persisting Covid-19 pandemic, and the Dengue outbreak.
“The District Governor immediately activated the access from Lions International Foundation LCIF to get $10,000 US as an emergency grant to assist us in our effort,” the senior Lion informed.
Further, their immediate response included establishing an account with the CK Greaves supermarket, putting aside $20,000, and issuing cash vouchers for persons who were in need, so that they could go and get groceries.
Following Zoom meetings plans were made to establish a coordination point for the response, and after approaching NIS the warehouse was set up for use within the space of a week, thanks to gifts and aid from entities such as Courts SVG, the National Lotteries Authority(NLA), and Coreas Distribution Ltd.
“…With the effort of the District Governor we passed the message out throughout the region and internationally of the effort that we are undertaking here and goods start to roll on in, people started to make contact with us,” Bacchus recalled.
A bank account was also set up at the Bank of St Vincent and the Grenadines for those who wanted to make financial contributions to it.
While the goods were moving towards their intended destination the Lions made some decisions. Firstly, who their target would be.
“..We decided that we are going to focus on the people who had evacuated from the red and orange zones who were residing in private homes either with what they rented or with families,” Bacchus stated.
There were more persons that were displaced that found refuge in private homes rather than shelters. “NEMO(the National Emergency Management Organisation) we all know was overwhelmed with the 89 shelters that were established and it would have been difficult for NEMO to handle those 89 shelters in such quick time and also look after people in those private homes.”
Further, they established a database system, and went around getting the word to persons to register.
“You fill out the forms, the forms were handed over to our Distribution Coordinator and the Distribution Coordinator and her team decided immediately to prepare and do the background check on those persons,” Bacchus informed. This was done this way so that crowding would not take place at the warehouse.
While Lions committed to sorting and packing the goods, manpower was needed for the offloading of containers. This was
found by visiting the shelters and hiring shelterees.
“…We were really happy when the Government published the list and included the Lions Club as an exempted party for duty concession so all the goods that were coming in to us, were coming in duty free,” he also noted.
Goods came from Rainforest Seafood, who donated a 40 and 20ft container, as well as Beacon Insurances and National Petroleum Trinidad and Tobago, who donated a 40ft container. The Lions across the French islands sent down a yacht of goods, Lion Clubs in the same district which included Trinidad and Tobago donated, and they also received “somewhere in the region of 70 pallets of goods coming in from Tortola Lions.” Also donating was the Lions Clubs of Brooklyn, Barbados, St Lucia, Grenada, Antigua, Toronto, and Florida; the Vincentian Communities in Boston, Miami, Washington DC and New Jersey. The SVG Relief USA Inc, the Taiwanese Embassy in SVG and the Vincentian Embassy in Taiwan also contributed. The World Pediatric Project(WPP) and Sentry Insurance handed over goods to the Club on Monday, July 5.
The Distribution Coordinator, Lion Sabita Jacobs, informed that the goods were distributed by four zones: Kingstown, Windward interior, Windward and Leeward, based on the addresses that persons were staying at.
“We attempted to make contact with both the host and the evacuees, this was to verify the information that was quoted on the form and also to do some form of needs assessment so that we would be able to pack the packages for each household based on the need of the household. We tried as much as possible to meet the needs that were listed on the forms,” Jacobs said.
Deliveries began on Saturday, May 1, and continued on Saturdays following this.
Based on the deliveries, 50% of the recipients were from the Petit Bordel, Chateaubelair, Fitz Hughes area, 20% were from the Sandy Bay, Fancy area, and 30% were from Georgetown, Dickson area.
Lion Bacchus noted, “…The supplies that were handed out so far value over one million dollars and we aint done yet. I could tell you, there’s probably another million dollars worth of supplies to come…” The first phase, or ‘Care Phase’ was set to run from April to July.
In September the Lions Club intends to begin the ‘Rehabilitation phase’ and providing help for people to go back to their respective homes.
“I also want to confirm that so far we have received over $150,000 in direct financial support into our account to assist us to pay the cost of manning this operation. We have spent up to the end of June a total of just over $80,000 to cover cost for labour, transportation and all the other things that we had to do to keep this operation going,” the Disaster Coordinator stated.
He also mentioned that the Lions do not accept a “single cent” for the volunteer work that they do, and commended them for their hard work. “Almost 100 Lions and Leos gathered day in, day out, night and day,” to get the work done, he said.
The Club is also partnering with others on a number of projects such as hosting a baby shower for 50 pregnant shelterees, and a sports program to occupy children staying in shelters.