Urgent aid appeal by Vincentian diplomats in US

NEW YORK, United States, Monday December 30, 2013, CMC – St Vincent and the Grenadines’ diplomats in the United States are appealing for urgent aid to help their homeland in the wake of the Christmas storm that left several people dead and a trail of destruction.

In a letter commissioned to nationals in the Diaspora by St Vincent and the Grenadines Consulate General in New York, Consul General Selmon Walters on Saturday appealed for donations of cash, food, clothing, toiletries, water and medical supplies.

Walters, a former government minister in the administration of Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, noted that the country suffered estimated damages in the region of EC$150 million as a result of the December 24 storm.

He said nine lives were lost, five people still missing, and 64 persons remain in shelters.

In addition, the envoy said a number of houses, roads and bridges were destroyed, and that the potable water system is “severely affected.”

As a result, Walters said the Consulate General, in collaboration with a number of Vincentian organizations in the United States, is “spearheading” relief efforts to send much-needed supplies home.

He said the first set of supplies, to be transported free of cost by Amerijet, will leave New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, either on Monday or Tuesday night to the E.T. Joshua Airport in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Please let us do something and do something good for our nation,” appealed Walters to a large audience at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn, New York, the operating centre for relief efforts.

The Consulate, along with a broad-based committee comprising prominent groups and influential individuals in the Vincentian community in the US, on Saturday established an account with Chase Bank where the public can make monetary contributions. Contributions can be made to Chase SVG Community, Inc., account no. 537759511.

US Ambassador La Celia Prince also appealed to nationals to support the relief effort, stating that the assessors are “still conducting their work in terms of quantifying the physical and material loss.

“We know that we can count on the support of the Vincentian community to respond to these needs; and, as such, we are sharing this information with you to use as a guide,” she said in a letter to her compatriots.

“The effort is good,” Laverne McDowald-Thompson, president of the Brooklyn-based Council of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Organizations, USA, Inc. (COASGO), the umbrella Vincentian group in the US, told the Caribbean Media Corporation. “I like the enthusiasm of the people and their willingness to help our homeland,” added the former school teacher in St Vincent and the Grenadines. “The tragedy is unfortunate. A natural disaster is unpredictable. It’s very unfortunate what many families have to go through.”

Maxwell Haywood, president of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, said the situation in his native land is heartrending.

“But, at the same time, it’s an opportunity for us to re-look the way in which we build our society, both infrastructurally and socially,” added Haywood, who is also a United Nations development officer. “So we need to go back to the drawing board to see how we can reduce disaster risk.”

Gonsalves, who cut short his Christmas holidays in London, said it would need “millions of dollars” to rebuild the country, battered by a slow-moving, low-level trough.

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