By Prem Calvin Prashad
West Indians Serving Humanity, a charitable group partly based in Queens’ West Indian community, returned from a successful trip to the Caribbean with new ideas for this coming year.
In addition to more efforts within Queens, the group plans to expand its reach to lasting projects and new locations in Africa and the Caribbean. Many of the members of WISH emigrated from the Caribbean to Queens and surrounding areas and to seek better lives of those in their homelands as well as remaining civic-minded in the borough.
In December before Christmas, WISH members from Queens and Brooklyn traveled to Trinidad and Guyana with barrels packed with clothes, toys, school supplies and books. It was through the generosity of Queens residents as well as shipping sponsorship from Laparkan Trading that ensured that these barrels reached the hands of those who needed it. The tightly-knit West Indian community in South Queens responded resoundingly to calls for items to be donated and shipped to Guyana and Trinidad.
In Guyana, WISH’s president, Safraz Deen, of Brooklyn; WISH supporters Praim “Krrish” Samsoondar, of Queens; and Marlon Seecharan, of Yonkers, joined supporters in the South American nation to deliver donated toys and school supplies to about 50 children at the Railway View Project’s center in a rural village on the west coast of Guyana.
They were joined by the Guyana-based Society against Sexual Orientation Discrimination. The center, a small property, hosts a small library and provides literacy classes for children from the surrounding villages.
“When we drove down there, we noticed that the people were really, really poor, many with houses made of zinc,” Deen said. “These are the people that we’re trying to help.”
It is his hope that for the children in that village, the group can muster the funds for two or three computers for a nearby children’s center and more supplies for the school-age children.
Another 80 children at the Ruimveldt Children’s Aid Centre, in Georgetown, the capital, also received care packages. Ruimveldt provides care for HIV-positive children and promotes HIV/AIDS education. In addition, some 20 children at the Prabhu Sharan orphanage in Cornelia Ida received gifts donated by tri-state area residents, particularly from Queens.
Another WISH group supporter, Ricardo Babulall, of Queens, traveled to Trinidad to supervise the distribution of donated items there.
The group’s efforts ensured that the items reached many needy families, but the group plans to explore ways in which it can make a lasting impact on the places members have visited.
“Although people can use the clothing, we didn’t think it would have a big impact on their lives,” Deen said.
While WISH plans to increase its efforts in Guyana and Trinidad this year, there are also plans to explore smaller projects in Jamaica and the African country of Namibia.
In Jamaica, Deen hopes the group will be able to donate cricket equipment to a school there. The proposed project for Namibia will include a shipment of school supplies for a one-room school house there. Children travel for miles to that schoolhouse.
Indeed, WISH members noted that the most pressing need in many of the locations they visited was school supplies.