Team leader of the non-governmental organisation Is There Not A Cause (ITNAC) Avonelle Hector-Joseph.

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Team leader of Non-Government Organisation (NGO), Is There Not A Cause (ITNAC), Avonelle Hector-Joseph, says she believes Government should have collaborated with civil society leaders before launching their social initiatives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview with Guardian Media yesterday, Hector-Joseph once again called on the Ministry of Social Development to partner with NGOs, as she says their hands-on experience in dealing with the vulnerable in society is vital at this time.

“The government, the private sector and the third sector or the NGO sector need to come together. Prime Minister Patrick Manning said in 2009 in the NGO sector, we are able to deliver faster, so while people are waiting for food cards to be processed, because there has to be a policy with government funding, you can’t just go out in the community and throw cards and we understand that but in the meantime, people are starving,” Hector-Joseph said.

She said when the COVID-19 virus was declared a pandemic in early March, ITNAC used its existing resources to purchase food as it anticipated that there would be many families in need of assistance. Since then the group has been receiving donations from the public but she said as quickly as supplies come in, they are being sent to needy families.

Hector-Joseph said ITNAC has received numerous calls from families and individuals who say they have not eaten in days since the Government’s stay-at-home orders were put in effect.

“One of the things people have said, probably out of ignorance, is ‘So what if you miss one paycheck, your life shouldn’t’ be that bad anyway,” but what if I was barely making it on that one paycheck? And coming to the last couple of days of the month, which we call the ‘trust week’, I didn’t have any food and then you take it away from me?”

She believes there is a disconnect between the policymakers and the most vulnerable in society.

“The problem is policymakers who don’t really understand what it is like to be so poor – when a poor mother says she has nothing to eat, she means there is nothing in her cupboards except maybe salt. For a rich person, it means they probably don’t want to eat leftovers,” she said.

Hector-Joseph said although she was previously an active politician with the Congress of the People, she does not want her statements to be seen through political lenses.

“I hope they will see my heart and not any previous political alignments because I am a patriot first, politics was just a by-the-way, my way of trying to advance change. I want to challenge the government of the day to engage people like myself. There are many of us who really have a heart for our communities- to engage us on a regular basis, listen to us, hear what we have to say- the suggestions might not work, it might be stupid when the technocrats examine it but at least create a platform for us.”