St. Vincent Initiative

 

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During April, St.Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has been devastated by volcanic eruptions. 20,000 Island residents are displaced. All are experiencing food and water shortages.

Bishop Gerard County of the Kingstown Diocese in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has set up a Disaster Fund. Since the fee to wire money is $75 (regardless of the amount sent), we will collect donations and send them in one lump sum. Go here to donate.

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A note from Jerry:

I have volunteered in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) since 2017, training teachers, counselors, and community members to help children who have experienced trauma. Cedarbrook and our partners had just begun training mentors for children and had plans for Stephen Minister Leadership training.

Then COVID-19 brought everything to a halt.

Now, continued eruptions from the La Soufrière Volcano bring a need for immediate disaster relief and trauma counseling for months and years to come.

  • All children from St. Benedict's Home (which merged with Bread of LIfe) in Georgetown have been evacuated. It is in the red zone. It is unclear when (if ever) they will return and the extent of the damage to the property.
  • As a side note, Guadalupe Home for Girls burned in March 2020.

The church in Sandy Bay is completely destroyed by ashfall. Just one example of the $350 million destruction since April 9th.

  • 20,000 people have been displaced (the total population is 110,000), all are facing serious food and water challenges,
  • Experts suggest that it may be two years before many can return to what remains of their homes.
  • Approximately 30 villages have been evacuated. 
  • Between 16,000 and 20,000 people have been affected. 
  • Some 3,500 people are in 85 shelters. 
  • School buildings operate as shelters and are beyond capacity, 
  • There have been 32 explosive eruptions as of April 23rd. Experts suggest that the volcanic activity could go on for months up to a year.
  • The ash kills vegetation (food) and contaminates rivers, which are the primary sources of water.
  • Water is rationed and running out.
  • Ash has fallen on the island of Barbados (119 miles away) and is traveling farther –  even to Africa.
  • Many areas are experiencing no electricity and will for months to come.

“We are facing a catastrophe in agriculture, fishing, road infrastructure and other areas. We have problems that affect food security and sovereignty; the affordability, accessibility and availability of food is at risk”

~ Saboto Caesar, SVG Minister of Agriculture

The country is mapped into zones – red (most dangerous area – and mostly destroyed now), orange, and green zones. 

Fr. Collin Jackson reports: "[the country is] almost unrecognizable. Near the volcano, in the red zone, the land has been scorched by pyroclastic (volcanic) flow, destroying everything in its path. In the relatively safer orange and green zones, St Vincent is masked by thick layers of ash, ruining vegetation, and leaving even its capital, 20 kilometers (13 miles) south of the volcano, looking like a town in an old Western movie."


  • Eruption Of St Vincent’s La Soufriere Volcano Has Devastated The Island’s Livestock.
  • In The Red Zone, Animal carcasses are everywhere.
  • Hundreds of animals are on the brink of collapse.
  • "...essentially...agriculture has been wiped out on the island,” Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said.

The true economic toll of La Soufriere remains unclear, but Gonsalves estimates the volcano caused $150 million in infrastructure damage and $150 million in agriculture and housing losses. In addition, it will require $20 million to $30 million to clean up the islands and about $15 million per month to feed and house evacuees.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provides an immediate $100,000 in disaster relief for people affected by violent eruptions of La Soufrière Volcano on the island of Saint Vincent.

The United Nations has launched a $29.2 million global funding appeal to help those affected by the eruptions of the La Soufrière volcano in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and other impacted countries during what has been described as the country’s “midnight hour of need.”

SVG covered in ash

Now covered in deadly ash, this site used to be lush green and the water crystal blue.

Can you help? The immediate need is to provide critical items such as food and water. Plus non-perishables including canned goods and juice, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, soap, deodorant, shampoos, sleeping mats, blankets, feminine hygiene products, masks, baby diapers, hand sanitizers, manual can openers, buckets, masks, mosquito repellent, first-aid kits, and antibiotic ointments.

 

Better Days, with interspersed video of the disaster, speaks to the spirit of the people to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Bishop Gerard County of the Kingstown Diocese in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has set up a Disaster Fund. Since the fee to wire money is $75 (regardless of the amount sent), we will collect donations and send them in one lump sum. Go here to donate.

donate on PayPal

This article describes the first part of the intervention plan and is currently under review (so it might change a little). I have heard many people tell me to go slow and be patient. One of the gifts of the Spirit is patience (apparently also translated as "long-suffering").

So, rather than attempt to train people in January 2018, it has been suggested that I take a few more trips to build trust.

