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Archive for the ‘Disaster Relief’ Category

4.Dec.2014: GTAH Chairman gives Keynote Speech at HUMANICY Meeting at UN, New York

December 7th, 2014

Gordon Tapper, Chairman of GTAH, gave the Keynote Speech on ‘Art and Cultural Diplomacy at the United Nations’ on Thursday 4 December at a meeting entitled “HUMANICY: THE HUMAN SIDE OF DIPLOMACY – At the Crossroads of Art, Diplomacy, and Heightened Consciousness”. The two-day meeting which took place in the ECOSOC Chamber and Conference Room 4, United Nations Headquarters, New York, 4-5 December 2014.

“Humanicy: The Human Side of Diplomacy”, a partnership of the Permanent Mission of Sao Tomé and Principe to the United Nations and the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, Inc. (FAF), is a programme aimed at highlighting the role of culture, arts and humanities in shaping diplomacy. (For further information, please view their websites: www.humanicy.info OR www.faf.org )  IMG_1392

 

Following is the Keynote Speech:

Excellency Ambassador Toriello, Deputy Permanent Representative of Sao Tome and Principe to the United Nations, the co-organizers of this marvelous event, Patrick Sciaratta and Yin Chu Yu, the leadership of Friendship Ambassador Foundation, special participants in the HUMANICY programme, UN colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a pleasure and an honour for me to be here with you today to speak about a subject that is dear to me – Arts, Culture and Diplomacy. For more than 15 years of my career at the United Nations I was responsible for coordinating Special Events – producing concerts with such famed performers as the New York Philarmornic Orchestra, PAVAROTTI, BONO, GILBERTO GILL, YUSOUF N’DOUR, ZIGGY MARLEY and THIRD WORLD – as well as hosting several Japanese Tea Ceremonies, exhibitions of IKEBANA and a host of other artistic expressions to promote peace amongst peoples, right here in the United Nations Headquarters complex. I even had the pleasure of coordinating a table tennis game between Chinese players and the UN Table Tennis Club, right next to these rooms in the Delegates Lounge, during the period of “Ping Pong Diplomacy” started by President Nixon and his Chinese opposite number Premier Chou En-Lai in the early 1970’s.

Throughout my years at the UN I gained an appreciation of the immense value of Art in opening doors that were once closed to people who were ‘different’ or ‘not like us’ because of race, religion, culture, political systems or for a host of other reasons that extremists and bigots create to separate people.

I wish to applaud the effort of Ambassador Toriello and FAF for hosting this event – Art as a vehicle for Peace and Diplomacy.   It is a most timely intervention in a climate where people seem to have become even less tolerant of others with levels of cruelty and barbarism taken to unimaginable heights.

Our challenge today is to find a way to reach the most hardened opponent that we might have, not by guns and bombs but by our common appreciation for what is beautiful, for a universal unambiguous message delivered by a sculpture in marble, the painter’s brush, the leap of a Baryshnikov, the heavenly tones of Maria Callas, the strings of Yo Yo Ma’s cello, the black and white keyboard of Lang Lang’s piano and even such great written works as the Bible and the Koran. That is our challenge. Guns may subjugate, but only understanding and appreciating another’s culture can produce harmony amongst people.

But let me digress somewhat and tell you something about Art at the UN. Those of you who have had the opportunity to take a guided tour of the premises both inside and on the grounds will have seen that the UN has enough iconic and outstanding works of art to create a mini-museum. If you have not had that opportunity you should do so while you are here.

Many of the pieces displayed in the UN grounds and buildings need no words to explain what they are trying to say. It is you, the viewer who interprets the piece and decides what the message is. The words “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares” does not mean literally that but it is a message everyone understands just by looking at the sculpture.  St. George and the Dragon, with St. George on a rearing horse stabbing the dragon with his lance, is made out of a disarmed nuclear weapon, so it speaks to us of disarmament. The twisted gun barrel on the UN Plaza needs no explanation. One is not likely to forget images like these because they are not received passively. They invoke a reaction from the observer; they leave an impression.

Now let me tell you a little secret about gifts that are donated to the UN. Almost every UN Member State has donated one or more gifts, usually an art piece, to the UN.  In fact, this very room that we are meeting in today, the ECOSOC Chamber, was a gift from the Government of Sweden. Hundreds of other items are donated by individuals or groups. However, perhaps less than 30 % of all gifts are on display. The majority are hidden away in storage. There would not be enough space, perhaps even in the Louvre or the MET, to exhibit all of the gifts of works of art that have been donated to the UN. Gifts from Member States are not simply works of art, they are mostly an expression of how the country sees itself and wishes to portray itself to the world. In other words it is a way of projecting their culture.

