Staying true to its mandate of ensuring that more Saint Lucians benefit from the gains in the local tourism sector, the SLHTA Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) donated $25,000 in food vouchers to five organizations last Wednesday.
The five recipients of $5,000 worth of food vouchers each are the Lions Club of Gros Islet, Rotary Club of Saint Lucia, Alexander Family Foundation & Events (AFFE), entertainers in the industry, and the Saint Lucia Craft and Dry Goods Association.
The handover ceremony was held at the conclusion of a Quarterly General Meeting hosted by the SLHTA at the Finance Administrative Centre at Pointe Seraphine.
TEF Chairman, Winston Anderson, noted that although many strides have been made in getting people vaccinated, many people are still grappling with the pandemic, which continues to impact various sectors. He added that the donations are needed at this time, especially as Saint Lucians prepare to celebrate the festive season.
“The Tourism Enhancement Fund and the SLHTA understand now, more than ever, the need for community support,” Anderson said. “It has been our pleasure during the pandemic to support various initiatives, and we will continue to do so. It is for this reason that the organization opted to distribute Christmas food vouchers.”
Despite being significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic itself, Anderson said the TEF has never wavered in its responsibility to people and communities in Saint Lucia, adding that the annual donation to deserving organizations at Christmastime was this year increased from $40,000 to $50,000.
“We’re all in this struggle together and we felt that, at this time, in the spirit of giving and the joy of the festive season, there’s no better a time to extend a hand to our brothers and sisters,” Anderson stated.
Over the years, the SLHTA TEF has worked with various community groups to ensure that the most vulnerable in Saint Lucia benefit from the tourism industry. Donette Ismael, TEF Programme Manager, said the pandemic has underscored the need for everyone to stick together to ensure that the island recovers from COVID-19’s devastating impact.
“In the past, we have collaborated with the Rotary Club to provide wheelchairs for people who are physically challenged, with the Lions Club of Gros Islet on various projects such as donating much-needed support to Victoria Hospital, OKEU Hospital Pediatric Ward, and various other community ventures,” she said. “We have also partnered with the Alexander Family Foundation to distribute schools bags and other school items to various impoverished communities.”
Ismael said the TEF hopes to continue working with agencies and partners to make a difference in communities, by touching the lives of families of this generation and generations to come.
Meanwhile, Keturah Donai, President of the Rotary Club of Saint Lucia, said her organization undertakes various projects year-round, especially during December. The Rotary Club, she added, has already received hundreds of calls from people requesting food hampers and clothing. Because of the pandemic, some are also asking for sanitary supplies.
“We’ve already starting putting some of these packages together and should be distributing them next week,” she said. “This donation came at the right time, so that we’ll be able to further the cause. We want to thank the SLHTA for assisting us this year in making the dreams come true for many homeless people this Christmas.”
Lion Lester Charles, Treasurer of the Gros Islet Lions Club, said Wednesday’s presentation was extremely important in reaching out to those who are in need: “We know there are quite a few persons who really cannot afford because their situation is dire. So this will go a long way in assisting them, especially during the Christmas season.”
Darnally Estava-St. Ange, Secretary of the Alexander Family Foundation & Events, said the TEF gifted the organization backpacks and other school supplies earlier this year, which have since been distributed. She, too, thanked the SLHTA for being a good corporate citizen.
“I believe these food vouchers are a turn for the better, in that we retain the sense of dignity and pride to the recipients,” Estava-St. Ange said. “People can now have a sense of buying power when they go to the grocery store, present their vouchers, and choose items they need.”