More than 10% of the population of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was displaced by the repeated eruptions of the La Soufrière volcano in April 2021. The eyes of the world were on the Breadfruit Isle. Crops were destroyed, homes covered in pyroclastic flow, and evacuees forced to move into shelters, or made to seek refuge with friends and family in other parts of the country or overseas. Ashfall continued to affect neighbouring territories for several weeks after the initial outburst. All of this, of course, coming against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Noting the immediate humanitarian needs, the Caribbean Association of Banks (CAB) Inc. reached out to members throughout the Caribbean community, who donated generously to assist their brothers and sisters. Through the Bank of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (BOSVG), XCD $60,000 [Sixty Thousand Eastern Caribbean Dollars] was presented to the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to support the nation’s recovery. BOSVG, a CAB member, was represented by Mr. Derry Williams, Managing Director, and Ms. Nandi Williams-Morgan, Corporate Secretary.
Mr. Montgomery Daniel, Acting Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Mr. Camillo Gonsalves, Minister of Finance, received the cheque from Mr. Williams. Also present was Ms. Michelle Forbes, Director of the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Mrs. Moya Leiba Barnes, Chairperson of the CAB Events Committee, Ms. Wendy Delmar, CAB CEO, and donating member banks (Caribbean Union Bank, National Bank of the Virgin Islands, and National Bank of Dominica) were represented via video call.
Said Minister Gonsalves:
“What is very important is that in times of need the entities like the Caribbean Association of Banks remind us that we’re all part of one Caribbean family. And the Caribbean Association of Banks was forged in the early fires of integration, in CARICOM, before CARICOM was even really CARICOM. But the Heads of Government met in the 70’s and they formed your organisation, which has grown from strength to strength over the last 50 years or so, and you’re manifesting once again that we’re all part of this family. And when one member of the family is hurt, or in need, we don’t have to ask – our brothers and sisters will you step up and assist us.
“I want to say that we’re very grateful in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines that the banking community, through the Caribbean Association of Banks, has made this generous offer. And I want to thank all of the member banks in CAB for their generosity of spirit and their tangible generosity that we’ve seen here today. As Derry mentioned, the financial community has been very generous and very supportive of the recovery efforts in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines from the volcano. You’ve all been very supportive in the region’s recovery from the COVID pandemic, and we know that the financial community has been generous and has been considerate of all of the challenges we face.”
Minister Gonsalves had special words of praise for domestic banks including BOSVG and their support for families and homeowners in the most affected areas, noting that there is much still to be done. “We will be calling on the banks – not only local banks, but regional banks – as our effort moves from humanitarian, into cleanup, into recovery, into relocation, into reconstruction. There are many phases to this, and at each step of our journey back to normalcy, we’re going to have to depend in one way, shape, or form on the financial sector and the banking community in particular.”
CAB, the representative voice for the Financial Industry in 22 territories across the region, made the donation on behalf of its members through the CAB Cares philanthropic initiative, which has previously supported the Commonwealth of Dominica in 2018, post the passage of Hurricane Maria, and St. Maarten, post the events of Hurricane Irma. A number of other CAB members, most notably Republic Bank and 1st National Bank (St. Lucia), had also embarked on fundraising initiatives of their own to support Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.