Trinidad and Tobago shines its brightest when those in need plead for assistance. There is no stopping the generosity of the hearts of the people of this country when natural disaster or other events cause others to reach out.
It is no different today, with the La Soufriere volcano in St Vincent and the Grenadines having erupted. Once again, T&T is banding together to help via coordinated relief efforts from several non-governmental organisations, including Is there Not a Cause (ITNAC), the Foundation for the Enhancement and Enrichment of Life (FEEL) and SEWA TT.
FEEL executive officer Elena Villafana-Sylvester said they actually started collecting relief items for St Vincent one month ago after reports of an imminent eruption began circulating.
SEWA TT president Revan Teelucksingh said the organisation will be donating items for those dealing with the effects of the volcano in the near future. He explained that the immediate needs of Vincentians are being handled by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), ITNAC and a couple of other groups.
Yesterday, St Vincent Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and government officials were scheduled to meet to talk about difficulties with food supplies. Damage from the volcano was said to be so was extensive in the island’s northeast region that forests and farms were wiped out, with coconut, breadfruit, mango, soursop, plantain and banana crops destroyed.
Gonsalves said it could take four months for life to go back to normal in St Vincent. In the meantime, the island, which has about 100,000 inhabitants, is in dire need of help. The reality is that getting back to normal could take much longer.
Already, items such as cots, tents, water tanks and other basic food supplies have been flooding into the country as other regional governments offer assistance.
This morning, a contingent of local soldiers will be heading to St Vincent on the Galleons Passage. The 50 personnel will comprise engineers, infantry/provost, medical and logistics officers. The TTDF contingent will be stationed in SVG for two weeks in the first instance.
The National Security Ministry and ODPM have been coordinating relief efforts and have organised emergency supplies, including water, food essentials, toiletries, hygiene material, basic medical supplies and other items which were requested. Those supplies will be taken when the Galleons Passage makes its journey today.
When the vessel returns, T&T nationals living in St Vincent will be repatriated home.
The T&T troops’ assistance on the ground will be of tremendous help to our brothers and sisters in St Vincent who have been hard hit by the impact of the eruption.
Coming at a time when the island has not been spared by the impact of COVID-19, this disaster places new burdens on the Ralph Gonzalves government. It is good that despite the many problems each Caribbean country faces, we have been able to come together to help the people of St Vincent. This is a tremendous testament to the reality of who we are as a Caribbean people. When the chips are down, we rally together. If only it can be this way all the time.