By Prem Calvin Prashad
A charitable group based in the West Indian community is seeking to collect school supplies to aid pupils in the Caribbean.
West Indians for Humanity, a collection of individuals in Queens, Brooklyn, Long Island and the Caribbean, are known for previous efforts that include shipping several barrels of donated goods from Queens to the Caribbean last year.
The Drive to Educate is a focused initiative by the group, targeting what they realized was the most pressing need when they visited the Caribbean last year to distribute donations. Last year, a nominal amount of supplies was collected at the Guyana Expo, at Queens College.
This motivated WISH to dedicate a more focused effort at collecting more school supplies.
“Some kids [there] don’t even have a backpack,” said Safraz Dean, president of West Indians Serving Humanity.
The group is primarily seeking to collect a hundred backpacks — a fundamental need for these children. Notebooks, crayons, pencils and erasers are the highest priority. If possible, supplies will be portioned into the backpacks and handed to each student.
Like other WISH collections, the donated items will be shipped in barrels to the destination. The supplies collected will be divided equally between Trinidad and Guyana, with the assistance of reputable organizations in those countries.
“There are a lot of great suggestions on where to go, but it all depends on how much we are able to collect,” said Dean.
Currently, WISH is appealing to local businesses and houses of worship to allow small collection bins for the gathering of these supplies from the community.
“A church, mandir [Hindu temple] or a mosque, even a store with high foot traffic, so people can drop off their donations there,” Dean said.
Also in the works will be an online fund-raising campaign to procure computers for the children of the Railway View Project in the West Demerara region of Guyana.
Railway View is an impoverished area and the Railway View Project helps to educate area children as well as provide support for young mothers in the area. The children, 50 of whom were recipients of donated toys last year, have a nearby community center, where the computers will be housed and secured for their benefit.
Locally, the group plans to continue its holiday toy drive, which facilitates the collection of toys in south Queens on behalf of Toys for Tots. Last year’s toy drive benefitted children in Guyana, but this year Dean noted “we wanted to send things that would have more value to the kids in Guyana, like the school supplies.”
Previously, the group also raised funds for and participated in the AIDS walk, earlier this year.
The Drive to Educate will last until Sept. 30 and, according to Dean, WISH intends to have the supplies in the Caribbean by December.
Those looking to donate items or host a collection bin may contact the group at [email protected] or at facebook.com/thewishgroup, where phone numbers are available to arrange for a pickup in Queens, Brooklyn, Long Island, the Bronx and Yonkers.