Vincentian Veterans in the UK link with Red Cross on volcano relief
IT STARTED with just one phone call; Judson Cupid’s reaction when he woke up to the news of the eruption of La Soufriere was simply to ‘get up and react’. Already frustrated that he was not physically on the ground in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), the Vincentian veteran who served with the Royal Navy in the United Kingdom, reached out to his fellow countrymen and colleagues to rally support and assistance to affected persons in their home country. It is from there the Caribbean Veterans Community (CVC) was unofficially formed; an organisation which aims to support the unique needs of military personnel and their families who originate from the Caribbean during and after serving in the UK Armed Forces.
Judson Cupid, Gideon Henry, St Claire Richardson and Richard Dover, friends who all played an integral role in the birth of the CVC, recalled using technology to their advantage, and hosted the first of many Zoom calls. This first virtual meeting saw more than 30 participants who were all ready and willing to do whatever possible to make such a worthy cause a reality.
They all began to reflect on their emotions upon learning of the devastating event which was taking place at the time. Cupid said he thought about the frustration persons were experiencing, and being unable to ‘mind his own business’ when his country needed help. For Henry, it was something that had him in an uneasy state as his family resides in Dickson, Georgetown, one of the villages in the red zone. Richardson, a resident of North Leeward recalled being in SVG at the time on vacation. He reflected on the panic he observed amongst fellow residents. As he was headed to the community of Rose Hall; the highest point in North Leeward, to view the activities of La Soufriere he recalled seeing persons fleeing with packed suit cases and children in tow. Dover, whose parents reside in one of the communities in the green zone said it was always a vision of his to embark on a charitable project, but never imagined one of this magnitude.
Cupid said some businesses were reluctant to assist and alluded to the pandemic for lack of business, but the veteran said there was overwhelming support from Vincentians in the UK and other non-Vincentian groups.
As military personnel, they have been trained to respond to crises on the ground, but now they were tasked to do so from a distance. Therefore, it became necessary to forge a relationship with a reliable organisation in SVG.
They were able to reach out to members of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Red Cross Society (SVGRCS). According to Cupid, they identified with the Red Cross, as the two groups share the
same values of honesty, transparency and dependability.
The CVC relief aid project saw the first container of relief items arriving in SVG in May and a second container has recently arrived. This will further aid in satisfying the varying needs of persons affected by the eruption of La Soufriere.
However, the veterans saw the importance in addressing other needs and they have since formed a relationship with both telecommunication companies in SVG to embark on an initiative funded by the Royal Naval Association where persons’ phones are topped up, and in some cases their data is maintained to aid in the continued communication between affected persons and their relatives who are away in the military.
Another phase of the project is the support of displaced children. Henry considers this to be a critical project which the CVC is hoping to dive into and has started the conversation with the SVGRCS.
In order to widen the scope of the CVC, this organisation, which started with only Vincentians, now includes other Caribbean nationals and fellow military colleagues. They are in the process of establishing themselves as a recognised organisation regionally.
President of the SVGRCS Bernard Morgan, commended the work of the members of the CVC and said that he looks forward to a long-standing relationship with the organisation, noting that he hopes the members will be able to extend themselves to participate in the training of volunteers in several areas of disaster response soon.