Let me digress once again and tell you an anecdote relating to UN gifts and artwork. One is about the elephant that is at the north end of the grounds closest to the sidewalk on First Avenue. Residents of Sutton Place and the environs were upset about the elephant which seemed to have a very large organ. It was a troubling issue as many parents complained that their little children walking by would be asking what is that. The UN solicited the views of the Bronx Zoo which confirmed that all was normal. Not to worry.  Secretary General Koffi Annan at its unveiling made some humourous comments which I will not repeat, but suffice it to say the UN reached a diplomatic solution and planted tall grass around the elephant so as to obscure the offending appendage. Actually it looks pretty good like that.

Indeed, from what I have been saying it must be clear that Art can and does deliver a message that is often more powerful than words or political action. Art introduces people to other peoples and cultures that they previously knew little about or perhaps even opposed or feared on the basis of race, religion or culture. Art is a neutral medium for meeting without preconceived notions since images are universal and speak their own language.

I urge you to support cultural exchanges and to be open to the Art of people from all different persuasions as you will learn a lot and you will see that you have more in common than what divides you.

Thank you.

GTAH and UAC lead walk against Ebola from Times Square to the United Nations

October 29th, 2014

 

IMG_1242

On Friday 24 October, United Nations Day, GTAH and UAC led a large group of community leaders and concerned citizens from the New York metropolitan area in a walk of solidarity with the countries of West Africa currently suffering from the Ebola virus. The group marched from Times Square to a congregation point in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza opposite the United Nations where many speakers urged the New York State and City governments as well as the Federal Government not to forget the many thousands of affected persons in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone who desperately need our help.IMG_1240

GTAH Founder and President, Mr. Gordon Tapper, addressed his remarks to the United States and all countries at the United Nations about the urgency of lending all possible help to West Africa in their fight against the scourge of Ebola. The affected countries cannot hope to win this fight alone he said.   He stressed that the virus must be defeated at its source, and that we cannot just stick a finger in the dyke to stem the flow. The virus is now international and is travelling to Western countries by commercial flights.

Welcoming remarks were made by Dr. Mohammed Nurhussein, Chairman of the United African Congress, followed by brief IMG_1241comments from Dr. Tomislav Prvulovic, a veteran in the fight against Ebola and three-time Nobel Prize nominee in Medicine for his role in eradicating smallpox, a member of the medical committee of the coalition.

Notable among those present were The Union of Sierra Leonean Organizations (USLO) Inc., There Is No Limit Foundation, The United States Sierra Leonean Association (USSLA) Inc., and representatives from the Liberian Community and Guinean Community, as well as Dr. Edmund Bourke from SUNY Downstate who is also a member of the medical committee of the coalition. Some of the supporters who marched with the group had come from as far away as Kentucky and Texas.

Pleas for community and government action were made by Reverend Dr. L. Rouse of the United Methodist Church as well as by New York State Senator Bill Perkins.

Closing remarks and thanks to all present were made by Mr. Sidique Wai, President of the United African Congress.

 

GTAH and the UAC – amongst the first to declare the Ebola Crisis in Africa to be an international disease!

October 12th, 2014
Ebola Forum  ---  Amb. Mamadi Toure, Amb. Marjon Kamara, Amb. Vandi Minah (afrikanspot.com)

Ebola Forum — Amb. Mamadi Toure,
Amb. Marjon Kamara, Amb. Vandi Minah
(afrikanspot.com)

 Ebola Forum, United Nations ECOSOC Chamber  –  27 August 2014

A meeting dubbed the “New York City Ebola Forum”, jointly organized by the Give Them a Hand Foundation (GTAH) and the United African Congress (UAC), was held in the United Nations ECOSOC Chamber on 27 August 2014.  (See Forum programme below)

Gordon Tapper (afrikanspot.com)

Gordon Tapper
(afrikanspot.com)

Mr. Gordon Tapper, the MC of the Forum and Founder and Chairman of GTAH, brought the meeting to order, stating that the EBOLA epidemic could not be defeated by the three most affected countries alone – Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea – but that it would take a concerted effort by the world community to halt the spread of the disease, to beat it back and to find a cure. He added that many countries considered themselves insulated from the disease by distance but that every city in the world was just a plane ride away from the virus.

