The container in Marigot

The Dominica Charity Foundation based in Germany has been a reliable institution for helping and supporting Marigot for over ten years.

The NGO, which was founded in 2006 by Mary Sylvester, has been regularly sending medical items to Dominica every year. The Marigot hospital has been the focus of support, with computers, wheelchairs and other necessary resources provided by the charity. The Dominica Charity Foundation also directs its effort at providing basic items, for example supplying school children and their families with necessities such as beds, clothing, shoes, sheets, pillows, mattresses, cooking facilities, school materials like books, pencils, rucksacks, and more.

The charity also helps the sick and needy, especially the elderly, with wheelchairs, diapers, bandages, and home paraphernalia. This year, after hurricane Maria, the charity was able to not only send a 20-foot-container to the Dominica Infirmary in Roseau, but also a 40-foot-container to the village of Marigot. The German NGO also donated wheelchairs and walkers to the Douglas Charles Airport. A large number of other crucial items like household utensils and equipment, machinery, and tools were provided for the people of Dominica, including the Marigot hospital.

The NGO has more than doubled its efforts after witnessing the destructive effects of hurricane Maria. Seeing the majority of houses in the Marigot area without roofs has prompted big efforts to provide much-needed aid. Some of the NGO’s helpers came from Germany to Dominica to participate in the distribution of the items, to observe first-hand the charity’s work, and to see that the goods are going to the people most in need.

Even with the tremendous effort the foundation continuously puts into charity work, sending a container to Dominica is not an easy job. Founder Mary Sylvester explains: “most people think charity means that you get funding, and then the charity is an immediate success. But unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. Operating a charity organization in Germany comes with lots of challenges. Sometimes it’s easier to give up than to start”, says the foundation’s president, Mary Sylvester. However, giving up was never an option for the NGO which only has a few active members and whose budget depends solely on donations. It takes a lot of work and organizational talent in order to reach people who are willing to donate and to keep the organization running.

The NGO has sent out inquiries for donations to German businesses and is proud of their partnership with several companies who support Dominica whole-heartedly. A great help was brought by the Sanitätshaus Pfänder from Freiburg, which deserves special mention here. Its CEO, Mr. Theo Falck, helped organize the search for the medical aid and donated a large number of items.

One company gifted the foundation many packs of diapers; another company provided several hospital beds with electric motors. Additionally, many much-needed wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches were donated. Several friends put together a big collection of tools, gardening equipment, electric drills, solar lamps and chargers, and many clothes for babies, toddlers and children.

The Dominica Charity Foundation – Dominica Hilfe e.V. – is co-operating with the BMZ, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the organization Engagement Global. They helped pay some of the freight costs, since transport from Germany to Dominica is very costly.

In the beginning of 2018 – several months after hurricane Maria – the foundation was facing another issue: the containers they had sent to Dominica could not be found! The port of Roseau had severe difficulties to locate the containers among the many that were sent to help Dominica. Computer problems, the result of the massive destruction of the electric power lines, made it almost impossible to find the container for several weeks. Founder Mary Sylvester and the other members did not give up and began to search for the container on their own.

It was a moment of great joy when it was finally found and delivered to Marigot, where the donated goods have been distributed and having made a substantial difference in offering humanitarian aid, facilitating re-building and providing crucial goods to those in need.