Newsletter for April 2021
First the pandemic. And now this.
As I write this, La Soufrière, the volcano on the north end of St. Vincent, continues to erupt explosively. It has also begun to generate pyroclastic flow, a dense, fast-moving flow of solidified lava, ash, and hot gasses. Ash fall will continue over the next few days, so reports the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), as will the seismic activity, which has been unrelenting since the first eruption on April 8, including tremors interspersed with longer-period earthquakes. Unseen are the toxins that accompany the eruptions, risking injury with every breath.
As one friend on Bequia mentioned to me, “it's a lot no matter how you look at it.” It really is. The most immediate need was for safety, though the need for water and food will grow in the coming days and weeks. The potential for ash to contaminate stores of potable water is a very immediate and pressing concern, with water becoming increasingly precious. In light of that, we’ve begun contributing to local efforts to provide immediate disaster relief, and will be working closely with organizations such as Rise Up Bequia and Action Bequia. We’ve also created a fund to benefit that and other efforts, with all donations being used to provide supplies, water, and food.
As is increasingly clear, this isn’t a story of a volcano, it’s a story of a people. Even before the first blast, the citizens of SVG established nearly ninety shelters for evacuees. Those shelters are now providing a temporary home for 4000 people. In addition, NEMO reports that 446 families are hosting over two thousand more. Those families have simply opened their doors and invited others into their homes. No matter how you look at it, it’s a lot.
What next?
The effects will remain long after La Soufrière has rumbled and burped her last, at least for this round. In response, we’ll continue to offer food vouchers, something we began to address the economic effects of the pandemic, but which are increasingly needed now. In February, we distributed more than 100 vouchers worth ECD $150 each, to families identified by the local committee. This week we’re distributing 150 more. They are redeemable at stores in four key island communities. We’ll continue to provide these and, as the need grows, will distribute more.
The friend who noted that “it’s a lot” also writes, “I'm worried about people's health. … COVID can really make a bad thing worse, fast.” Certainly, it can, and while we turn for the moment to the natural disaster, it’s true that the pandemic, as ever, won’t be far behind. Which makes the need for vaccination all the more immediate. We’ve been heartened by the response to the vaccination program, including partnerships to get the word out.
So, yes. It is a lot. But then this: earlier this week Solana Gooding noted in a post on facebook, “Ok La Soufriere lessons learnt. Things to not take for granted: Fresh air, Clean water, Blue/Starry skies, Sunsets, Birds singing.” She ended the list asking “What's yours?” Among the comments added to her post were nature, family, and “clean floors.” Also on the list was roosters. Apparently when the sky darkened with ash, the roosters felt it was a new morning. And, in a sense at least, they’re absolutely right.
How to help
Any amount you are able to offer will help offset the effects of the disaster and help to rebuild the communities immediately affected.

Contribute to the food voucher program. It’s immediate, and benefits both recipients as well as local grocers and stores. Recipients are able to use the vouchers to buy whatever they need. 

Contribute to buy supplies to be added to the Rise Up Bequia relief drive. All donations to this fund will provide supplies, water, and food.

Contribute to the vaccine funding initiative. In an effort to address the vaccine equity challenge, the Grenadines Initiative has turned to raising approximately $1.4 MM USD to acquire vaccines on behalf of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In addition, the fund will support initiatives addressing vaccine information, specifically around questions of efficacy and safety.
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