In Saint Vincent, a Caribbean Island in the West Indies, La Soufrière a stratovolcano, began an effusive eruption on the 27th of December 2020, followed by explosive eruptions that began on the 9th of April 2021, lasting for several days. Prior to the eruption an estimated 16,000 people, or 14% of the Island’s population were evacuated to the capital of Kingstown, many using the local Church buildings for shelter. The Volcano caused much damage to the Saint Vincent communities.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was an early supporter in helping to limit the human impact caused by the disaster. On April 7th, 2022, Elder Henry B. Eyring (Second Councilor in the Church’s First Presidency) approved a $1,000,000 USD financial aid package, part of which was partnered with the Red Cross to immediately offer $270,000 XCD ($100,000 USD) in food vouchers, and to initiate a longer-term rehabilitation of agriculture with a $925,000 XCD ($342,000USD) donation to revitalize the soil damaged by the volcanic ash, and a $325,000 XCD ($120,000 USD) to Women in Rural Agriculture (W.A.R.D) for needed equipment. Farming is a vital industry for these islands with a community of over 12,000 active farmers.
On May 4th, 2023, Elder Eduardo Gavarret, president of the Caribbean Area of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with his wife Norma, and the Director of Temporal Affairs, Brother Miguel Tenorio visited Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar, with the purpose of discussing the country’s agricultural recovery. After meeting with the Minister, the group reviewed a mainstreaming inclusion humanitarian project at the Fairhall Government School. The project’s purpose is to integrate children with disabilities into a mainstream school environment.
From there, the visit took on several facets with President and Sister Gavarret and Brother Tenorio visiting members impacted by the volcano’s eruption, on the northeast side of the island; while, Brother Operth and Sister Jazelle Sutherland (local humanitarian service missionaries), accompanied by District President Leston Selman went to the northwest side of the island to speak at a handover of donated agricultural equipment which consisted of water tanks, tillers, trimmers, fertilizer, and many other smaller items.
The group’s visit to the Fairhall Government School was to learn about the Church’s support for a pilot initiative with the Ministry of Education to provide inclusive educational opportunities for students with disabilities. The Fairhall Government School needed equipment, training, and spaces to meet the needs of students with disabilities. During the visit the group met with officials at the Ministry of Education, then they toured the school where they were able to meet and interact with the instructors and students, to have a better appreciation of the project.
With humanitarian donations from the Church and others, the hope is that the people of St. Vincent will be able to move past the challenges of recent years and receive the Lord’s strength through their trials.
When asked by several recipients of the church’s support “… how the Church is able to give so generously?”, Elder Sutherland quoted Mark 12:30-31, which discusses the love of God and the love of our neighbor as the two great commandments.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embrace the doctrine that everything they are given comes from the Lord and is to be used to assist his children.
Agricultural revitalization is just one of many sub-projects in the larger emergency humanitarian relief project that Elder Eyring signed. The Church has also helped the Salvation Army repair a daycare center, refurbish a children’s home, and provide significant repairs to another Primary School (Tourama) on the northeast area of the island, all of which were affected by the Volcano eruption.