It hadn’t happened for 41 years. But on April 9, 2021, the La Soufriere volcano on the idyllic West Indian island of St. Vincent burst back to life. For days, stinking, sulphurous ashfall rained down on the tropical paradise, covering all vegetation, destroying the country’s entire banana crop, killing trees, collapsing roofs, plugging water pipes and cutting off electricity. Many people who lived in the northern part of the island, nearest the volcano, were forced from their homes into crowded shelters. Social services at the south end of the island were congested and overwhelmed.
Governments worked hard to restore running water and electricity. What was needed was a human touch. That is where the churches of Oshawa deanery stepped up. Cassandra Duncan, a parishioner of St. George Memorial, Oshawa who is originally from St. Vincent, started a relief effort to send gently used summer clothes, food and toiletries in barrels to St. Vincent, where Cassandra’s niece is a social worker in a shelter.
Word of the need spread like lightning, and Anglicans and their friends began to respond, sorting through their summer clothes and donating the things that no longer fit. Parishioners from St. George’s stepped forward to help with sorting and packing. The Rev. Ian Martin, incumbent of St. Matthew, Oshawa, which partners each Sunday with St. George’s to videotape “Durham Region in Faith,” immediately offered to help. Their digital media co-ordinator, Jill Hamilton, created a flyer that was distributed to the deanery’s clergy.
Three other churches in the deanery – All Saints, Whitby, St. Peter, Oshawa and St. George, Pickering Village – joined St. George’s and St. Matthew’s, as did parishioners from churches outside the area. In all, 10 70-gallon barrels of clothing, toiletries and food, plus a large carton and a suitcase of items, were shipped to St. Vincent.
One thing we have learned in the pandemic is that there is always something we can do to help others. We only need to be creative. We can reach out with Christ`s love to let our neighbours in St. Vincent know that they are not alone. They may not have much water, so we can send clean clothes. We can send food, combs and toothbrushes – the little things left behind when people had to flee their homes.
We are waiting to hear that the barrels have arrived and, with our human touch, some little help will be offered. Anglicans once again came together to love our neighbours as ourselves.