Often when we talk about programs, we talk in vague terms, and food security is an example of that. We know what we’re talking about—addressing need, helping others—but the people that are helped are left out of the equation. But of course what we’re really talking about are real people, each with their own story. They have their challenges, though they all have their talents, too.
Also left out of the conversation are the people who are delivering the programs. Through the pandemic we’ve turned to offering vouchers rather than food deliveries. There are lots of reasons for that. One is that it obviated the need to have volunteers gather to make up packages and then take them home to home, so it greatly cut down on person-to-person contact. Another is that the vouchers allowed us to help store owners as well, and to do that in a direct way. Rather than purchasing in quantity from wholesalers, we issued the vouchers for use in stores in various locations on island.
It also allowed us to partner with some great people. One of them is Uncle Duff.
For decades, Uncle Duff has run an impeccable store in Paget Farm—Uncle Duff’s Inc.—a place that is always abuzz with staff, shoppers, and spirit. There’s a notice on the wall near the checkout that reads that business is about “HONESTY.” It’s signed Godfred Dofton Ollivierre.
Uncle Duff really means that. For him, he’s providing an essential service, one that goes well beyond basic needs. Another note posted by the checkout confirms it. “I cannot tell the customer what to buy, however I reserve the right to inform the customer what I am selling.” If he feels you can get a better deal, or a better product, or something more suited to your needs, Uncle Duff will tell you.
There are many customers that come in that have trouble making ends meet. He knows literally everyone in the community by name, and interacts with all his customers genuinely, with great care, seeing them as people. He even extends store credit to those who are experiencing a bit of trouble getting by, as was particularly true during the pandemic.
We also partnered with Wendy Ollivierre who runs the W&W store in Paget Farm. One of those W’s is her, the other is her brother, Wayne. Together, they’ve been providing service to the community for the better part of three decades. On any given day, the store is bustling—people coming and going, deliveries being made—and Wendy is expertly in charge of all of it.
When we visited recently, she talked about how prices were rising, perhaps because of the pandemic. She worked to keep her prices down by sourcing products further afield. Rather than Kingstown, she’d look to Trinidad or Miami. She was proud to say that, on many things, her prices were lower than on the mainland.
Her store is also a kind of meeting place, in all the best ways. Kids come in on their way to school, or on their way back. They get snacks. When they do, they see a woman who is running her own business, expertly, with great care and great success.
There was a song on Sesame Street when I was growing up, “These are the people in your neighbourhood.” For the Grenadines Initiative, Uncle Duff and Wendy Ollivierre are two of the people in our neighbourhood. And, when the people we support through the voucher program go in to redeem the vouchers for food and supplies, we’re proud that they are the face of that support.