The Barbados Red Cross Meals on Wheels programme has gotten something extra to ‘sweeten the pot’ and to help continue to feed some 57 households daily.
Suediann Conliffe, Head, International Corporate Banking at CIBC FirstCaribbean, and a past Red Cross Volunteer when she was a teenager, was more than happy to present a cheque on behalf of the bank to help fund the feeding programme and supply the 57 persons with a hot meal every day.
Danielle Toppin, the Director General of the Barbados Red Cross explained that the organisation had a staff of four who worked in the kitchen daily supplying hearty, nutritious meals, working from 6:30 in the morning. The meals are delivered either by the Red Cross driver or volunteers who have committed their time and vehicles to driving Red Cross personnel to various homes to make the deliveries, supplying a heavy meal for those households which included cou-cou and soup from time to time. Menus, she added, were based on what was available and they are in the process of changing the menus to accommodate the special dietary needs of some of the recipients.
The former Red Cross Project Manager explained that many of the recipients are selected by the National Assistance Board, or people who called to ask or recommend persons who are in need of the meals. However, she clarified that it is difficult to expand the programme at present without further support as it is not an income earner since there is no charge for the service and they were operating out of contributions from donors and corporate entities.
The other drawback is that the Red Cross currently purchases its groceries at the full retail price except for a few supermarkets and other entities who have offered partnership support over the years in the form of in-kind contributions. They also receive an annual subvention from the government.
Looking to the future, the Director General stated that she would like to build relationships with more entities to help offset the cost of the meals production, improve the kitchen and get more help which could redound to more people being assisted.
In presenting the cheque, Conliffe reminisced on her days as a volunteer, explaining her love for the uniform and being a part of the Independence Parade. She recalled the days when they gathered and presented hampers and toys to families at Christmas and explained how the Red Cross shaped her life, helping to build character and gratitude at that age.