“Fanfare, pomp and circumstance,” said the operatic tenor John Thomas in a recent press release.
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FEEL’s tireless andexpanding workto bring hope to T&T
The recent downturn in the economy, has seen workers being retrenched, some with less money to spend and others struggling to make ends meet. FEEL’s Chief Executive Officer Elena Villafana-Sylvester is all too aware of the critical role that the organisation that she runs, will play in the lives of many experiencing economic hardship. She said FEEL is ready to assist, as it has been doing for the last 25 years.
“The value of the donations to the local community since 1992 is estimated at over $140 million, of which an estimated $34 Million was donated in 2016 alone”, said the FEEL CEO.
Villafana-Sylvester said when FEEL was conceptualized by founder Mr. Clive Pantin back in the early 1990s it was determined that it should focus on four main areas of activity – disaster prevention and response, education and capacity building, medical support and poverty alleviation. She said as members of the organisation survey the local landscape, it is clear that Mr. Pantin was a visionary who understood those issues that would provide the greatest challenge to a developing society.
The FEEL CEO said the charitable orgnisation looks back at the service that it has provided to the disadvantaged and less fortunate members of society with great pride.
But because of the changing needs of the population, she said, FEEL had to make some changes as well.
“While, FEEL remains true to the vision of the founder, our tactics have changed, we have grown and expanded our service to the population of our country under this umbrella.
”Two years after Villafana-Sylvester was appointed as CEO in 2010, FEEL undertook a strategic planning exercise that moved it out of the realm of the monthly distribution of 200 food hampers to families, in to partnerships for direct development and assistance to communities. Under this new mandate on a monthly basis FEEL provides donations to over 100 civil society organisations. She said,
“Long ago we donated hampers valued at $250 to a family or a person for a three month period. This allowed us to help about 800 families annually. Now, on a monthly basis, through our partnership with the CSOs, FEEL assists over 2,500 families each month, based on a conservative estimate of 25 families per group.
”She added, that on an annual basis FEEL distributes an average of 120 wheelchairs, has over 30 hospital beds on loan and assists 60 families affected by a silent emergency such as victims of a natural disaster, flood, fire or abuse. The organisation also provides help to Regional Corporations and the ODPM, during times of natural disasters.
She said, while poverty alleviation is FEEL’s greatest objective, it also focuses on the long term development of those who receive assistance, through education. FEEL has a school support programme in which registered schools receive at least 3 donations of supplies a year, home work centres are outfitted and music programmes receive instruments. As FEEL looks long term, however, it is focused on the development of micro enterprises and continues to seek and develop partnerships with this objective. Already FEEL has assisted individuals in the areas of farming, sewing and food preparation to realize their dreams in starting their own businesses.
The CEO said over the last five years FEEL’s charitable giving has been propelled through its relationship with Food for the Poor, Inc., one of the largest charitable organisations in the United States of America. It has been receiving support from another international donor and of course, through the generosity of local businesses and individuals.
“FEEL needs support. We hope the national community understands the work being done by FEEL. I want people to know that FEEL is here to assist individuals in times of need and there is someone or a group in their community, that they can go to for help”, said the CEO.
Villafana-Sylveser is proud of FEEL and also grateful. She said the journey would not have been possible without the support of organizations such as the Fernandes Business Centre, which has been the largest local benefactor to FEEL since its inception and of course all the companies and individuals that have invested and believed in FEEL over the years.
“Thank you for the last 25 years of support and we look forward to working with you again in the future.”