COVID-19 has undoubtedly altered almost every aspect of our lives — how we shop, work, do business, and even how our children are schooled. But the pandemic has also changed many of us for the better. It has taught us to be more compassionate, and to care a little more for those in need.
On Wednesday, September 15, 2021, the OECS Commission, partnering with USAID and Spirit of America, donated computer tablets, notebooks and hand sanitizer to underprivileged students from the LaGuerre Combined School and the Des Barras Combined School in Saint Lucia. With the newly adopted virtual classroom approach, parents of many students have been unable to secure devices for their children to access learning platforms.
This gesture is directly aligned with the current strategic mission of the OECS. Head of the Environmental Sustainability Division at the OECS, Mr. Chamberlain Emmanuel, in his opening remarks informed the audience that;
“One of the key pillars of our new strategies is to Advance Equity and Inclusion for poverty reduction, gender inclusion, social protection, equal access to quality social services, human resource and capacity development, livelihood security, and empowerment across the life cycle, with a particular emphasis on youth. This is pursued through (inter alia); creating fair and equitable access to inclusive education and training opportunities for all citizens, and enabling access to relevant digital technologies and providing pooled procurement of education and medical equipment and supplies.”
Also addressing the gathering was Saint Lucia’s Acting Chief Education officer, Mr. Cyrus Cepal, who said that since the reopening of school in September, the principals of the Des Barras and LaGuerre Combined Schools sought the assistance of the Ministry. He revealed that at the Des Barras Combined School, only two of twelve grade six students possessed devices for online learning. This device deficit has been of great concern to the Ministry and he expressed the appreciation of the Ministry of Education to the OECS, USAID and Spirit of America for reaching out to meet this need.
Participating virtually were Janot Mendler de Suarez, a long-standing Development Partner of the OECS, and Conall Lane, a 15-year-old from Boston, Massachusetts. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Conall embarked on a project to repair broken computers for the Red Cross in his area. During this stint with the Red Cross he met Janot, who shared with him a request made by Josette Edward-Charlemagne — Programme Officer in the Environmental Sustainability Division at the OECS — to assist with securing devices for underprivileged students in Saint Lucia for online learning.
As a result of these efforts, a total of 26 computers were fully refurbished by Conall. These were prepared for shipping to Saint Lucia and will be donated to students upon arrival in the next few weeks.
The items were well received by students and principals of the two schools, who expressed immense gratitude for the donation. In his closing remarks, Mr. Chamberlain Emmanuel said:
“As Saint Lucia continues to navigate this fourth wave of the pandemic, we are pleased to be able to partner with USAID and Spirit of America to mobilize critical items — computer tablets, other learning tools and safety material— to aid in ensuring inclusive and safe education for students. We are particularly pleased to initiate the distribution to our adopted schools, the LaGuerre and Des Barras combined schools. We trust that these will go a long way in empowering students and their families, and ensure that they are not left behind in these trying times. Our heartfelt thanks to Spirit of America for their generosity and to USAID for their agile facilitation of this initiative.”