1) Visit three times in 2018 - spreading the word and building trust.
2) Engage an on-the-ground organizer to continue the enthusiasm between visits.
3) Get more details that will help in structuring sponsorships and agreements to keep the children/families in the programs.
4) Plan for the 3-layer mentoring training (Kinship Partners will help us) for 2019.

After the August 2017 Needs Assessment, we developed several goals:

  1. To continue to build trust with people in St. Vincent while working toward providing training programs. This will take time and patience. It will also need a "presence."
  2. Many children in SVG (especially those living in orphanages) will benefit from a relationship with caring adults. Resiliency can be nurtured through a relationship with a caring adult who can share a sense of hope.
  3. Provide one-on-one care for the boy in St. Benedict's Home. Completed.

We will train local community members to help children in the Homes using 3 "layers" of programming. Each child will be matched to an adult mentor or couple based on their needs. After the pilot project, we will expand mentoring to all children in need. We will provide training for adults to serve as volunteers or paid a stipend (more on that reasoning later). Training layers will be:

  • Kinship Partners training – to foster long-lasting relationships between caring adults and children and teens.
  • Stephen Ministry training – to provide high-quality, confidential, Christ-centered care to children and teens who are hurting. (Later, this might expand to serve adults as well.)
  • Mental Health training and Spiritual Direction – to provide guidance to overcome trauma and abuse, and to find a connection to God acting in our lives.

Christian theology supports the notion that we are "called" to a certain action and led by the Spirit of God. Whatever your faith tradition, there is some similar notion of "God's will for my life." Discernment is the process of listening for that call. If a priest, pastor, or other church minister speaks of their calling, people accept this with a smile of respect. If a layperson speaks like this, we get a silent pause and then a smile of a different kind. This smile might be interpreted as "OoohKaaay. He's delusional." I've gotten that second smile enough times that I have just learned to keep quiet. Until now.

This is the story of how I see the Spirit working in the lives of people open to the gentle whisper of the Spirit.

Helping Children of St. Vincent and the Grenadines - First Visit Note: Church-state relationships in many parts of Central America and the Caribbean are tentative. I have been asked not to distribute this via the internet or social media lest it be read as critical of the people and government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). If you wish to share this, please share only with individuals. If you need the password, please contact us using the secure contact form at the top of the page.

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This article is password protected using code written by Steve Dawson and a script written by Peter van Westen. Thank you, Steve and Peter.



 

What is the St. Vincent Initiative?

We volunteer time in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

SVG is the third poorest country in the Caribbean. 48% of the population lives on USD $2.72 per day.

Many children are abandoned or abused and live in orphanages. Many more are traumatized due to multiple impacts.

There is one psychologist in the entire country.

There are too few counselors to meet the needs of the children, and systems are overloaded. The Catholic Church is the main NGO providing social services in SVG.

We were asked to help – namely, Jerry has been called and is building a team – by Bishop Gerard County of the Kingstown Diocese in SVG, which is the sister (or twin) diocese to the Diocese of Duluth, MN.

We believe that most "mental health" issues are, in reality, normal reactions to abnormal situations.

We believe that training local community members and professionals will make a long-term impact. Our philosophy is like the saying, "give someone a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach them how to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime."

We've conducted a needs assessment with local leaders (2017). We have developed a plan to provide three layers of training for mentoring children and adolescents

  1. Kinship Mentor Training
  2. Stephen Ministry Leadership Training
  3. Mental Health and Spiritual Direction Training.

We will conduct the Kinship Mentor Training in February 2020. David and Karen Downing of Kinship Partners have volunteered to do this. We need transportation expenses.

We will have two people attend the Stephen Ministry Leadership Training. Jerry will attend with Collin Jackson, the local SVG coordinator for our mentoring programs. These are volunteer positions, but transportation, fees, and tuition are needed.

We've trained many teachers at 5 schools and 3 homes for children. Here are some of our accomplishments to date:

 

 Training Orphanage Workers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (The original article from 2017)

The St. Vincent Initiative is our collaboration with local church-sponsored orphanages and programs for children in SVG. In August 2017, we conducted the first Situational Needs Assessment and Feasibility Study to see how we might assist in training local workers.

On a Caribbean vacation, you see smiles and sunshine -- but that's not the reality of many who live in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). 48% live on only USD 2.72 per day. Families and children suffer. Many children are abandoned or abused and live in orphanages.

Many Thanks SVI

 

Thank you, donors and volunteers, for helping with the initial phase of The St. Vincent Initiative: Training Orphanage Workers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Rachel Kristyniak

Susan Chandler

Mike & Carol Smith

Steve & Katrina McCarthy