The Honourable Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne, the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Immigration E.P. Chet Greene and the Honourable Minister of Housing, Lands and Urban Renewal, Maria Browne, met with donors who have contributed to the High Commission’s Rebuild Barbuda initiative. The appreciation reception formed part of the week of activities preceding the formal opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London. The High Commission’s appeal raised in excess of £95,000 and saw seven 40-foot containers of relief items shipped to Barbuda via Antigua. The High Commission also engaged with UK officials to press for support for the Island.
In thanking donors for their generous response to the appeal, the Prime Minister used his presentation to provide updates on the progress of rebuilding on Barbuda. He noted that pledges made at the Pledging Conference held in New York in November 2017 are yet to be realised and shared that notwithstanding the statements of support, the amount to be received would be significantly less than what was anticipated. He noted that the UK has committed £3 million to Barbuda and has promised to advance the actual disbursement of these funds to be managed by the Caribbean Development Bank.
Despite the lack of access to pledged funding, the Prime Minister shared with the audience that progress has been made in Barbuda. He identified the dredging of the River Dock to allow for the docking of small and medium sized vessels to the island to facilitate the handling of emergency and building supplies, the repairs to the Hanna Thomas Hospital and the Sir McChesney George Secondary School, the repairs to the airport terminal building and the fencing of the airport and landing strip, and replacement of roofs on public and private buildings including the Council Building among some of the advances to date.
Minister Greene thanked High Commissioner Hill and her team who played a pivotal role in working with friendly governments, agencies and individuals to acquire the urgent assistance that was needed. He also acknowledged the strong support given by the Ascension Trust, a UK registered charity which is holding the funds raised in trust, and the Steering Committee of volunteers overseeing its disbursement.
In March 2018, High Commissioner Hill, accompanied by member of the Steering Committee Ruth Whitehead visited Barbuda to donate school and sanitary items to the approximately 30 students who are currently studying in Barbuda. Ruth Whitehead who was also in attendance at the reception stated how happy she was to have witnessed first hand the donation of school supplies to the students in Barbuda and reassured all of the donors that every penny was being spent in the interest of Barbudans.
The funds raised by the High Commission’s appeal will be used to source school and medical equipment and supplies for Barbuda as main priorities. The medical supplies will be sourced with assistance of another UK charity called Jacobs Well and are expected to be shipped to Barbuda in May. The evening included musical performances and remarks by donors.
Photo: Prime Minister Gaston Browne Delivers Feature Address