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SEEN UP NORTH – Bajan charity begins at home

Tony Best

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Charity begins at home.
That memorable line written in 1844 by Charles Dickens continues to this day to resonate with people everywhere.
These few words encapsulate the driving force that propels the Barbados-American Charitable Organization of New Jersey, BACONJ, into action.
They help to tell part of the story of the 32-year-old, tax-free, 5013C non-profit organization whose mission is “to support various charitable and educational projects in Barbados, the Caribbean, the United States of America and other places as determined” by its members.
“Our goal is to make a difference in the lives of those who are less fortunate,” said Miguel Edghill, BACONJ’s long-standing president.
“We carry out that mission by having social events that raise funds so we can provide assistance to people or institutions in need. The help can be in the form of money, equipment, scholarships and other things.
“We select organizations, individuals or causes that are in need of our help and we do that through research or referrals and through evaluation.”
For instance, when the organization held its annual Barbados pre-Independence gala and awards dinner a few weeks ago, it honoured the Barbados Council for the Disabled and presented it with an award for its outstanding work and US$2 500.
BACONJ was founded by a handful of Bajans to assist the Thelma Vaughan Memorial Home. What triggered that step was the image of then seven-year-old double-amputee Patrick Forde “dragging himself around on the floor”. Through a combination of cake sales and other fund-raising activities, the organization raised US$500 for the home. The rest, as they say, is history.
Incidentally, Forde was among the council’s delegation from Barbados to the recent social function. Others who journeyed for the event were Senator Kerryann Ifill and Rosanna Tudor.
“We were delighted to have Mr Forde, who is now 39 years old, with us,” said Edghill.
“It was a revelation when we found out that he was the real reason why our organization was launched.”
BACONJ has donated:
– a dialysis machine to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH);
– relief to hurricane victims in various parts of the Caribbean;
– supplies to Haiti after the devastating earthquake which took more than 220 000 lives, left one million people homeless, and caused US$10 billion in damage to the country’s infrastructure;
– several scholarships to needy high school graduates going off to college or university in the United States;
– four ventilator machines to the QEH’s Neonatal Unit. It has also given wheelchairs and medical supplies to district hospitals;
– funds to Meals On Wheels, senior citizens’ centres, libraries, homeless shelters, the United Negro College Fund, individuals who lost all of their possessions in fires, and to after-school educational programmes in the United States; and
– assistance to Bajans coming to the States for medical care and who have fallen on hard times.
But that’s not all.
The group is raising money to buy thousands of insecticide-treated nets to protect children in Africa from the ravages of malaria.
“It is estimated that 500 million people across Africa become victims of malaria and about one million die. We want to [help save] the lives of some of the youngsters who become victims of the disease,” said Edghill.
“Malaria is a leading cause of death in Africa and the mosquito nets are among the most effective ways to protect children.
“We are working with the United Methodist Foundation and its worldwide committee on relief to get the nets to families in Nigeria and other African nations. Some of the proceeds of the recent gala would be used to buy the nets, which cost US$10 each.”
The organization plans to assist the St Michael District Hospital as its next philanthropic effort, said Edghill, a back-office supervisor at a Wall Street firm.
The BACONJ leader, a US resident for almost 40 years, is involved in several other charitable causes on his job.
His wife Jeanette was a founder-member of the organization.
BACONJ’s other officers are Elvis Belle, Cheryl Sobers, Vermay Marshall, Shirley Holder, Troy and Jacqueline Workman, and Andrew Marshall.
Among those at the recent fundraising dinner were Joseph Goddard, Barbados’ Ambassador to the United Nations; former Consul General Jessica Odle-Baril; Dr O’Neall Parris, president of the Barbados Cancer Association, USA, Inc.; New York State Supreme Court judge Sylvia Hinds-Radix.