FTCSF, Bon Appétit 592 manage to put smiles on the faces of Linden children


By Utamu Belle

Spreading holiday cheer was a bit different in Linden, Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) this time around, as Guyana and the world continue to adapt to changes regarding social distancing guidelines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For organisations in the community, it meant being creative and finding new means of reaching out to children who would usually look forward to events such as toy donation drives and Christmas parties.

The non-governmental organisation (NGO), For the Children Sake Foundation (FTCSF), has been organising and undertaking such events around the holiday season for years. Similarly, Bon Appétit 592, a food establishment, has begun what is set to become an annual toy drive event, even in light of the challenges.

Executive Director of FTCSF, Vernon Todd told the Sunday Times Magazine that even though the organisation was unable to host its usual annual initiative by gathering children from the community, it worked hard at ensuring that the children did not feel left out around the holidays.

“Because of COVID, we were not able to have our usual Christmas party but we endeavoured to still have our annual toy drive and distribution,” he explained.

Instead of having the children together in one area as is customary, the organisation decided to distribute toys by doing house-to-house deliveries, to avoid crowding and in keeping with the COVID-19 regulations. Todd said the organisation’s distribution of toys to less fortunate families continued even in light of the pandemic since it believes that every child should smile on Christmas day.

“Yes, this usually is an annual event but we usually distribute the toys we accumulate at a Christmas party for the children. Our inspiration for this event came from realising that Christmas means a lot to children. It’s the holiday that they look forward to and one that excites them the most, but it can be extremely disappointing for some as there is no Christmas tree or toys waiting for them. We at For the Children Sake Foundation understand that not every family would be fortunate to be able to afford the luxury of toys for their kids. We understand that their priority may be different depending on how little they have,” Todd related.
The activity was aimed at bringing joy to those children so that they can feel the excitement and hope that they have during the Christmas season.

“They should be able to hold on to the Christmas spirit for as long as they can,” Todd said.

The organisation targeted low-income families in its distribution drives. The non-governmental, non-profit, charitable organisation went about organising the event by seeking donations and contributions from its members, the business community and other persons in the community who sought to contribute to the initiative.

“The support has been good. We did have persons making donations and pledges, but in comparison to the previous years (it) could have been better, but we understand the difficulties that existed with the current pandemic. And we extend immense gratitude to the persons who contributed to making this activity possible,” Todd said, as he explained that there were quite a few setbacks due to COVID-19.

“Yes, we have had a few setbacks as a result of COVID-19. Usually, a party and gift distribution attract hundreds of children but in keeping with the COVID-19 regulations, we would have had to go back to the drawing board and come up with a way of delivering this needed service to our children without endangering them.

So, we did lower our target amount and decided to deliver the gifts house to house in the interest of preserving our health and that of the children,” Todd noted.

Given that the activity is an annual one, Todd said the FTCSF plans to continue but shared his hope that the challenges associated with COVID-19 would eventually be eradicated so that the organisation can reach more children.

However, in the meantime, he advised all to follow the necessary protocols.

“Christmas is the season for giving and sharing and while we encourage this for the benefit of the families that welcome such events, we encourage other organisations or persons interested in planning such events to do it in keeping with the COVID-19 regulations as health is always a priority; and just be innovative in delivering their service,” he advised.

Meanwhile, sole proprietor of Bon Appétit 592, Kenisha Fernandes also hosted her first toy drive and lunch initiative for children in the Danjou Hill, Christianburg community where she grew up. The young entrepreneur said this will become an annual event in moving forward, owing to the many responses she received with regards to the donation of toys. She shared that she was inspired to show appreciation to children in the area which is regarded as a “ghetto”.

“My inspiration came from my grandmother, Ms Irene Castello. She has a huge heart and is always ready to give even if it is her last. There’s a saying she uses quite often, ‘Freely give, freely receive. You never know where your blessing might come from’,” Fernandes related.

The businesswoman said the event aimed to say “thank you” to the community for supporting her small business which was started in June 2020 and to spread some holiday cheer, regardless of the issues being faced with the pandemic.

She decided to target children because “no one looks forward to this time of year like they do… I created a flyer and promoted my event via my social media platforms. It began to reach a wider margin when two other small businesses from here in Linden started to advertise my event on their social media platforms. I’m grateful to the CEOs of Electronic Works and A&J Interior Dealing for selflessly putting in the effort. All responses were extremely positive and persons got on board in no time,” Fernandes noted.

She said the setbacks were minor and were quickly overcome. According to Fernandes, support in times like these is welcomed more than ever.

“My encouragement would be to always take note of who supports you genuinely. Those are the people you should always keep around. Associate with people of vision and people who inspire and motivate you to reach your dreams and goals,” she encouraged.