The effect of tough economic austerity measures on families has pushed the Salvation Army to increase its Christmas food hampers to 4,000 this year as more Barbadians in need come forward, declaring their struggle to survive, its leader said today.
Divisional Commander Major Darrell Wilkinson said that while approximately 3,700 parcels of food items were given out last year, the decision to increase the handouts was prompted by a long list of people declaring themselves either unemployed or simply not earning enough to support their families.
Wilson said the Salvation Army was looking forward to a turnaround in the economy to reduce the number of people in need knocking on the church’s doors for assistance.
Major Wilkinson said: “There are more persons who come to us each year than we can service, so we always give a cut-off mark. If we have it open people will keep coming all the time. So last year was 3,700 hampers we give out and this year we are looking at that 4,000.
“Yes, more persons are coming and that’s a reality.
“It is something I guess as the economy changes, then you would have changes in that kind of scenario.
“When the economy gets better I believe that things will get better. When the economy stagnates or gets bad so to speak, then you will have this kind of problem.”
The Divisional Commander was speaking to members of the media today following a service attended by Governor General Dame Sandra Mason to mark the beginning of the Christmas Hamper Distribution, at the Salvation Army’s Bridgetown Central Hall on Reed Street.
In order to meet the needs of the growing number of people approaching the church for help, Major Wilkinson said he was hopeful that this year’s Christmas and Letter Appeal reach its $700,000 target. The Army raised $500 less than its $650,000 Christmas and Letter Appeal target last year.
He told reporters: “[The money] will be used for all our feeding programmes and our hostel. Our hostel, we could say that’s a liability because it doesn’t bring money in per se, so it is almost a free programme.
“Also we have our back to school programme that we use some of those funds for. Then persons come during the year and we have a food pantry where we help them. Then we have our mentorship programme.”
Those who attended the service heard musical selections from the Royal Barbados Police Force Band, heard a retelling of the Nativity story, and received season’s greetings from Dame Sandra.
The Governor General said: “Certainly on my behalf, on behalf of my personal family I would want to say a very special Christmas to all of you.
“And as Major Wilkinson said, despite the fact that you might not be as fortunate as other persons, God loves you and always will.”
The Salvation Army hosts its annual Christmas luncheon for the needy on December 20, while the children’s party is to be held next Wednesday.