Giving back during the year of covid19

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Life managing director Kristoff Headley, presents donations collected by the events and entertainment company to Feel CEO Elena Villafana Sylvester. PHOTO COURTESY LIFE –

This year proved to be one of the most challenging in recent times. Despite the pitfalls brought on by the covid19 virus since March, including job loss, school closures, and the emotional effects of physical distancing, this year also brought out the very best in people.

Numerous corporate sponsors have contributed to the Ministry of Education’s Adopt a School initiative in the past few months with over 21,000 pledges of laptops and tablets for children engaged in virtual classes. Corporate sponsors have also been making personal contributions to education and many other private donors have contributed to device distribution efforts.

Donations, however, were not just made on a large corporate level. Many people have taken it upon themselves to contribute in whatever way possible to those in need in their communities or those who they have encountered who needed support this year.

Newsday spoke to a few donors on Sunday on the importance of being our brother’s keeper during a challenging financial year.

How far can $5 go?

Joseph Jacob has contributed this past year to several communities and organisations as an employee of National Flour Mills. He said, however, there have been many instances over the past year where he has been indirectly approached by friends, neighbours, and colleagues who knew someone in need of assistance, and he would assist out of pocket.

“I have a social responsibility to take care of them,” said Jacob.

He said there are instances, because of pride, where people may be uncomfortable asking directly for assistance.

“People may feel funny to come and ask you personally. When you work (in a corporate position) people may not want to approach you directly. I don’t have to know that person to help.”

Jacob said, this year, he picked up a few extra items while grocery shopping for Christmas and donated the hampers to a few people who reached out to him through friends.

“I don’t do anything for glorification. Most times I don’t even know who its going to. I do not need to know. I like subtle donations.”

He participated in a lot more donation drives than usual this year, through the company as well as personally.

“This year I did more because I understand there is a need. There are a lot of people going through some tough times.

“I have a philosophy: Is five dollars a lot of money? Or is it a little? It depends. You do not know what little you have can make an impact.

“A meal when you are hungry is golden. That is why it is important to recognise that every little bit helps. That meal at the right time could take that person from very depressed to very happy.”

Jacob said he was able to assist a small community in Sangre Grande earlier this year when he was approached by a worker who cuts the grass in his neighbourhood and presented herself as an informal community leader. The worker requested food assistance for the people in her area and Jacob assisted members of the community both in July and September.

“She brought the community to me,” he said.

Toys for Christmas

Creative director for Life (Live in Freedom Every day) Events Ltd Miguel Edwards said although the team was affected by having to cancel four of their five annual events this year, it was important to give back in any way their company could. Life is an entertainment and events company.

“What was really important to us as a company was to show people that even though we are an entertainment company, we are not just around to entertain or assist when things are good, but also when things are bad.”

The company hosted a drive-by toy drive where members of their team and the public were welcomed to donate toys and books to children for Christmas. The donations were collected at Pure Carnival mas camp on Rosalino Street, Port of Spain, and donated early in December to Feel (Foundation for the Enhancement and Enrichment of Life) who facilitated the distribution.

Edwards said, before they began collecting donations, Feel facilitated a meet-and-greet for the company with community leaders who explained to them the needs of the members of their communities.

“We also wanted to show people that, when the pandemic is over, we’re not just going to come back to normal; it is not about us alone. We should help where we can, whether it is finding ways to keep people entertained or donating if people are not able to provide certain things for themselves.”

Edwards said the team collected over 130 toys and books which were donated to families in Arouca, East Port of Spain and Carenage. Edwards said the company usually took part in a football tournament hosted by Feel every year, the proceeds would normally go to charity. However, this year, because of covid19 restrictions, the NGO was unable to host the tournament.

“All participating organisations (of the football tournament) decided to do their own charity drives and contribute to Feel.”

Edwards said although this was the company’s first charity event, it would like to continue the work, eventually expanding the company with a charitable arm of their own.

“As long as you are able, give freely.”

One young man, who requested anonymity, has donated a laptop that he purchased himself to a student at Bishops Anstey High School East. After hearing about the student and others in need of devices through a friend who teaches at the school, he decided to make the contribution.

“(The teacher) was telling me about how hard it was for that student and that there were many other students who are struggling, so I just did it.”

As a past student at Trinity College East, he also felt the need to help out in any way he could.

He said, although he had never donated like that before, it is something he would like to continue doing, as long as he is able.

After making his donation, he received monetary donations from others who also wanted to assist, raising up to $4,500 thus far and adding a portion of his own monthly. He said he would make another donation of two laptops as soon as he was able.

“As long as you are able, don’t hesitate to help others because you never know when you or your loved ones may require assistance. Give freely,” he said.

With his donation, he left a note for the recipient which read, “Keep giving to others. If you cannot afford to give financially, then give your time. If you do not have time, give a smile. If you are too sad to give a smile, give a kind word. If you cannot find the words, then send a positive thought out into the Universe. Just keep giving.”

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