Private citizens at home and abroad, governments near and far as well as internationally based aid agencies are flocking to help the thousands of Vincentians who have been displaced by the ongoing explosive activity at the La Soufriere volcano. The Global Empowerment Mission along with Aerial Recovery, the Janice Lyttle Foundation (and other partners) are amongst those who are “responding in the first phase of the disaster response.”
A letter, posted on GEM’s official website and dated April 11, detailed Prime Minister’s Gonsalves’ request to the decade old “first responder to global disasters.” True to form, GEM was able to mobilize and distribute “family necessities kits to various shelters such as the Calliaqua Anglican Primary School Emergency Shelter, St. Primary’s Roman Catholic School [currently housing the St. Benedict Orphanage ordinarily based in Georgetown, part of the Red Zone] and the Kingstown Stadium [Victoria Park] through our ground partners the Rotary Club of St. Vincent South.
“In addition GEM is working with St. Vincent’s Cultural Ambassadors who are hand delivering GEM bStrong family kits directly to homes across St. Vincent,” a release on globalempowermentmission.org states.
One day later a further “$623, 080 of supplies consisting of 9,600 blankets, 46,080 hand sanitizers, 15,120 masks (kn95), 250 bags of rice (20lbs) [and] 330 family necessity kits” were shipped, the website also relayed.
“With our partnership we can come come in and just help [to] organize, find out what the need is, get it out and raise awareness so we can get great donations to organizations such as Global Empowerment Mission and help the people that really need help” Aerial Recovery Group Cofounder and Chief of Operations Jeremy Locke told local media.
This team of Nashville based “ex-military special forces” first responders brings to bear their martial discipline and organizational skills in order to help map out the immediate to long term needs following natural disaster events.
“We come in with a film [crew] to be able to get drones up in the air to be able figure out what sort of infrastructure has been affected, what sort of items are needed at this time… we get all this information back to our partners whether they be in the States or other countries and just kind of let them know the protocols as they are coming in so things can work a little bit more efficiently.
“So what we are really about is connecting and helping organizing chaotic situations such as this,” Locke also shared.
Although the Janice Lyttle Foundation was created to help win the battle against heart disease, the mission also includes serving the medical, health and well-being needs of the nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines as needed. The Foundation donated over half million US dollars’ worth of supplies and equipment to the Milton Cato hospital in St, Vincent and the Grenadines following the December 2013 disaster and in 2018 facilitated a mission by the Starkey Foundation to outfit residents of major cities in need of a hearing aid.
The mission continues in 2021, partnering with the Global Empowerment Mission offering help in the disaster response for the ongoing St. Vincent Volcano eruptions.
Michael Capponi, founder of GEM, Kevin Lyttle and Dr. Jacqueline James – Co-Founders of JLF – connected on April 11th, 2 days after the first eruption. The teams realized then that they had the support needed by each other and that partnering would be very beneficial to the cause. Kevin and Jackie has previously supported GEM’s 2017 response to hurricanes Irma and Maria and the three individuals had known each other on the Miami music entertainment scene for some time prior.
JLF sprang into action on the day the eruption, offering financial help on the ground to provide food and hygiene needs to evacuees. The team also offered their multi-room recording studio as a drop off location for items being donated to several drives and organizations such as Oxygen Mas Camp and SVG Association of Florida.
Kevin Lyttle established a Go Fund Me fundraiser through Miami Foundation (a 501C 3 entity) to collect funds that will be used mainly to cover shipping costs. The partnership has volunteers who are packing the kits at the GEM 60,000 SF warehouse in Miami, Florida. Last Sunday, April18th, another 1000 kits was packed by volunteers and another container has been shipped to SVG.
“The partnership continues to write grants and secure donations from global organizations as we are committed to the long term response to this disaster,” a release from the Janice Lyttle Foundation noted.
Meanwhile local businesswoman Ikesha Delplesche is marshaling support for her Ngozi Donation Drive, a volunteer driven initiative that has collected and distributed used clothing, toiletries, feminine products, pharmaceutical items and drinking water along with some basic food stuff to several public emergency shelters as well as private residences where volcano evacuees are being housed.
“We have touched 7 shelters and 6 homes so far, but from now on we are trying to target evacuees in [private] homes,” Delplesche told ANN. This move was inspired by the fact that “I’m hosting evacuees and I’m passionate about that and too much drama going on at the shelter and we thought we could make the persons who are in these homes feel extra special because they are going through a crisis right now.”
Morzia Edwards, Zouvia Edwards, Angelica Corke and Azyba Ellis make up the five member team of volunteers who counts, amongst their most memorable achievements, “being able to assist 13 evacuees in one household.”
Even as she called for more volunteers to join their outreach efforts, Delplesche said, “we need a bigger transport. We are currently using a car [and] the donations are coming in fairly well.”
Other relief efforts are ongoing as governments and non-governmental aid agencies continue to respond.