Participating in the Forum were Ambassadors from the Permanent Missions to the United Nations of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, the Permanent Representative of the African Union Observer Mission to the UN, the WHO, the EU, prominent individuals from the medical profession, leaders from faith-based communities and various expatriate African communities here in the United States.

Sidique Wai (afrikanspot.com)

Sidique Wai
(afrikanspot.com)

Following opening prayers by the Reverend Loune Rouse, pastor of the United Methodist Church in Long Island, and by UAC President, Sidique Wai, representing the Muslim faith, UAC Chairman Dr. Mohammed Nurhussein made his welcoming statement. Dr. Nurhussein commented on the lethargy of the international community to get involved in the fight against Ebola, noting that the first incident of this current outbreak had occurred in Guinea as far back as December 2013. As the blood samples from Guinea had to be sent to France for testing, it was not until 14 March this year that the sickness was diagnosed as Ebola. In those 90 days the disease had spread to the three countries which shared common borders. Dr. Nurhussein attributed this spread to the lack of an adequate health care infrastructure, especially in Liberia and Sierra Leone which had only just emerged from more than a decade of debilitating civil wars. Dr. Nurhussein added that one of his objectives was to see established an AFRICAN CDC to serve as a center for diagnosis and research and to direct the fight against any future health crises that might arise on the continent. He also wanted to see a rapid reaction health task force that could move into challenged areas without delay.

H.E. Ambassador Mamadi Toure, Guinea, acknowledged the weakness of the health infrastructure in his country and said that the traditions and culture of the people, which held that any sick person or dead body had to be cared for and handled by family members, had contributed to the spread of the disease. He urged that doctors and health care workers be trained with those cultural mores in mind.

CDC/Sally Ezra phil.cdc.gov

CDC/Sally Ezra
phil.cdc.gov

H.E Ambassador Marjon Kamara, Liberia, commented on how the epidemic had damaged the economy of her country. She added that with the focus now on Ebola, with hospitals and clinics being overrun, and the population fearing that they may actually become infected in the hospitals, persons suffering from other diseases such as malaria, diabetes, and high blood pressure were also dying through lack of care, adding to the already heavy burden.

H.E Ambassador Vandi Minah, Sierra Leone, said that there was both a health care crisis and an economic crisis taking place in Sierra Leone. He suggested that there should be a “health-keeping mission” to his country and to the others badly affected, in the manner of UN Peace-keeping Missions.

Amb. Tete Antonio (afrikanspot.com)

Amb. Tete Antonio
(afrikanspot.com)

H.E. Ambassador Tete Antonio, head of the Permanent Observer Mission of the African Union to the UN, commented on the economic effect of the epidemic which had resulted in a 1.5 loss in GDP in the three countries.

Impassioned statements were made by many speakers, but one of the most moving was by Dr. Tomislav Prvulovich, a three-time nominee for the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his contribution to eradicating smallpox, and a veteran of the fight against the earlier Ebola outbreaks in the Congo and Uganda. Dr. Prvulovich expressed anger at how slowly the world was reacting to the Ebola epidemic dismissing it as just an African problem. He did not spare the WHO and other international organizations from criticism. He suggested that scientists should use the blood of those who have survived Ebola to create a serum to fight the disease. Dr. Prvulovich and some of his colleagues had actually injected themselves with the blood of survivors when they were in the Congo in 1976 to give themselves some kind of immunity while tending to the sick and trying to find a cure. (See video statements below)

Dr. Julius Garvey sent regrets that he was unable to attend but the key points of Dr Garvey’s message, read in his absence, were that the medical community needed to find a way to build trust with the local communities and those infected by the disease. He felt that prevention education was important and that what was needed at the moment was not necessarily more doctors and nurses but trained health workers in vast numbers. The expansion of primary care in the future was essential in the rural areas.

Dr. Dexter McKenzie, President of the Provident Medical Society, commented that a communicable threat to health anywhere would be a threat everywhere.

Reverend Loune Rouse spoke about the PIT approach he had proposed, and which was adopted by GTAH and UAC, highlighting that efforts should be directed at Prevention, Information and Training.

