Religious bodies are all reporting an increase in the amount of desperate people reaching out to them for assistance, as the COVID-19 restrictions and shutdowns have left thousands of families without any income.
Pastor Leslie Moses, of the Southern Caribbean Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist, yesterday received Government funds to help feed the needy on behalf of his church.
He said the money came at a time when it was much needed.
“We have seen almost a 400 per cent increase in the number of people reaching out for assistance,” Moses said.
“Now that the Government’s given this assistance, we were already on the ground assisting thousands of families, individuals from our church and individuals who are not members of our church.”
He said the SDA has 167 congregations in Trinidad and 39 in Tobago.
“So we’re talking over 200 congregations in T&T and we have a network of operatives that distribute food on a regular basis. Now that COVID-19 has come upon us, the need is exacerbated,” Moses said.
“We have been inundated with calls for help.”
Moses said people have heartbreaking stories, including with no money to even buy milk for babies.
“Among our churches, we have already distributed approximately 1,500 hampers,” he said.
The Ministry of Social Development yesterday handed over cheques to 20 religious bodies.
The groups are to use the funds for outreach programmes to help the needy in their communities.
Moses said the church does not and will not discriminate as it seeks to help people.
“If you need help, then we will help,”’ he said.
The Anjuman Sunnat ul Jammat Association (ASJA) also collected funding yesterday and while it was not a lot, general secretary Rahimo Hosein said it would “supplement” their existing programmes.
“For example, we also have a number of imams that are unemployed and there was a collective decision to use some of the funds to even help them,” Hosein said.
“Plus there are others who need help. ASJA controls about 80 jamaats throughout T&T, it would go a long way, it’s not much but it would go a long way.”
He said ASJA had also seen an increase in people reaching out for help.
“Yes. We have a Facebook page also and we are getting requests from people.
“We put up pictures of the hampers that we gave out and people have been reaching out asking us how they can access that and where we giving out next so they could get. There are lots of people who just don’t have and need help,” he said.
Archbishop at the West Indian United Spiritual Baptist Sacred Order Inc, William Leon John, yesterday said they already had a template of serving people before the injection by the State yesterday.
He said the injection of funds was timely and necessary.
“We have about 65 churches in T&T and it is divided into different chapters, five in Trinidad and one in Tobago,” he said.
“The funding that was given was over a three-month period, so we going to supply the funding to each of the six chapters so that they would be able to deal with the churches that are in their chapter and they would give us the report and so we would know what is happening.”
Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha head Vijay Maharaj said they too were doing drives on their own, noted the extra money will help the SDMS increase its effort to help the needy.
“I have 583 children and 187 on the school feeding programme and only three have received food cards, so how are the others surviving?” he asked.
“But we have distributed in excess of 3,000 hampers over the last month.
“Our temples are also doing it but nobody is taking cognisance of what we are doing.”
Moderator of the Presbyterian Church Reverend Joy Abdul-Mohan yesterday commended the State for helping the religious groups. She said they had not received funding yet but were ready to use it to help with their charity drives.
“If and when we get that money, presently we have a process that we use for our own funding to help the less fortunate and alleviate poverty,” she said.
Abdul-Mohan said the church had a board of social responsibility that was already helping people in 24 pastoral regions throughout the country.
“What we do is we have social outreach in each of these pastoral regions who will identify people who are most in need and it is not just people who belong to our church,” she said, adding the church had a database of people who need help.