From left to right: Project Administrator, Massy Foundation (Barbados), Gillian Corbin; Advisory Committee Member, Massy Foundation (Barbados), Cherieda Phillips; Assistant VP, Massy Integrated Retail Portfolio, Dionne Walcott; Minister of People Empowerment & Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde; Director of Massy Foundation (Barbados) Inc., Lennox Prescod; & Chief Welfare Officer, Deborah Norville, at this morning’s presentation of $50,000 worth of food vouchers to the Welfare Department. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

The Welfare Department’s food distribution efforts have been strengthened, thanks to the Massy Foundation (Barbados).

The philanthropic organisation today presented $50,000 worth of food vouchers to the department during a brief ceremony this morning at the Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Warrens Office Complex, Warrens, St. Michael.

Each voucher carries a maximum value of $300 and is redeemable at Massy Stores.

Chief Welfare Officer, Deborah Norville, welcomed the donation, noting there had been an increase in the number of people seeking its services since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said while they receive numerous applications for services, such as cash grants, rents and utility payments, food continues to be the highest category of assistance granted.          

“The figures for the month of May 2021 indicated that 3,326 persons received food from the department, at a cost of approximately $870,000,” Mrs. Norville revealed, stating that the project would aid in improving the quality of life for the most vulnerable.

“Among the vulnerable groups to be targeted will be large families with small children, the disabled, the elderly and persons with HIV….  It is estimated that approximately 166 individuals will benefit from this assistance,” Mrs. Norville added.

Meanwhile, Director of Massy Foundation (Barbados) Inc., Lennox Prescod, commended the Welfare Department for its work, noting that the Foundation reached out to them, having recognised the difficult situations persons were in due to the pandemic.

“Once it was confirmed that the department had, in fact, seen an influx of new applications for welfare services, our advisory committee unanimously recommended providing and making a contribution. The Board has been very impressed with the professionalism of the Welfare Department, and we are confident that this donation will be well allocated to those needy persons who meet the criteria for assistance,” he said, pledging Massy’s commitment to further working with the department.

Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde, in expressing gratitude to the Massy Foundation, remarked: “This donation will not only be appreciated from the Ministry at the departmental level, but also from the governmental level, as this administration has been working assiduously to establish stronger links and form partnerships with civil society organisations and the private sector to address the many needs of our vulnerable population…. We need your help now, more than ever before.”

Minister Forde disclosed that Parliament had already reviewed the Adopt Our Families Programme, adding that there “will be a reinjection of funds to help to carry citizens of Barbados who are most vulnerable to another level, that at least poverty will not strike them in the face, day and night”.

She also responded to criticism from some people, who believe that the Ministry was not doing enough to provide relief to the poor, stressing that officers had been working around the clock; doing their best under the circumstances to provide support to persons.

In addition, the Minister endorsed the screening of individuals as a means of determining their eligibility for aid, pointing out that “sometimes those who come with a begging bowl are still working and can make it through, but because they think it is a free for all, many will come”.

Minister Forde, however, assured Barbadians that the Ministry would not “be sidetracked by that because the larger proportion of those numbers are really people who are living in abject poverty”.

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