by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- Former tradesman’s lower back injury limits work options
- Charity organisation HOPE has stepped in to help raise funds
- SEED Programme providing assistance
63-year Lukie Joseph Bernard is the father of a boy and a girl ages 13 and 15 years respectively. Despite living without electricity and a steady supply of water, they both do very well at school and perform well at cricket, football and netball.
NOW Grenada visited Bernard’s makeshift home in La Fortune St Patrick, which has not changed much over the past 14 years. Bernard says, “Since [hurricanes] Ivan and Emily, my house got destroyed and I was unable to repair the damage to my house which eventually started to deteriorate, but I did receive some assistance. But as you can see I am in dire need of more assistance.”
The former tradesman is unable to work as a lower back injury has limited his options when it comes to doing heavy tasks. He said, “I went to work part-time as a builder and at the time a number of us were attempting to move a concrete mixer when it slammed into a wall injuring my back and my left knee in the process. I had to seek medical attention, which was not covered under my contract.”
Bernard says he struggles to single-handedly take care of his children and send them to school, funded by his small NIS pension, assistance from the public, backyard gardening and by doing odd jobs to make ends meet. “I live day to day ensuring that I am able to get my children a proper education because they make me feel so proud that they are now attending secondary school. So, I will do anything I have to in order to ensure that they succeed in life.”
NOW Grenada informed Lenora George-Buckmire, SEED Programme Manager within the Ministry of Social Development of the Bernard family predicament. She confirmed they receive financial assistance, as the ministry seeks to increase the number of beneficiaries under government safety net programme, SEED. The Support for Education, Empowerment, and Development (SEED) programme supported by the World Bank, provides financial assistance to around 6,000 households amounting to approximately 10,000 vulnerable people.
George-Buckmire indicated efforts are being made to increase that number to 8,000. So far, she said the ministry has been able to complete 7 out of 8 disbursement link indicators (DLI) set out by the World Bank and is now in the process of completing the most critical component, the setting up of the Beneficiary Management Information System (BMIS) system.
“There were some delays in the completion of the BMIS, but this has been rectified and it should be completed by April of this year. Once the BMIS is fully operational, the government will be able to apply the new targeting tool and include additional poor households in the SEED programme, thus achieving the final DLI.”
The SEED programme manager says she is quite pleased with the level of process made thus far as the government seeks to make meaningful reforms to their safety net programme to ensure that no one falls through the cracks. The 2008 country poverty assessment survey listed St Patrick as having a poverty rate of 56.7%.
Bernard’s living situation has prompted charity organisation HOPE (Helping Other People Excel) to step in. HOPE was established a year ago by Leslie Lewis following a 2016 report by the Grenada Broadcasting Network (GBN) on a single mother in St Andrew, struggling to provide for her 9 children. HOPE has so far assisted in the rebuilding of 2 homes destroyed by fire and has provided food items to the less fortunate.
Lewis says Bernard’s unfortunate situation touched his heart. “His situation really touches my heart to see that some of us live in decent homes with 3 vehicles and there is so much poverty around the island. I am calling on the private sector to assist me in this effort.”
The organisation has already started soliciting financial support from businesses and a Go Fund Me online campaign towards rebuilding the Bernard home. “Based on the condition of the house, we have to build a brand new 3-bedroom home, fully furnished. So, in order to undertake that project, we are looking at raising $60,000 so we are working towards that,” said Lewis.