Celebration and gratitude were the main themes on Monday, October 24, when the National Community Foundation (NCF) hosted a thanksgiving service to mark the organisation’s 20th anniversary.
Persons who rendered tributes at the thanksgiving service held that morning at the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Castries, sought to reminisce on the generosity of the many thousands of donors and other supporters who have contributed the NCF’s successes over the past twenty years.
Former NCF Chairperson, Martin Weekes, recalled the sacrifices and contributions made by the various NCF chairpersons, directors and committee members over the years.
“They, in the greater part of their hard work and dedicated service, were the ones who decided it was their duty to contribute to the leadership and management of this noble organisation,” Weekes said. “Not only because of the intended beneficiaries, but because of the contribution it made to nation-building.”
He added: “During their stints, they provided for the NCF major assistance in things like the organisational policy direction, strategic development, and the implementation and general support to the Foundation, as they worked in step with the Executive Directors and the staff. Each one of these Executive Directors graced the NCF with their own peculiar skills, talents and styles, and each certainly left their individual footprints on the organisation.”
Long-time committee member and NCF honouree, Agatha Jn. Panel, also spoke at the thanksgiving service. She recalled the NCF first awarding 13 scholarships in 2003. By 2004, that number shot up to 76. Since 2004, the NCF has consistently awarded scholarships and bursaries to Saint Lucian students, except for 2009. In 2022, the NCF awarded 20 scholarships and 12 bursaries.
“It may interest you to know that our children (who receive scholarships and bursaries) come from every part of Saint Lucia, every school,” Jn. Panel, who has served the NCF for 19 years, said. “Once they perform and we see the need, these children are awarded scholarships. Students who have benefitted from the NCF scholarships have gone on and excelled in various professions. They have become doctors, policemen and policewomen, teachers, civil service workers, bankers, firefighters, entrepreneurs, tradesmen, architects and medical technicians. Right now, we have nine students attending university.”
Those in attendance and viewing via live stream were edified with the knowledge that the establishment of the NCF was the brainchild of Hon. Emma Hippolyte, when she served as the Director of the National Insurance Corporation. She subsequently served as the NCF’s first Chairperson and at the church service, she remarked that the initial vision of the NCF remains relevant today as the COVID-19 pandemic and other critical factors have resulted in many more people needing assistance.
“It seems like just yesterday when we embarked on transforming the NIC (National Insurance Corporation) with the main objective of bringing the NIC closer to the people and making it more relevant to the people of Saint Lucia,” Hon. Hippolyte said. “This transformation resulted in the establishment of the NCF, a philanthropic organisation, where all Saint Lucians, no matter how small, make their contribution.”
Established by Parliament Act No. 26 of 2002, on October 24, 2002, the spirit of giving generously has been the central theme espoused at the National Community Foundation (NCF). With most of its programmes sponsored by volunteers and donations from individuals and organisations, the NCF can be best described as the “National Koudmen”.
Most people know about the NCF through its annual telethon, the NCF’s flagship event hosted to raise funds to be used in the administration of its programmes, all aimed at providing assistance that brings relief to vulnerable people in Saint Lucia.
Beneficiaries receive support in focus areas such as youth-at-risk, elderly persons, education of disadvantaged children (scholarship programme), healthcare for disadvantaged persons, assistance for homeless/disadvantaged persons, persons with disabilities, and the school and community chess programmes.
One of the misconceptions about the NCF is that many people believe that the monies raised during the telethon are the NCF’s total budget. However, the telethon is basically a supplementary drop of resources in the NCF’s coffers to meet growing requests from the community.
For instance, the NCF also receives many requests for medical assistance, especially from cancer patients, many of whom have to seek treatment overseas. Another example is that the NCF’s annual education budget alone amounts to over $300,000.00 with the National Insurance Corporation (NIC) contributing most of that amount via a standard agreement.
Meanwhile, Michelle Phillips, Executive Director of the NCF, expressed thanks to Saint Lucians, companies and other organisations, especially those in the Diaspora, who have supported the NCF’s work over the years through their generous contributions.
“Without our corporate sponsors, we would be struggling because we get a subvention from NIC only and we do not get a subvention from the Government” Phillips said. “Consequently, we depend on the corporate sponsors and society to donate to us therefore we cannot overlook them as we say Thank You to everyone.”
Former Governor General, Dame Pearlette Louisy, who was also in attendance at the Thanksgiving Service, came in for high praise for her sterling support as Patron of the NCF throughout the years. Special thanks were also expressed to NCF staffers who work tirelessly to ensure the NCF’s programmes are carried out efficiently.
Over the coming years, the NCF hopes to continue being the light and champion for those who depend on the organisation in times of need. However, the NCF needs your assistance in that drive. You can donate to the NCF in the following ways:
· A one-time contribution
· A salary deduction
· A bequest through a will
· An in-kind contribution
· Pledging at the National Telethon
· Monthly/fortnightly contributions at the NCF office on High Street, Castries
· Direct deposit to BOSL account #10411121
Over the coming months, the NCF hopes to host other activities to continue to celebrate this milestone while simultaneously raising the much-needed funds to continue its mandate.