By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
While on a recent trip to the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a small group of volunteers from the Archdiocese of Louisville lent a hand where needed while also doing some research.
The group — composed of five professionals — spent part of their July 13 to 20 trip assessing the best way to help the island’s impoverished people in the future.
The trip was organized through the Catholic Second Wind Guild — a ministry created by Father J. Ronald Knott, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville.
The guild’s mission is to pool the expertise of retired and working lay people and that of retired priests, deacons and bishops to help support institutions on St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said Father Knott during a recent interview.
“We don’t go to help individuals to paint one house, for example. We do things to strengthen the institutions that serve everyone, such as the schools, nursing homes, orphanages and the hospitals,” said Father Knott.
He hopes more people will join in that mission the way the five recent volunteers have done.
Tim Tomes, the new archivist for the Archdiocese of Louisville, was one of the volunteers who traveled to the island nation last month.
“Life on the island is difficult. They don’t have access to all we have here,” said Tomes, noting the level of poverty on the island was unlike anything he’d seen.
People often want to help, but sometimes they don’t know how, he said.
“This is a great opportunity. This is a way that reaches closer to home and has a personal touch,” Tomes added.
While the volunteers were assessing needs on the island for future outreach, they also used their talents to serve.
Beth Kolodey — a computer science teacher at Hite Elementary School — led two computer camps for children on the nearby islands of Bequia and Canouan. The computers used in the camps were refurbished and donated by Father Knott’s ministry. Both classes were well-attended, with about 55 kids ranging in age from 9 to 14, she said. The children learned about programming, digital art and careers in the computer industry, said Kolodey.
“It was something new to them, but they were very engaged and interested,” she said. “They enjoyed it. They liked what they were doing and picked it up quickly.”
Kolodey, a member of St. Patrick Church, said she gave the kids a taste of what many students in U.S. schools can access almost daily.
In addition to education, the Catholic Second Wind Guild also supports hospitals and clinics by shipping medical items from Supplies Over Seas (SOS) — a Louisville non-profit that collects surplus medical equipment for impoverished nations.
Over the past year, at least 20,000 pounds of medical supplies have been sent to the island. During the July trip, volunteers had the opportunity to see the donated medical items in use.
“We got to see the end benefits, but the tip has only been touched. There’s so much more to be done,” said Karen Crook, an operations and logistics manager at SOS who traveled with the group to St.Vincent and the Grenadines.
Crook, along with Susan Sherman and her husband Paul Sherman, a retired orthopedic surgeon, also assessed medical needs on the island in consultation with medical officers and health ministers.
Susan Sherman said there were many trained nurses and doctors in the hospitals they visited, but the staff need supplies, particularly those used frequently such as gloves and syringes. The hospitals also need the services of a cardiologist and a plastic surgeon for at least a couple of months, she said.
Members of the group also spoke to the nation’s leaders about shipping more supplies, said Crook, noting the hospitals could use at least two containers more per year.
During the trip, the volunteers also served food at a homeless shelter and visited children at an orphanage.
Sherman said she was inspired by the visit to the orphanage.
“We took candy and toys and just played with them,” said Sherman of the orphans. “It was rewarding to see the good work being done.”