WHO

CDC/Daniel DeNoon

CDC/Daniel DeNoon

 

The leaders of the Sierra Leone community in the Tri-State area and from the Liberian and Guinean communities pledged to work collaboratively with GTAH and UAC in finding solutions for their respective countries, including collecting medical supplies, food items and funds to support local communities.

The Ambassadors closed by stating that they would like to see this spirit carried over into positive outcomes.

Mr. Gordon Tapper informed the Forum that they would be planning a major concert in the near future to be held at the United Nations to both raise awareness and mobilize the donation of resources for the stricken countries.

 

Ambassador Mamadi Touré – statement

 

Dr. Mohammed Nurhussein – statement

 

Dr. Tomislav Prvulovich – statement

Forum Programme

Forum Programme

Ebola Forum prog 2

December 2013: GTAH and UAC present letter to UN High Commission for Human Rights protesting mistreatment of Haitians in Dominican Republic

March 1st, 2014

 

Photo of GTAH and UAC at the New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to deliver letter protesting the mistreatment of Haitians and persons born in  the Dominican Republic of Haitian descent by the Government of the Dominican Republic

IMG_0051

Give Them A Hand Foundation and United African Congress meet with the UNHCHR in December 2013 to present a letter from them protesting the mistreatment in the Dominican Republic of Haitians and persons of Haitian descent by the Government of the Dominican Republic.  Shortly after this letter was presented and forwarded to the Human Rights Council that was meeting in Geneva, the Government of DR suspended its deportation programme.  However, this suspension lasted for only a short period of time and the Government is now back to driving thousands of these persons out of the country in violation of their human rights and civil rights and creating unhealthy and unsanitary refugee conditions on the border between the two countries. It’s time that the world stops looking the other way and boycott the DR tourist industry until there is a change in its behaviour.

 

LETTER FROM GTAH/UAC TO UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS:

December 16, 2013

HE Ivan Simonovic Assistant Secretary General OHCHR in New York
UN Headquarters
New York NY 10017

Re: Citizens of the Dominican Republic of Haitian Ancestry

Your Excellency,

“All victims of human rights abuse should be able to look to the Human Rights Council as a forum and a springboard to action.” Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations.

The ruling of the High Court of the Dominican Republic on September 23, 2013 stripping Dominicans of Haitian decent of their citizenship rights has rendered an estimated quarter million of them suddenly stateless. This latest outrage follows a long history of discrimination against Haitians in the Dominican Republic. In 1912, the government passed laws restricting the number of black-skinned people who could enter the country. In a 5-day orgy of killing in October 1937, the Dominican Dictator Trujillo massacred an estimated 20-30 thousand Haitians to “cleanse the border”as he put it. This crime against humanity went unpunished. His successor, Balaguer, had said that the presence of Haitians would “contaminate Dominican blood” and in 1983, he made the racist remark that Haitians “multiply with the rapidity that is almost comparable to vegetable species.” It is against this historical backdrop that the current shameful court ruling should be viewed. The ruling is all the more egregious as it makes the law retroactive to 1929, thus putting the lives of several generations of Dominicans of Haitian decent in jeopardy. This ruling goes against all acceptable norms and standards of civilized behavior and violates almost every article of the UN Universal Declaration of Human rights.

Widespread incidents of abuse, killings and deportation of Haitians without due process since the court ruling have been reported by media outlets. This is a matter of the utmost urgency for the UN Human Rights Commission to address, lest we become yet again helpless witnesses to a human tragedy as history of the plight of Haitians in the Dominican Republic repeats itself. This is the time for the Commission to use its offices as a ‘springboard to action’ as the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon implored the UN Human Rights Council.

As immigrants of people of African descent, other people of color and citizens of the United States, we cannot remain silent and become passive observers to this latest atrocity which is an affront to the world community and a flagrant violation of international law.

We therefore call on the UN Human Rights Commission to put the Dominican Republic on notice that it is violating international law and should therefore immediately cease the implementation of this repugnant and reprehensible law.

Failing compliance with the UN demand, the Commission should recommend immediate action by the Security Council to take further actions such as sanctions and bringing the Dominican Republic to the international court if need be, to answer for its behavior that is not acceptable under international law in the 21st century.

We urge the Commission to demand of the Dominican Republic that the citizenship rights of Dominicans of Haitian descent be immediately restored and proper state protection be given to the undocumented migrant workers while humane and just solutions are sought in consultation with the UN and the Haitian Government.

