Tour of Richmond Hill highlights the Indo-Caribbean community’s needs

Ridgewood Times/Photos by Anthony Giudice

The Indo-Caribbean population and culture in Richmond Hill is booming, and as a result the residents are in need of programs and institutions that bring them together as a community.

Richard David, co-founder of the Indo-Caribbean Alliance (ICA), led a 2-hour walking tour on June 25 of Richmond Hill’s important Indo-Caribbean cultural hubs, including Little Guyana Bake Shop and the Shri Lakshmi Narayan Mandir, informing the participants of the support system that local organizations, like the ICA, provides to their community.

“The Indo-Caribbean community in Richmond Hill has exploded in the past 10 years, growing an estimated 23 percent from 2000 to 2010 and having the third highest foreign-born population in NYC,” said Joo Han, program and communications manager for the Asian American Federation (AAF). “However, the community has received little government funding due to its lack of visibility, despite its being the largest Indo-Caribbean community in NYC.”

One stop on the tour was Shri Lakshmi Narayan Mandir, one of the oldest Hindu temples in the city.

Not only does the Mandir provide residents with a place to worship, but organizers are looking to create senior and youth programs to be held in the Mandir, in order to educate the community on the importance of joining together and helping others.

“There is no community center in the neighborhood,” said Varuna Sahabir, organizing secretary at the Shri Lakshmi Narayan Mandir. “Since there is no official place for the community to gather, it is a struggle to get people to come out to vote. The community needs to come together. That is why we are trying to reach out and help the people of the community.”

The tour concluded at the ICA office, located at 131-12 Liberty Ave., to discuss some of the community’s needs and how ICA provides support for youth and residents.

“We’re a community that can do a lot with a little support, but we have a lot of service needs,” David said. “Our youth are dropping out at unprecedented rates; we’re now faced with a generation of young people who have actually achieved less education than their parents. We need to address those needs.”

The ICA has several programs dedicated to youth, including a middle school initiative, a college bound program and a mentoring program.

“We do a leadership skill-building program, it’s a natural complement to some of our civic advocacy work because the students in our leadership program are also the ones registering people to vote, organizing debates, setting up different cleaning events for Liberty Avenue…it’s a really good way to get our programs to build greater cohesion,” David said.

According to the AAF Census Information Center the demographic profile of Richmond Hill shows that 74 percent of Indians and 72 percent of Asians were immigrants. This high level of immigration in the Indo-Caribbean community in Richmond Hill has led the ICA to create a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

DACA is a special, non-permanent immigration program that provides work permits and temporary relief from deportation to eligible residents. ICA offers help to interested residents to find free lawyers and see if they are eligible and may even be able to cover application fees.

For more information about ICA and all the services they offer please visit their website.