Massive Back-to-School Treat Cancelled – Approximately 400 Children in the parish of Hanover were left disappointed on Saturday, due to the cancellation of a back-to-school treat by Lucea mayor, Sheridan Samuels.
Katrin Casserly, chairman of Hanover Charities and Committee member of Hanover Hope Foundation, told Mckoy’s News in an interview today that the event which was scheduled to take place in Lucea, in parking lot of the Municipal building, was retracted eight days prior to the event.
She says this venue was used twice in previous years and was most suitable for citizens in around Hanover to access it because of its central location and it is cost-effective to families of low socio-economic background.
“We have chosen this venue over the last three years because we are catering to communities in the area where the family only need to take one taxi down to Lucea square and then they walk [to the venue]…We are not reaching out to families that are middle-income, we are reaching out to families who are in dire needs,” Casserly explained.
She further revealed that the residents’ hopes were shattered, as the mayor of Lucea issued her a letter days prior to the treat’s scheduled date, informing them that the venue will not be available.
The treat was already fully sponsored by Hanover Hope Foundation and the Member of Parliament for Western Hanover, Ian Hayles. However, the organizers believed that a personal disagreement between Mr. Samuels and Ian Hayles was the reason for him to ‘pull the plug’ on the event.
“It was one person who unfortunately pulled the venue and that started it all and that person was the mayor, Sheridan Samuels…for no obvious reasons, then we all assumed it was a political one because he is in some disagreement with the M.P. of the area who supports our event every year….and is a main sponsor”
The treat would have been a beneficial and enjoyable one for the children and their families as Mrs. Casserly outlined the line-up of activities they had planned for this to be another fruitful Back to School Treat.
“You want to give them a wonderful day with bounce-a-bout, popcorn, beverages, we had a talent show planned with the Hanoverian talents…nobody charging for this, it was just put on by our group,” she said.
Mrs. Casserly believes that Hanover is not the only place that is affected by these political influencers overusing or misusing their powers to make decisions that adversely impact others, especially children.
“We are not the only one this has happened to, this is happening in other areas of the island apparently and that is just not right because at the end of the day it is the children who are suffering;” said Casserly who was deeply saddened by this action.
Also, students from all levels of the education system benefited from the Hope Foundation as it provided many opportunities at the tertiary and high school levels such as scholarship awards, book vouchers, and other educational supplies, which would have been presented at the event.
“Every year we ask for 70% and over to get a five thousand dollars book vouchers and those who are under get a little bit less or we give then a bag. We have a 191 scholarship student in Hanover,” said Katrin.
However, what was set out to be a hopeful event for the children of Hanover and its environs, left families really distraught. as some were solely depending on school supplies from the treat to send their children back to school.
Mrs. Casserly says she did not have any alternative venue at the last minute, and despite her plea and requests from other members of the board to the mayor, everyone was turned-down.
“We were asking and pleading, we had board members go there ask because there was nothing else planned for the venue, we even had one of the clergymen go there and ask why can’t we have it and he just would not budge…to me, that is abusing that office,” Casserly exclaimed.
The chairman also expressed to Mckoy’s News how surprised she was by the decision made as this has been the regular venue and the event is one to assist needy children. She also sincerely apologized to all the parents and children who were left disappointed and may face challenges getting the resources otherwise.
“It was like a slap in the face to say we don’t appreciate what you are doing and it hurt. We normally have good relationship with that office so that is the reason why we were literally in shock. We are very sorry about this last-minute cancellation and we’ll ensure that we are once again there, hopefully in that public space because I don’t see a reason why not, it’s a space that belongs to the people.”
Despite the inconvenience of the event, Katrin and her team managed to do some damage control on Sunday, by meeting at a community church to issue the bags and school items available at the time; with 200 persons still lacking. However, the care for others and sincerity of Mrs. Casserly won’t allow what had transpired to dampen her spirit or that of the organization as she continues to reach out to the needy and impoverished citizens of Lucea, Hanover and its environs. The projects and humanitarian good deeds will continue as there is even one now on the way.
“No we are gonna continue, we have to keep moving, we are not gonna be cut down by one person. There are four primary schools in which we will be opening computer labs in September,” said Casserly.
Hanover Charities has been in existence for over 60 years and is the sponsor of the Hanover Hope Foundation which has been making great impacts for 4 years. The foundation was inspired by the M.P. Mr. Hayles who wanted to bring together a few persons who are doing positive outreach programmes from Eastern and Western Hanover. The chairman explained that it is a good initiative because it provides more personal access to individuals in the community.
“I said sure, I’d like to be a part of it because [with] Hanover Hope for the churches we have easier access straight to the people who are most in need…without [letting] them feel lesser than anybody else. We do a Labour Day project every year and in November we do an excursion where we took high school student to Kingston, to visit sceneries of national interest.”
Efforts to reach the Mayor of Hanover, Mr. Sheridan Samuels and Member of Parliament Ian Hayles were unsuccessful but Mckoy’s News will follow up with an update.
Writer – Natasha Williams