We further urge the Commission to monitor compliance by the Dominican Republic in implementing the UN recommendations expeditiously.

We, as civil society, will continue to follow the progress closely. We will, in the meantime, garner mass support for our campaign for human rights of Haitians in the Dominican Republic and urging our government and the CARICOM nations to bring pressure to bear on the Dominican Republic with the threat of sanctions and boycott of its tourist industry should it fail to comply with their demands.

We are hopeful the UN Human Rights Commission will take up this issue as a top priority and live up to the promise of the office when it was established and fulfill its obligations.

Respectfully submitted,

(signed) Mohammed A Nurhussein MD, National Chairman of the United African Congress (UAC)

(signed) Gordon M. Tapper, Founder and President of Give Them a Hand Foundation (GTAH)

Copies to: Hon. Sidique A. Wai, President and Chief Spokesperson of the United African Congress (UAC)

Anne Goeke, Co-founder and President of Earth Rights Institute (ERI)
Dr. Ron Daniels, Chairman of Institute of Black World (IBW) and Pan African Unity Dialogue (PAUD)

 

HURRICANE SANDY RELIEF AND RESTORATION

December 9th, 2012

SUNDAY, 9 DECEMBER 2012
RED HOOK, BROOKLYN

Once again United Nations Staff Members volunteered their services to assist in the Relief and Restoration efforts organized by the Give Them a Hand Foundation/United African Congress, in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook. Our eight-member team gathered at the Visitation Church of the Holy Virgin Mary, the site of the day’s distribution activities, starting before mid-day. There the team met with volunteers and officials from FEMA, the Catholic Charities and Assemblyman Felix Ortiz and his organization. Assemblyman Ortiz represents New York’s 51st District which encompasses Red Hook.

From late morning to approximately 2 p.m., our team assisted in bringing out the supplies and food items from storage and setting up two separate distribution points. In one area needy residents could collect supplies including disposable diapers, blankets, cleaning materials and gift bags of nutritional supplies. The second distribution area, staffed primarily by our volunteers, was responsible for distributing the food items including bottled water, many different types of canned foods and ready-meals and boxed/bagged foods, baby food and even food for pets.

To facilitate orderly distribution, the team first made up several hundred bags of food items picked randomly from a number of pallets and stacked boxes donated previously by supermarkets, grocery shops and individuals and charitable organizations.

From 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. our team handed out the bags to the needy persons, many of whom had been waiting in line in the pouring rain from as early as 11 a.m. that morning.

Our team worked tirelessly and diligently and our efforts were highly appreciated by FEMA and the Catholic Charities, who also expressed their pleasure that we stayed the course throughout the day. Their experience is that many volunteers will stop in for an hour or two but then leave, forcing the sponsors to train incoming volunteers throughout the day which often slows the whole process.

Thanks go to the UN Staff (and UN Retirees) for their concern for the welfare of the victims of Hurricane Sandy and for giving their time to this noble cause.

Gordon Tapper

Provision of food Services for Victims of Hurricane Sandy

December 1st, 2012

United Nations Staff Members joined with Give Them a Hand Foundation/ United African Congress and fifteen other volunteers on Saturday to staff the kitchen of the North Carolina Southern Baptist Disaster Recovery Team based on the grounds of the Aqueduct Racetrack/Resorts International Casino in South Ozone Park, Queens.

The North Carolina Southern Baptist Recovery Team presently has the largest food preparation operation in the Tri-State Area, having driven up from Down South with an assortment of trailers and equipment capable of providing sleeping quarters, water and sanitation for a staff of twenty and with the capacity to prepare up to 30, 000 hot meals per day. All their staff are here in New York voluntarily and at their own expense. They take time off from their jobs, stay for a week and are then are replaced by others from their organization. (How long will they be able to maintain that?)

They presently serve around 15,000 meals per day and will step up to more than 20,000 meals per day within the next few days as two other food preparation outfits are getting ready to cease operations..

Not much is known about the North Carolina Southern Baptist Operation in New York because they are rarely seen at the distribution end of the process. They work largely out of the limelight. Here in New York, they prepare the meals which are later distributed by the Red Cross under an arrangement they have made between themselves.

Our team of volunteers, including twelve from the Buddhist Light Temple in Flushing, arrived at the food preparation site at a chillingly cold 6.00 A.M. Volunteers were quickly briefed and signed in and within twenty minutes were hard at work in two main areas, sanitizing the food preparation and packaging equipment and preparing the foods that would soon be packed in large temperature controlled containers for subsequent dispatch.

