A local charity is calling on Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to make good on a promise he made to them a year ago.
Trustee of the Sandy Lane Charitable Trust Phillipa Challis said her organization was still struggling to get three buses to assist children with disabilities, even though the Prime Minister had given his word that he would render assistance to them.
While pointing out that the Sandy Lane Charitable Trust was importing “millions and millions of dollars” of items to assist residents and had to pay taxes on them, she said for the past three years the organization had been trying to get special buses to transport children with disabilities, but suggested that Government was not making it easy.
She therefore stated that what her organization would most appreciate from Stuart would be assistance in importing the buses duty free.
“I have lived here 19 years and I am apolitical, but on the 17 of April 2015, the Prime Minister [Freundel Stuart], in the presence of Chris Sinckler [Minister of Finance], actually stood up and committed to 300 people when we opened the Derrick Smith School [and Vocational Centre], committed . . . that there would be a partnership and working with the Government,” said Challis.
However, “to date . . . we are still trying to find three duty free buses for the disabled children in Barbados,” she said, adding: “I know I am speaking out of turn, but the problem is for us it . . . is a challenge. And I will tell you that even for a charity that is as large as ours it shouldn’t have to be a fight.”
She said representatives of the charity had met with transport officials in their quest to find out what was holding up the process.
Challis said she had even suggested to Government officials that “if it makes it easier, ‘I will buy a bus from the board of transport’, and [we have] even tried to purchase a bus at the board of transport.
“Don’t get me wrong it has nothing to do with the current Government. It is no different with any Government, but the reality is, you make it hard for us to give to people. That is red tape, that is policies, I am not sure,” she said, pointing out that after three years most people would have given up.
Challis was speaking during a National NGO Network seminar at the Hilton resort where NGOs identified obstacles standing in the way of them rendering assistance to the vulnerable.
During today’s panel discussion, development consultant Chetwyn Ryce, speaking from the audience, raised the issue of charities not being able to import items without paying taxes, saying there was need for legislation to be put in place to “support” them “on a national level”.
However, president of the Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society Kemar Saffrey, who was a panellist, said his charity had been able to get items cleared from the Bridgetown Port “without paying duties or any tax or any whatsoever”.
Earlier, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo had encouraged the groups not to give up because of the problems they faced, saying it was critical that they formed strategic partnerships.
She also called on Barbadians, both local and abroad, to “embrace, like never before, the spirit of charity and voluntarism”.
“An NGO network allows you to gain access to new and diverse resources including funding and in-kind support, as well as information and expertise and skills, and can enhance your visibility and capacity,” she advised, pointing out that some Government ministries did not know about some organizations although they would love to form partnerships.
Byer-Suckoo also noted that NGO’s often missed out on funding because they “don’t know how to access that funding”.