Governor makes relief plea

The Governor Mr. Bruce Dinwiddy, has urged support from corporate donors, saying that ‘…unless we can do more (to assist), some of the relatively disadvantaged members of our community will soon start to lose hope…’.

Mr. Dinwiddy has been a passionate supporter of the National Recovery Fund and its drive to raise funds for rebuilding homes of uninsured and otherwise needy persons. The most recent initiative was a Government House dinner, which followed a smaller but similar event hosted there in January.

Another two such events, one more intimate, are scheduled in the near future.

Offering a novel option for those who wish to give but are constrained by cash flows at the present, the Governor said the NRF would be happy to accept pledges spread, for example, over two years.

‘And to this end I am particularly pleased that one donor, a private resident on the island, has offered to advance to the Fund $3 million, on the understanding that he will waive repayment of $1.5 million, if we can raise another $3 million from corporate donors in Cayman,’ he said.

‘In other words, every corporate pledge or donation of, for instance, $50,000, up to a total of $3 million, will in fact be worth $75,000 to the Fund. I invite prospective corporate donors to help us by rising to that challenge.’

The Governor disclosed that this same donor is separately funding the cost of recruiting and employing for 18 months a suitably experienced manager to take over the day-to-day supervision of the fund. Mrs. Angela Martins is preparing to take up her next job in the civil service as permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education.

The Governor also disclosed that UBS Bank had agreed to match up to $500,000 in donations from its workforce worldwide, adding that other corporations were considering similar drives.

In the meantime, the NRF continues its drive to replace 500 roofs before 31 August, which will mean raising a further $10 million. The fund has so far raised nearly $4 million and has so far assisted some 160 families to the tune of about $2 million with making necessary repairs. The aim is to enable them to return home and/or to achieve some minimum standard of housing.

The additional $10 million would enable the NRF to do more than ‘just making conditions livable,’ said NRF volunteer Chris Richmond, who was applauded for his voluntary service to the fund, so far for three months. It would also enable another 600 to 800 persons to become eligible for assistance, he said.

Meanwhile, the Governor noted that even if they do achieve the goal of the additional $10 million, ‘…it is only about one seven-hundredth of the total loss our Islands have suffered from Ivan.’

Speaking about the budgetary burden that Government is facing, he said: ‘…although the Government is operating a separate housing scheme, funded from its very heavily stretched budget that is also nowhere near enough to meet the needs confronting us.’ He said that, as had been foreseen by the trustees, ‘…we need extra resources, far beyond what government, in our low-tax economy, can provide.’

Commenting after the ceremony, the Governor said that the NRF had initially remained relatively low-key in its fund-raising drive as it understood that corporations needed time to resolve their own problems. ‘We could not expect them to step up to the plate when they were also preoccupied with their own problems, but we hope that, now that things are looking better, we can compete more favourably for their attention.’

He said that he would be following up the recent event with a letter to attendees.

For those who have so far given, he expressed gratitude. ‘The fund has made progress and we are very grateful for support already received,’ he said, ‘but we greatly need more contributions if we are to put on those 500 roofs before 31 August.’

The Governor noted that the 31 August deadline, while not foolproof, is generally safe in terms of hurricane activity normally impacting this area. The hurricane season begins on 1 June.

While appealing to the private sector, the Governor also acknowledged at the dinner the ‘huge extra costs’ that Ivan has imposed throughout our private sector.

‘And I pay tribute to everything that the private sector has done, not only to hasten our collective economic recovery from Ivan but also to assist their own employees and their families, and, in many instances, to help the wider community.’ He continued that he was aware, as well, that in absolute terms, ‘many of our guests this evening have, as private individuals, lost far more than some of the uninsured low-income householders.’ These included East End, Bodden Town and other parts of the Islands, whose houses were partially or totally wrecked by Ivan.

‘Nevertheless,’ he said, ‘nearly five months after Ivan, some of these relatively disadvantaged members of our community will soon start to lose hope unless we can do more to help them.’

The event was made possible by the generosity of the Cayman Culinary Society, members of which prepared the meal as its contribution to the fund. Progressive Distributors gave a discount on the food, while Jacques Scott donated the wine.

Also making their contribution were six members of the Cayman Islands National Orchestra, who entertained the guests during the evening.