The Sandy Lane Charitable Trust (SLCT) appears to be in dire financial straits after an “incredibly difficult” year in which it went nearly $3 million over its annual budget to “put food on people’s tables”.
This was the assessment of its Trustee Phillipa Challis as she sought to dispel any notion that the West Coast-based charity run by “white women” has “an enormous pot of gold”.
Describing the last six months as “a learning curve”, Challis explained that in addition to the $2.5 million spent annually to bolster schools and other educational projects, this year the trust spent $6 million on food vouchers as part of a national COVID-19 response. This decision carried the trust well beyond its budget of between $4-5 million dollars.
“That’s our very last and we no longer have any money left in the bank,” Challis told the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) National Impact Consultation Seminar at Hilton Barbados on Wednesday.
“Everybody perceives that we have an enormous pot of gold. We don’t.
“Our money, whether it is $5 million or $5 has had to stretch. We have had to prioritize in a way that I have to tell you, breaks my heart,” she added.
The SLCT trustee revealed that throughout the year, including the lockdowns of March and April, her team packed and delivered 13,000 food hampers in addition to providing more than 90,000 food vouchers distributed through the constituency offices of the country’s 30 members of Parliament.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that the charity’s largest annual fundraiser that includes a massive party and golf tournament cannot take place next January due to the COVID-19 situation.
“So not only have we spent more than all of our savings, but we actually don’t have a way of raising the money next year. So I’m literally going to have to go out with my begging bowl to some of those West Coast people and ask for the money,” she explained.
“That’s not about me, but I’m trying to explain that everybody views us as this sort of West Coast, white women with a different set of problems. Well ironically guys, we don’t have a different set of problems.
“For all of you that envisage this huge organisation that disperses these funds, it isn’t and we both take it extremely personally,” she explained.
Challis went on to question the priorities of some of the smaller charities in the room, some of which have been seeking assistance with extravagant projects that are seemingly out of touch with current realities.
“There are so many of you in this room that apply to us and we smiled recently because we had a couple of proposals that have come in looking for buildings or projects, some of which cost up to $200,000 and I’m sitting there thinking ‘really guys?’ We need to put food on people’s tables.”
Going forward, she suggested that smaller community-based organisations do more work to convince those with the means, to assist those without.
“Little things can make a massive difference in our communities and those people that you know are struggling, everybody can help. It’s like the old bajan saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. I think every one of us should take a little bit of that,” Challis concluded.