Newsletter for March 2021
"We're only as strong as our neighbour is"
On February 6, Solana Gooding was up late thinking about, well, everything. Her thoughts turned to what people needed, and what could be done. And she wrote about that in a post about helping others by delivering food. When she wrote that first post she had sourced, boxed, and delivered 14 food hampers. She was well on her way to creating the next 20.

The initial intent, she said recently, was “simply being to express gratitude to persons who assist families going through difficult financial times due to Covid.” The response to her post was substantial. “Little did I know from the time I posted and in less than a week, that post had gone viral, as my tech-savvy friends would let me know.”

The reason, perhaps it goes without saying, is because people were inspired by what Solana had done. It can be easy to wonder, with so much going on all around us, what we can do. The pandemic is global, affecting countries, economies, international policy.
What Solana really underscored is that the pandemic is also a personal experience. We live in communities, experience the love of family. It affects us personally, locally. Solana’s decision was to respond—to help—in that way: personally, reaching out to the people in her world who needed help, friends who could benefit from a visit and a hello.
That’s the idea that people responded to, and they responded in droves. “The Grenadines Initiative had received numerous donations and my email inbox was flooded with emails all with the same intent. WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP!? Friends were emailing friends and people I had never met before in my life were emailing me concerning food boxes and vouchers.”
The support allowed more vouchers, more food, more visits. “Myself and Mrs. Donnet Simmons ventured up steep hills and through narrow unpaved footpaths. … The aim was to get to these homes as soon as possible. For most families this program couldn't come soon enough. We met persons in their various homes, from a 96-year-old woman in her kitchen still baking bread with stories to tell about how she still plants her own peas ground. We met families with children of various disabilities, who stressed how difficult it has been for them to provide for their special needs child, as some were going through packs of pampers daily, to families whose homes are barely just standing up, with wide cracked walls and floorings falling in.”
“First-hand witnessing this can truly pull on your heartstrings, at these homes you are either greeted with big smiles or tears of the struggle. You never know at first what you will meet. But despite it all, one thing is for certain that these food vouchers have brought hope to many homes and made people’s spirits of joy come alive. … Jon Bon Jovi once said, 'I believe that we're only as strong as our neighbour is' ... the idea that we're our brother's keeper. Works for me."

The Grenadines Initiative has had a food voucher program in place for more than a year, and the food hamper program, begun under the direction of the Bequia Mission and the local committee, has been operating for many years. But now, because of the pandemic, the need has increased. In February, we distributed more than 100 vouchers worth ECD $150 each, to families identified by the local committee. We made them redeemable at 4 different grocery stores, so individuals don’t need to travel to use them. We’ll continue to provide these every other month throughout the year, with large food hampers at year's end.

Thanks to the support to date, we're well on our way, though still need help reaching our goal. All donations are greatly appreciated.
To make an online donation through Canada Helpsclick here.

Donors in the U.S. who require a U.S. tax receipt can donate to the Friends of the Grenadines Initiative. Contact Linda Sagan Harrier at

Donors in the U.K. can donate via Action Bequia.
Lending a hand, contributing to a tradition

By Linda Sagan Harrier
 Vanda James, 65, welcomes me into her home with open arms. When I remind her that we can’t hug during this time of Covid, she laughs and agrees. So we bump elbows as we delight in seeing each other again. I’ve known Vanda and her daughter Petrina for a dozen years, since the Grenadines Initiative, then known as the Bequia Mission, started providing food hampers to families in need in Bequia.
Vanda, a single mother with 8 children, 11 grandchildren, and 2 great grandchildren, has supported her family with the small amount of money she’s earned cleaning the village primary school. She wasn’t able to work following her cancer diagnosis and subsequent chemo therapy a year ago. Now that she’s doing better, the school is closed due to Covid and there’s no job to return to.
Her children and grandchildren who had jobs before Covid now are struggling. Tourism is the major industry in Bequia, and that ended a year ago. Vendors and artisans can’t sell their wares. Restaurants are either closed or have limited hours, fishermen can’t sell their fish, shops selling trinkets and souvenirs have no customers. People who made a modest living pre-Covid now make nothing. It is dry season and water is scarce, so even those who grow vegetables and fruits are seeing their gardens dry up.
Petrina was born severely mentally and physically impaired. She is non-verbal, non-ambulatory, and cannot feed or dress herself. Her mother carries her outside each morning and bathes her in a tin basin with rainwater that she has gathered in barrels. While I’m visiting, she prepares Petrina’s lunch of farrine, lifts her daughter onto her lap, and feeds her. She has done this every day since her birth. Petrina is now 47 years old.
The Grenadines Initiative Emergency Food program provides food vouchers to families such as Vanda’s. With the voucher she can go to the local grocery store in the village, Uncle Duff’s, and purchase flour, eggs, beans, milk, and such. The families identified as in dire need receive vouchers once every two months. Come Christmas, we’ll provide large hampers filled with food and toiletries.
When my visit is over, both of us get a little misty eyed saying goodbye. I don’t know when I’ll see my friends again. And it hits me all over again that I have so much and so many others have so little. Helping others is really pretty simple if you’re willing and able to really see the humanness that connects us all.
Clockwise from top left: Vanda and Petrina; 90 year old “Mama” stirring the cassava to make farrine; Vanda James at her home in Paget Farm; Uncle Duff’s Grocery; Paget Farm.
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