From Beauty to Ashes - ADRA-UK Responds to St Vincent Disaster

From Beauty to Ashes - ADRA-UK Responds to St Vincent Disaster

Catherine Anthony Boldeau - ADRA-UK Development Education Officer

The verdant green of the rich landscape of the La Soufriere volcano was reminiscent of the green and pleasant land of a fairy tale.  The devastation of its eruption on 9 April transformed the green dew-kissed dense rainforest to a grey volcanic apocalyptic wilderness. People fled their homes, left their fields ripe with needed crops, and escaped the 'red' zone in the north of the island to safer ground in the south.

The volcano continues to erupt.  Explosions with accompanying ash fall, of similar or larger magnitude can occur with little or no warning and the volcano is still at alert level red.

With around 15% of the inhabitants of the island displaced, the total population of 110,696 people are affected due to the ashes and complete or partial water shutdown to prevent contamination from the ashes. 

Pastor Ian Sweeney, Chair of the board of ADRA-UK and President of the British Union Conference, visited the island prior to the 2020 lockdown said, "My first holiday before the lockdown was a family holiday to St Vincent.  While there, the highlight was climbing La Soufriere.  The views from the summit of the volcano were breathtaking and worthy of my holiday snaps. 

"Today, the picture in St Vincent is very different and the lives of all have been hugely impacted with the volcanic ash fallout resulting in people having to leave their homes, scarcity of fresh water and the loss of agriculture. We have an opportunity to change the picture for the people of St Vincent with our donations." 

Adventist Community Services (ACS) in St Vincent spoke to Kensal Williams, one of the evacuees, who left his home with just the clothes on his back and is currently residing in one of the shelters on the island. 

A needs assessment has revealed three areas of concern: health, water and sanitation and hygiene and shelter. 

What is ADRA doing?

ADRA continues to provide 1280 meals every day, providing lunch and dinner to 600 people at the request of the National Emergency Management Organisation who is co-ordinating the emergency response of the island.  ADRA's meal distribution will be extended for a second month.

Through local churches, ADRA is hosting evacuees in 10 facilities which are being used as shelters. Dr The Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, recently visited one of these shelters to thank and encourage the volunteers for their work.

Local ADRA offices in the region have been appointed to received in-kind donations from their local governments and ADRA-UK along with ADRA Canada, Denmark and the Bahamas have dedicated appeals to support the emergency response in partnership with ADRA International.

ADRA-UK in partnership with Adventist Community Services (ACS) is also supporting the grassroots initiatives of local churches in the United Kingdom as they raise funds and/or provide needed supplies for the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines.  On Sunday 18 April, the High Wycombe churches packed 187 boxes, filled with sanitary supplies, children's clothing, adult diapers, water and dry food for shipment to St Vincent. 

His Excellency, Cenio Lewis, The High Commissioner from St Vincent and the Grenadines to the UK recently issued this statement, "This is a crisis situation which  affects the whole population.  In the case of those who have had to abandon their homes it is a time of apprehension and stress for they have no real idea as to when they may be able to return home and even when they do, what are they returning to for most of them would have lost their animals or their agricultural crops.  In simple terms their livelihoods have been destroyed.

"On behalf of the government and in particular on behalf of the people who would benefit from your prayers and generosity I wish to express my sincere thanks.  The advice from the Ministry is that it is preferable, at the moment, to make monetary donations as that could be used to quickly purchase necessary commodities on the island for distribution to those in need."

In reflecting on this emergency situation, Bert Smit, CEO of ADRA-UK, said, "our thoughts and prayers are with the people of St Vincent at this difficult time. As a humanitarian agency, we are working with our partners in the network to ensure the best outcomes for the most vulnerable people affected by the volcano. We value the grassroots groundswell of support for this humanitarian emergency. But we would echo the words of the High Commissioner, in stating that cash donations can assist to provide an immediate response to the crisis." 

With over £16,000 raised to date, ADRA-UK committed an initial £12,000 to support the food support in the shelters on the island. More will be used to help in the recovery stage.

Donations to ADRA-UK for the St Vincent Appeal can be sent by clicking on this link:

Donations can also be made by cheque referencing St Vincent Emergency.