Despite challenges, Relief Council fulfilling mandate
--Chairperson Mrs Yvonne Hinds By Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
October 7, 2002

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CHAIRPERSON of the Guyana Relief Council (GRC), Mrs Yvonne Hinds, has said that despite the challenges posed by the difficult economic situation, the GRC is fulfilling its mandate through the lofty support of the business, civil and diplomatic communities.

Speaking at the annual fundraising luncheon of the GRC at Le Meridien Pegasus yesterday, Mrs. Hinds acknowledged and praised the support of the wider community in helping to bring relief to victims of disaster, and noting the large gathering at the event, she asked rhetorically, "How can I think of giving up humanity?"

Mrs Hinds, who is the wife of Prime Minister Sam Hinds, added: “Even though there is a wrenching, not only from the world at large but right here in our society to let go, to care less and to halt being your brother's keeper, your support, your encouragement, your reassurance, your positive action, give us hope."

The GRC Chairperson expressed her abhorrence of the present violence and criminal activities permeating the society. "I doubt that there is anyone among us who is not incensed by the current senseless and inhuman violations of Guyanese by those "who have no respect for God nor man, those who have poisoned the minds of the vulnerable and made them barbarians, continue to egg them on by condoning, openly and tacitly, encouraging and defending (them) for whatever reason, historical or otherwise. They are the real criminals in our society, who by their action refuse to put Guyana first."

Speaking on the importance and relevance of the luncheon to the work of the GRC, Mrs. Hinds observed: "This luncheon is important not only to restore our depleted resources but to celebrate the wonderful people who are our members, our supporters, donors and volunteers, who by their participation, contribution, cooperation and generosity have put their hands, their minds and most of all their hearts to the service of others."

Alluding to the difficult work being undertaken by the GRC, she said that disasters do not discriminate, and pointed out that volunteers have themselves suffered from disasters.

Mrs. Hinds recalled the destruction by fire of the building the GRC occupied in South Road, and the residence of Mrs. Rolyn Vander Meer, Secretary of the GRC earlier this year. As such, she said, members of the GRC have first hand knowledge and understand the needs of victims. “We are doing our utmost to tailor the assistance to those needs.”

Reviewing the work of the GRC for the period January 1, 2002 to September 30, 2002, Mrs Hinds disclosed: "In working towards the fulfillment of its mandate, the Relief Council provided assistance to 109 families whose lives were affected by fire, high winds, floods and other man-made and natural disasters. Assistance in the sum of $1,706,120 was provided to 520 individuals from 109 families and five organisations."

Another major achievement of the GRC during this period was the construction of a temporary shelter, Mrs. Hinds informed the gathering. She stated that the Japanese, Chinese, German, Netherlands and Canadian governments have made tangible contributions towards its successful completion.

She added: "The doors of this shelter would be thrown open as soon as we are able to accrue sufficient funding for sustaining this operation. Due to the economic downturn both globally and locally, projected funding did not materialise. In the meantime, requests have been made to the Ministry of Human Services and the Lotteries Commission. Despite the delay, when we throw our doors open, they will never be closed again."

Mrs. Hinds also made a stirring appeal for more volunteers to work with the GRC: "I make a plea for volunteers. We can only carry out our mandate if we have the human resources. As societies move through the economic cycles and recover from acts of terrorism, the concept of volunteering, to offer comfort and one's time to make a difference has become validated as an accepted and natural part of daily life. Only recently on the anniversary of September 11, we have seen vivid replays of acts of bravery, kindness and giving of self. I hope we are all inspired to re-evaluate how we chose to spend our time and are motivated to push harder for a better world."

The assistance provided to victims of disasters is sustained through a small Government subvention, three annual fundraising activities, donations from individuals and the business community and supporters and friends from overseas.

The Guyana Relief Council (GRC) also held a successful fundraising buffet luncheon in May this year. The event was sponsored by the New Thriving Restaurant, Brickdam and Camp Streets.

Mrs. Hinds on that occasion reported: “At the end of April we have helped over 50 families consisting of over 250 persons who suffered disasters of varying degrees in all ten Regions of Guyana, and this does not include the welfare assistance which we have given to a number of individuals who have ‘hard times’ and to the hinterland communities of Gunn Strip, Matthews Ridge, Mahdia, Kato, Itabai and other villages in Region Eight.”

Mrs. Bernice Mansell, Assistant Secretary of the GRC and veteran activist in humanitarian work, described the function of the GRC as one of "caring and sharing" and offered that fund raising events like that of the luncheon create a common ground with people of different backgrounds coming together in a spirit f mutual understanding and goodwill.