Safeguarding Caribbean Children after Hurricane Beryl

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Alicia Chamely
By Alicia Chamely

YOU know you are surrounded by a pack of bitter, dead hearted, gutter trolls when there are public objections to opening our borders to children who have been extremely traumatised by the nightmare that was and still is Hurricane Beryl.

On Tuesday via social media Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced our borders would open for children from Carriacou and the Grenadines who have been displaced due to the devastation of Beryl.

He said, “Trinidad and Tobago has offered to allow school-age children from the devastated zones to be allowed into Trinidad and Tobago if they have family here, who may wish to house them during the school holiday period which is upon us at this time.”

Most homes in Carriacou and the Grenadines have been completely lost or are currently inhabitable. The Government of St Vincent said 98% of population of Union Island is now homeless. Just to put this in perspective, Carriacou has a population of over 9,000 and Union Island about 3,000.

Food is scarce, electricity and running water are almost non-existent to some. There is concern of disease spreading due to lack of sanitation, fresh water and medical facilities.

Perfect conditions for children to thrive don’t you think! God forbid, we give them sanctuary for
two months while the most difficult stage of rebuilding begins! How dare we let them stay with
their own family members where they will have a roof over their heads, food to eat and a sense of safety.

I completely understand that some people have concerns. Is the government going to be giving financial assistance? If they are, what safeguards will be put in place to ensure this assistance will not be abused? Will there be any sort of background checks to ensure these children are going into safe environments?

These concerns are completely reasonable and should be addressed. But, as per usual, our government has not figured out that the smartest way to go is to present the whole plan, rather than just spit out a half-baked statement then act surprised when people have questions. It’s been nine years guys! It’s worrying that you have learned nothing.

Any reservations I have are completely centered on the safeguarding of these already vulnerable children.

What upsets me are the people who are either politicising the issue or coming with the usual selfish “allyuh cant mind yuh own people and yuh mind others” attitude.

The opposition asked reasonable questions, but corrupted that reason with selfish undertones aimed at creating confusion and undermining the basic humanitarian nature of helping those in serious need. Both the opposition and government have been on my last nerve recently and their attack and politicisation of helping our CARICOM brothers and sisters has pushed me over the edge.

Then we have hollow brained gum bumpers, spewing sentiments such as, “This is just a ploy to gain votes, watch how all dem will get citizenship and be used in election for votes!”, “We suffering and cah get nothing and they bringing in more mouths to feed!”

Firstly, pull your head out of your… for a moment. The Government has offered to shelter
these children who are not eligible to vote (I am bewildered I have to remind people of this) for two months, not a lifetime, but enough time for their families to scrape the bare minimum of the lives together.

Also, the government has invited them to stay with family, not in suites at the Hyatt on all inclusive packages with weekly spa treatments.

Finally, had Beryl flattened our country watch and see how quick all of you who playing big and bad would be begging other countries to help.

I am a firm believer of the golden rule: Treat Others As You Would Like To Be Treated.

And if I was in situation where my home was lost, loved ones had been lost and the place I call home resembled a post-apocalyptic scene, I would be immensely grateful for any assistance in keeping my children safe. And while I would feel so blessed for the help being offered, it would kill whatever was left of me to see people throw hate or prejudice at any actions trying to help me and family.

It is fine to have legitimate concerns, it is not okay to use a humanitarian act to gain political points or to taint it with your own personal grouses. More now than ever we as a region need to come together. We need to be our brothers’ keepers.

We need to be Caribbean strong.


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