World in IAMCO’s sights

Cayman’s IAMCO charity is seeking an expanded role throughout the Caribbean.

The agency is about to open an office at the request of the prime minister of Dominica and is looking at projects in Haiti and Jamaica.

IAMCO has played a vital role in the post-Ivan reconstruction of Cayman’s East End. Organisation director Reverend Graeme Thomson, 42, said that role, ironically, was almost an accident.

‘IAMCO was founded just before Ivan and was set up to alleviate poverty throughout the Caribbean,’ said Mr. Thomson, assisting at West Bay’s Christ the Redeemer Church.

The fury of the hurricane, however confronted the charity with an immediate emergency in a surprising quarter.

‘There was this exceptional circumstance; it was our home base,’ he said. ‘The hurricane was not the scope of the charity. It is most definitely Caribbean focused, and I never expected it to be running at this level so quickly.’

The organisation subsequently offered hurricane relief to Grenada, shipping 10 containers of supplies, and, some weeks later, provided aid to earthquake-ravaged Dominica. Its work in the latter nation was the genesis for the prime minister’s recent invitation

IAMCO is based in the social teachings of the Catholic tradition. The name draws on the ‘I am’ references in Christian scripture: ‘I am the bread of life; I am the way, the truth and the life; I am the resurrection; I am the door.’

The founding settlor of IAMCO, and one of its four trustees, is Susan Olde, East End resident.

When Ivan hit, she suggested IAMCO administer her contribution, ensuring a fair and reasonable distribution of the funds.

‘Susan wanted to donate money. When we originally founded IAMCO, we wished it to be Cayman-based. Hurricane Ivan made that a reality,’ said Mr. Thomson.

Ms Olde promised up to US$3 million to East End, and shortly after the hurricane, she and Mr. Thomson presented Cayman Governor Bruce Dinwiddy with a US$750,000 cheque for the National Hurricane Relief Fund, which he chairs.

Mr. Thomson, soft-spoken, almost diffident, doesn’t look or behave like a high-powered international pitchman, but, he said, the Olde’s US$3 million of relief doesn’t go very far, particularly as the grant was limited to Cayman’s East End.

‘I spend a lot of my time fund-raising. The money has to come from somewhere.

‘We want to move on to international emergency relief, and we want to stay in the Caribbean where there is a huge amount of need,’ he said.

‘We are looking at various areas of poverty throughout the Caribbean and are also looking at the prospect of making educational grants because there is nothing like education to help people step out of poverty.’

The reverend says he is prepared to expend the considerable and ongoing energy required to turn the still-nascent IAMCO into an international, Cayman-based actor, and has already made contact with development officers around the region, with senior officers from the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, and is scheduled to meet aid officials from Indiana’s Notre Dame University.

‘We think we will be extraordinarily successful,’ he said. ‘Our uniqueness comes from seeing what we have already achieved; we have a lot of very useful contacts through church bodies; we are placed in the centre of the Caribbean in a relatively wealthy territory, and,’ he said, very few agencies are focused on the Caribbean.

Sources of funding, he said, may be tax-relief covenants between governments and charities, and corporate links with charities. Because the United States views the region as its political backyard, it is a natural source of funding.

‘This can be viewed as protection in the sense that the more money that is available, the more relief and the more harmonious societies become. It addresses crime and even some of the causes of international terrorism,’ he said..

Most of IAMCO’s donations have been anonymous, which Mr. Thomson describes as a more efficient and more effective religious response to the needs of the region.

‘It’s a sort of private prayer in action,’ he said.