These containers weighing as much as 80 lbs each, fully loaded were then loaded on to a convoy of 42 Red Cross trucks which would subsequently deliver the food to the various distribution points in New York and New Jersey where they would be met by Red cross volunteers whose job it was to share out the food to the needy in clam shell containers.

However, before that, after receiving the food containers, the trucks would move to another path flanked on either side by boxes of food supplies including boxes of bread, crates of water, boxes of clam shells, packets of cutlery, chips, crackers and other items. At each point volunteers would load the quantities of supplies requested by the drivers and attendants until the trucks were fully equipped and ready to set off. This entire process from food preparation to dispatch of the trucks lasted from 6.00 A.M. to 11.00 A.M. with a few breaks in between. Clean up took another hour and by midday most of the volunteers were able to go.

At the end of the day the organizers stated that they would never have met their goals for the day without the support of our volunteers. They added that in the thirty days that they had been in New York, this team was the best and most productive group of volunteers they have had.

One might be of the view that working in the kitchen instead of at the site of the devastation is a lesser service. That would be wrong. There are many people in these areas that wait for this one hot meal they will have for the day. They are still without electricity and they are still staying in shelters and in other people’s basements and still have nothing. It is a valuable service that is being provided.

As residents of New York and New Jersey we should really laud the efforts of the North Carolina Baptist Recovery group to aid our communities in this time of need. No one in their organization is paid to do what they are doing yet they were amongst the first responders to make their way to the area. They deserve the support of New Yorkers.

Thanks also to the UN staff. Special mention must also be made to the support given by the Venerable Chuah Chuen, Abbess of the International Buddhist Progress Society located in Flushing, Queens, NY. She is also head of the UN NGO, Buddha’s Light International Association. She and her members have volunteered on every occasion and though she and many of her female team members are slight in frame, they have tackled the most difficult tasks without a murmur. Her Temple’s support has been critical to the effort of our team.

New Dorp, Staten Island, 17 November, 2012

November 17th, 2012

At 9.00 A.M. on Saturday, November 17, the first group of volunteers with GTAH and partners, boarded the Staten Island Ferry in downtown Manhattan, headed for Staten Island. More than 60 volunteers gathered in front of Staten Island Yankee Stadium, a minor league baseball park, waiting to be transported to the site where we would be working on the day. Included amongst the volunteers were, once again, United Nations Staff, Members of the International Buddhist Progress Society, the Bethel Community Church of Staten Island, representatives from the Liberian Community in Staten Island and representatives of the Sierra Leonean Community in Staten Island.

Our key partner on the day was the NYPD Community Affairs Division. With the assistance of some of its leaders on Staten Island – Lieutenant Goodwin and Officer Gianino – they arranged for our team to be transported to the work site in police vans, equipping us with gloves, masks and cleaning materials for the task of clearing debris from houses on Fox Lane in the Oakdale community of Staten Island.

Fox Lane borders on acres of sea grass which helps to separate the homes from the ocean. Many of the homes and properties we entered were choked with this grass which came in with the sea surge that flooded rooms that were, in some cases, 15 feet off the ground. Some of our volunteers worked on one house for the entire day, clearing out an unending supply of wet and ruined clothing, furniture and other items while preserving some items for further use by the owners. The residents of the devastated area certainly did not expect their good fortune to have so many hands turning up at their doors to help. They were overwhelmed and expressed their gratitude by providing water and buying pizza and sandwiches for everyone during a break period. Other team members working in groups went door to door offering assistance as needed and simply pitched in. One such group filled a container with debris while another helped to rip up the flooring of a house being gutted for eventual rehabilitation.

