The Sandy Lane Charitable Trust (SLCT) is assuring Barbadians that its donation of 1.5 million in grocery vouchers to help families impacted by COVID-19 over a course of six weeks has built-in controls for full accountability.
Board Trustee with the SLCT Phillipa Challis revealed that the Trust was looking at donating an additional $1.5 million in vouchers. In an exclusive interview with Barbados TODAY the Trust official made this clear as she responded to some concerns raised about the extent of the political involvement in the distribution of the food vouchers which is being facilitated by the constituency offices.
Challis, who said the response to the vouchers has been overwhelming thus far, noted that transparency and accountability are of concern to the SLCT, which has no political bias and has placed stringent accounting procedures that the representatives at constituency offices are required to follow.
SLCT’s Feed a Family Programme was launched two weeks ago at Ilaro Court.
The accountant said not only are the vouchers coded, but the selected supermarkets in the respective constituencies have already been paid.
“We have been supporting the children of Barbados for 16 years and during those 16 years, ten years was a DLP [Democratic Labour Party] government,” she explained. “As you are well aware, regardless of who is in government, through the surgeons, we have operated on over a 100 children. So we are not in any shape or form politically biased.
“First of all we announced it [the vouchers programme] before we did it which gives total transparency and people the opportunity to reach out to their MPs which I know there have been doing in great numbers. The MPs phones are ringing off the hooks and they are constantly being bombarded with requests. So we announced it on Friday and then we distributed on Monday and people started going to the supermarkets on Tuesday,” she said.
She added: “We have given the constituency offices basically $16 750 worth in vouchers and this weekend they will receive another tranche of $16 750 and that would be followed by another in two weeks. We are not asking how people have been chosen.
“Each MP has to tell us a name, how many kids, the area the person is coming from and a telephone number for if we wish to spot check. So each constituency is doing it differently. Some people are doing it based obviously on the number of children in the household.”
Challis further explained that SLCT initially contemplated distributing the vouchers through charities and churches, but decided not to go that route since these organizations were already receiving assistance from other sources.
She said ultimately constituency offices were chosen because of their wide reach in communities.
“We suggested a maximum of $200 per family over two weeks so that we could reach as many people as possible. And I know from our control sheets that some people are only getting $50, some are getting $100, some are getting $150, and some are getting $200 and that is all dependent on how many children are in the family and what the need is,” she said.
She said the vouchers handed out during this first phase of the programme have proven not to be enough and noted that the top up of the additional 1.5 million is needed.
“We are not adding to what we have given already. What we are doing is we are extending it because realistically we know that this won’t end over the next four weeks. Not everybody will be back at work and we understand that it is going to be another six weeks and we have got the money ready, and we are ready for the next three tranches which will bring the total close to $3 million.
Challis also announced that to further boost the programme, SLCT’s grand patron and trustee Derrick Smith and his wife have agreed to donate fresh produce and meat from their farm to families in need.
She said that the Trust has purchased food items and intended to add them to the fresh produce and meat to put together food hampers to donate to needy persons who have not received vouchers. She said these hampers will also be distributed through the constituency offices.
“The Trust recognizes that we couldn’t reach everybody so we are just trying to reach more people. We have done the best we can and we are still not meeting all the needs. I personally think that 10 000 people out there need support. So there are always going to be people saying they are not getting,” she said.
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