An Ealing-based Vincentian has shipped 18 barrels of essential items to support evacuees living in shelters following volcanic eruptions in St Vincent.
St Vincent-born digital marketing consultant Ann-Marie Brooks posted the 220 litre barrels, filled with items including clothes, toiletries, toys, shoes and dry food, on Friday April 23.
Ann-Marie, who moved to the UK in 2002, said she was overwhelmed after receiving so many item donations and more than £2,000 to help pay for the £1,000 shipping costs, following a GoFundMe appeal.
Ann-Marie said: “I was aiming for 10 barrels of supplies but to my amazement there were hundreds of phone calls coming in to me from all across the country. Some said ‘I’ve got a bag full of stuff for you to take right now’. The support has been overwhelming right across the country, it’s quite encouraging.
“I actually had to turn down some donations and refer them to other people who are doing similar humanitarian relief initiatives. I had to prioritise what people actually need in temporary accommodation, because there’s only so much the shipping company can take at a time. 18 barrels is a bit much for one truck to actually take stuff to the dock.”
The UN estimated up to 20,000 Vincentians were displaced from their homes amid heavy ash fall and pyroclastic flows, after the La Soufriere Volcano began erupting for the first time in 42 years on Friday April 9.
While no fatalities or casualties have yet been reported, the eruption has destroyed crops and contaminated clean water supplies, leading neighbouring countries, including Antigua and Guyana to ship water to the island.
Ann-Marie, who grew up in La Croix, a small village in Marriaqua, where her parents and relatives still live, said she was deeply affected when she first heard the news.
She said: “I’ve never seen it before, ash moving thousands of miles up in the air. It had an emotional hold on me for about a week because I watched the sad stories of people whose houses were covered in ash.
“These people have lost their livelihoods, they are farmers, they are shop owners, who are no longer receiving an income, basically relying on the government and other organisations to look after them. Watching the animals try to find food – it was a bit much for me emotionally.
“It propelled me to actually do something for my country, so I took a week off and said ‘yes let’s do it Ann-Marie, let’s support St Vincent.”
Ann-Marie added that she would not rule out starting further humanitarian appeals should there be the need in future.
The week-long Ealing humanitarian effort was supported by the Ealing Christian Centre and volunteers along with independent donors.
Ann-Marie said once the barrels arrive to St Vincent within the next few weeks, goods will be distributed across shelters across the Marriaqua area, with the help of St.Vincent based Christian youth charity Reach SVG.
On Tuesday April 27, the UK government committed a further £500,000 on top of the £200,000 funds already pledged to support displaced families to gain access to food, clean water and essentials.