The email below from my colleague Mohammed Nurhussein, Chairman of the United African Congress, to the volunteers best sums up this experience:

“Dear Fellow Volunteers,

A gorgeous mosaic that is New York was in evidence today when a diverse group of volunteers composed of UN Staff, Immigrants of various nationalities and faiths, young and old, men and women descended on Staten Island to lend a helping hand to fellow New Yorkers adversely affected by the super storm Sandy. It was deeply gratifying for me to have been part of this uniquely human manifestation of solidarity and empathy, New Yorkers helping New Yorkers in need. We helped home owners whose houses were flooded all the way to the second floor. We took out wet moldy clothing items in garbage bags, removed soggy mattresses, furniture, dinning and kitchen items, bookshelves, tables, and emptied the attic of all its contents, helped clean up the mess on the floors. The home owners were touched by the gesture and took pictures of us and with us. Despite their loss, we were able to see that we managed to bring some comfort and respite as well as a smile to their faces. That was the ultimate reward for us. There was a warm camaraderie among us as we all cheerfully took part in what was at times a physically demanding work. Our work in Red Hook last Monday was also a similar experience and we hope to replicate this next week in Far Rockaway

To all volunteers, the coordinators and particularly the super coordinator, the unflappable Gordon Tapper who managed to pull this off, I would like to express my sincere appreciation for a job well done. The United African Congress is proud and honored to be one of the organizations of this unique coalition.

With my best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving,

Mohammed A Nurhussein, MD, Chairman, United African Congress”

 

Thanks to the leadership provided by:

Dr. Mohammed Nurhussein, Chairman of the United African Congress

Sidique Wai, President of the United African Congress and Senior Advisor to the NYPD Commissioner.

The Venerable Chueh Chen, Abbess of the International Buddhist Progress Society

Imam Shamsi Ali, Director of the Al-Hikma Mosque in Astoria, Queens

Famod Konneh, Chairman of the African Advisory Council

Passynna Bulabula, Secretary of the African Advisory council

Mamadou Kone, President of the African Day Parade Committee

Ahmed Dean Kargbo, President of the Sierra Leone National Association

William Wade, President of the Liberian Association.

 

Gordon Tapper

GIVE THEM A HAND FOUNDATION (GTAH) AND UNITED AFRICAN CONGRESS (UAC) LEAD DIVERSE GROUP OF VOLUNTEERS INTO COMMUNITIES RAVAGED BY HURRICANE SANDY

November 12th, 2012

Red Hook, Brooklyn, 12 November, 2012

GTAH, with its traditional coalition partner, The United African Congress, brought together more than 120 volunteers anxious to have an opportunity to bring a measure of relief to the people of Red Hook, Brooklyn who are suffering the ill effects of Super Storm, Sandy.

Volunteers included two dozen United Nations Staff Members, twenty five members of the International Buddhist Progress Society, led by the Venerable Chueh Chen, thirty members of the Mosque led by Imam Shamsi Ali, members of several African Community and Diaspora groups as well as GTAH and UAC members. Not only was this group a reflection of the wonderful melting pot of cultures and nationalities that New York City is, but also a demonstration of Interfaith Harmony in action.

Red Hook was one of the Brooklyn communities that lost power for more than two weeks, with hundreds of residents virtually shut in their quarters in high rise apartment buildings with no lights, no heat, and no elevator service – and in many instances with no food. A secluded waterfront community, with no subway service linking it to the rest of the City, Red Hook is low-lying and when the storm surge hit, large swathes of the community became flooded.

Prior to bringing in our volunteers, the leadership of GTAH and UAC met with key organizers in the community including members of the Red Hook Initiative (RHI), Assemblyman Carlos Ortiz initiative and representatives from OCCUPY. Special mention must be made of the outstanding young lady, Gillian Kaye, who three weeks ago wandered into the ravaged Red Hook to see how she could help and then rapidly morphed into the visible director of the OCCUPY effort in the area, coordinating the delivery of services and assigning hundreds of volunteers to locations where they were needed on a daily basis. Her energy and organizational skills are boundless, bringing to mind the Shakespearian quote, “some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them”. In Gillian’s case, she combines all three possibilities.

Our team of volunteers began their activities in Red Hook on Monday morning. Electricity had been returned to the community, making redundant the plans for our team to deliver pre-packed bags of blankets, flashlights, batteries and other items. Similarly plans to deliver meals to those shut-ins in the high rises were no longer a priority as many could now get out themselves.

In co-ordination with OCCUPY, our team changed tack and joined in the process of cleaning out flooded buildings and throwing out tons of debris. Another group manned food lines in Coffey Park distributing cooked meals, fruit and water to hundreds of people lined up to get sustenance.

Our volunteers made meaningful contributions to the community. It was a drop in the bucket when put against the massive task that lies ahead and which will continue for months, if not years. However, community efforts like these, along with the help from government agencies, private sector and concerned individuals, will bring about the rehabilitation of Red Hook.



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