ABOUT 2,000 families in St Vincent and the Grenadines displaced or otherwise affected by the eruption of La Soufriere volcano will receive a bucket with essential items if SEWA TT reaches its target.
SEWA TT (Serving Everyone With Affection International TT) on Sunday teamed up with the Supermarket Association of Trinidad and Tobago at Super Quality Supermarket in Trincity to launch a relief effort which will allow the public to help fill the bucket by making a financial donation at one of the many leading participating supermarkets.
They include all branches of Better Deal Supermarket, Best Deal Foods, Croisée/Chase Mart, Massy Stores, MS Food City Supermarket, Park View Supermarket, Persad's D’ Food King, PC Stop N Shop Supermarket, S&S Persad Supermarket, Super Quality, Tru Valu Supermarket, West Bees Supermarket, and Xtra Foods.
The buckets, valued at about $500, will contain mostly non-perishable food and medical supplies, most of which it hopes to have produced by local suppliers, some of which have already made a commitment to subsidise their goods for the buckets.
SEWA TT said that Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) had assessed and produced a list of needs specifically for people affected by the volcano in St Vincent.
SEWA TT president Revan Teelucksingh asked citizens to follow in the footsteps of Barbados, which offered assistance to St Vincent despite also being affected by heavy ash.
"St Vincent and the Grenadines are our Caribbean sister island and we have a duty to help our family members," he said.
"Barbados is also our Caribbean sister island and is coming under strain with ashfall and yet, is still assisting SVG in any way that they can. We are reminded of the kindness Barbados showed our citizens during this pandemic. They have demonstrated how the Caribbean family should live as one."
The public can contribute at participating supermarkets by donating at the cashier to the "SEWA TT SVG Volcano Relief" fund. The contribution will appear on the receipt.
In an effort to reduce any risk of spreading covid19, SEWA will not accept items from people's homes.
Instead, the supermarkets will consolidate the funds for SEWA TT, which will then procure the items and arrange with the Office of Disaster Preparedness (ODPM) for delivery.
The organisation said, "SEWA TT already has established and practiced packaging protocols approved by our medical team, witnessed by the TTPS and the ODPM in 2020 that we will implement to package the items in the buckets, maintaining social distancing and a safe environment."
It also allows SEWA to purchase items that are most necessary.
From its past experiences with local and regional disasters, SEWA said, there are several common items that are required in every natural disaster.
"In assessing these disasters, post-response, we have noted that many persons send items that are not required which confuse and add an extra burden on the already strained systems of the disaster area. SEWA TT’s position is to comply with the lists of items required so that we do not add to the problem." it said, adding that the organisation is in regular communication with the ODPM, which is advising on updates to the list."
The organisers explained that buckets were the container of choice because they are strong, waterproof and easy to handle, making them portable and easy to stack for transportation and storage. They are sealed and will indicate tampering if broken.
Caribbean private sector on board to help St Vincent
The region's private sector has already responded to La Soufriere's eruptions with "substantial contributions," with shipments on their way to St Vincent.
The Caribbean Manufacturers Association (CMA) and the Caricom Private Sector Organization (CPSO) issued a statement after holding a meeting on Saturday which it said was aimed at "collaborating as a unified voice in order to address and arrive at a co-ordinated response, following the unfortunate development."
The statement said the private sector intends to develop a master list, which allows it to track individual responses to relief efforts to better co-ordinate support.
Further collaboration will take place with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the statement noted.
"We seek to establish avenues for the rapid exchange of information between the CPSO, the CMA and CDEMA so that we as the regional private sector can more quickly respond to evolving needs as they arise.
"We also recognise the challenges caused by the relocation of segments of the population, and we intend to be responsive to this through CDEMA," it said.
"The regional private sector – CPSO, CMA, and our members are joined together with St Vincent and the Grenadines, and the community in confronting this challenge.