When COVID-19 cases began appearing in Guyana resulting in quarantine measures and reduced economic activity, the Salvation Army Guyana Division had to move quickly to ensure that persons in need still got fed; but there was one big hurdle—funding.
Persons who relied on Salvation Army assistance daily were even more in need, so too were laid-off workers and others whose incomes had been curtailed because of COVID-19 measures. The Salvation Army was ready and willing to help, but lacked the means to do so. “We needed funding to take action,” Divisional Commander, Major Matignol St. Lot recalled.
Since the early days of the pandemic, the Division had designed a comprehensive COVID-19 relief plan, targeting families in urgent need. “Our plan was to provide 300-400 meals daily for four weeks to the homeless and provide groceries to some of the families in quarantine, approximately 1,000 persons…and prepare food hampers for about 2,000 persons,” Major St. Lot said.
The Division approached private donors and corporate sponsors for funding, but this was not easy because the pandemic had forced most donors to cut spending significantly. But the Division pressed on, hopeful that it would get the funding needed to provide the much-needed assistance.
“We contacted ExxonMobil [Guyana]…we indicated where their assistance would be most needed, and provided a budget,” Major St. Lot said. The budget was substantial—about G$10 million—and the Salvation Army would have welcomed any part of it. However, ExxonMobil rose to the occasion and contributed the entire amount.
The impact was immediate and far-reaching. To date, the Salvation Army has prepared and delivered more than 3,000 hot meals and 500 food hampers with basic food items, such as flour, milk, sugar, cooking oil, peas, beans, canned foods, and biscuits, mainly in Georgetown. The exercise will also encompass the towns of New Amsterdam, Linden and Bartica, and rural communities across Guyana.
“The feeding programme caters for the homeless and anyone who needs a hot meal. The food hampers help families of persons who have lost their jobs, parents who are compelled to be quarantined, and children who are out of school…” Major St. Lot explained.
The project is coordinated and implemented by volunteers, some of whom work fulltime to prepare meals and handle the packaging and distribution of hampers.
“As we combat hunger, the level of depression and hopelessness is reduced,” the Major declared, adding that the donation had multiple spin-off benefits like affording a revenue stream to the project’s suppliers.
Speaking on behalf of the Guyana Division, Major St. Lot said the initiative has helped a substantial number of people and put them on a pathway of hope. “We see this initiative with ExxonMobil as one of the utmost importance, in the sense that the strong are here to support the weak,” the Major asserted.
Given the success of this partnership with ExxonMobil, he said the Salvation Army Guyana Division is hoping to partner with the company again, with regard to planning and launching an income-generating project to help even more persons in need as the country rebounds after the pandemic ends.