A favorite topic of seasonal sermons is “there was no room for them in the inn.” In terms of applying the message, Dominica appears to be doing a commendable job taking care of its less fortunate. The Grotto houses over forty homeless people suffering from a variety of challenges. However, the current facility is congested, run-down and dangerous. Meanwhile its new location in Bellvue Rawle is still only 40% complete and funds are exhausted.
What is the main turn off for the tourist and visitor? My opinion: Incessant begging by disturbed, homeless citizens. You want to help, but there are dangers to giving. Perhaps our conversation today is about listening to your own experiences and your opinion about the best way to help the poor in Dominica.
A one-armed beggar hit me up soon after my return. I was generous that day. Of course, thereafter, whenever he saw me across the street or down the block, he would call out for more. There was no concern for how I was doing. I must have looked to him like a tree that you just shake and get money. I thought to myself, “So what it is now; I’m Santa Claus then?! After all man, give another person a chance.” It became a cat and mouse game. If I saw him first, I’d take evasive action. Then I got tired of that nonsense. I just started telling him no straight up and braced myself for insults.
The problem with giving to someone on the street is that you never know for sure how that money will be spent. Yes, they may say they ‘just want to buy a bread’ because they have not eaten anything all day and every other hard-luck story. But the minute you turn your back, it could be consumed on cigarettes, rum or worse. I suspect you have an idea what I’m talking about. On the other hand, what is most appealing about the Grotto is that it not only warehouses individuals but also creates an enabling environment for personal advancement.
Neirola Bertand, a 25 year-old resident, actually completed a technical training program. This is what she had to say. “I am proud to show you my computer course certificate. I feel safe here. You can tell people a bit about me if you want.” What a testimony! Like a diamond in the rough – polish it and watch it sparkle!
Indeed, we have already been placed on notice that at some future day, some will ask, “When did we see you hungry and feed you, naked and clothe you, homeless and give you shelter?” Scripture suggests that when we give to strangers, we may even be entertaining angels unawares.
‘Away in manger’ was written by the great German reformer Martin Luther, as a lullaby for his children. There may not be much that is sweet or angelic about the homeless. They are not as groomed as the rest of us. Their language may not always be easy on the ears. Most of all, they smell differently. Several are afflicted with conditions such as schizophrenia, amputation, epilepsy, stroke, blindness, victimization, abandonment, drug-induced psychosis, dementia and more. The health and safety of the least of us affects the well being of all of us. We live in an age when unsanitary conditions among the poor breeds vermin and diseases like Leptospirosis that can touch any one of us.
It is said that the true measure of a society is how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable. In communist countries, the state is responsible for all such things. Democratic countries depend on public-private collaboration. The President, His Excellency Charles Saverin, is quoted as saying, “The work of the Grotto is important in our Dominican Society and the citizens who live there clearly enjoy the best standard of care possible with the limited resources. The President’s Office will continue to advocate on your behalf.” This is something I think we can all agree upon.
Your contributions are so important. If everyone does a little then no one will have to do a lot. Then again, your particular gift maybe your persuasive ability to steer much-needed assistance back to your nature isle. For example, you may be attending a church overseas or belong to an organization looking for a certain rewarding, giving opportunity. Or perhaps you may know someone who has done very well for themselves who would warm up to the idea of donating to a certified, very worthy, exceptionally well-run charity.
Of course, this does not negate our everyday obligation to poorer relatives as well as friends and neigbours in distress. However, at the end of the day, only institutional giving reliably ensures that your hard-earned money is well spent. Supervisor, Mrs. Lucia Blaize-Jones and the Board of the Grotto Home for the Homeless, have been doing an outstanding job. For 25 years they have attracted support from private corporations, churches and donors such as the Beverly Foundation.
In a way, the Grotto serves as our metaphor for the manger, a place where we can behold the face of God. Is there room in our hearts to do a little more than we have been doing for the poor? We still have a long way to go with regards to fulfilling our national commitment to the less fortunate. For more information on how you can contribute from the UK, please contact Secretary-Treasurer Tina Alexander at [email protected]
May the blessings rebound to you this Christmastime in double measure!
Dr. Sam Christian is surgeon who runs the Urgent Care on 137 Bath Road. It offers general medical care, office surgery, acupuncture and microdermabrasion. He is Medical Adviser to the Dominica Cancer Society and author of the faith and fitness nutrition book, ‘Mannafast Miracle.’ Dr. Christian can be reached at 440-9133 or by writing to email@example.com.