At Good News Project we could not accomplish the work we do in the West Indies without dedicated volunteers…both in the United States and local members in the West Indies. Let me introduce Noella Sankar, our Island Coordinator in St Lucia.
Toni Schmitt: How did you become involved with Good News?
Noella Sankar: In 1987, I attended the Corpus Christi Girls Vocational School. That’s when I met Good News, they came to our school to do a musical and I took part. I ended up participating with them for my four years at the school. After I graduated in 1991, Chuck and Peggy MacCarthy (the Founders) came down to St. Lucia again. Chuck used to conduct his Eye Clinic at the Marian Home and I went to help with it. In 1992 I became a GN member.
I worked for two weeks then I became a member. (80 hours of service constitutes membership with GNP). I enjoyed it very much. I went down to Upton Girls School and teaching arts and crafts and to the elderly at the Marian (nursing) Home just talking to the people. I continued helping Chuck with his Eye Clinic. By then I was hooked on Good News. Then, a few years later I became their St. Lucian volunteer coordinator. I have been coordinating the reception of humanitarian goods and looking for qualified home recipients for over 10 or 11 years.
Toni Schmitt: What’s involved with accepting an application and taking it to the point of actually building a St Lucian a house?
Noella Sankar: When I became the coordinator for the houses, we were not getting so many applications, maybe about 10 for the year. I had gone to visit all ten occupants. They did not own their house, they rent, but the money they were getting could not pay for the house and feed their children. Some of them live in houses that were so bad… so I put these into priority. We used to build 3 houses, now we are building 6 houses, so I get more applications and I visit more occupants, most of them…. I don’t have to visit all of the occupants, but most of them. Those I can’t visit I will call on the phone ….
Toni Schmitt: So if you find that one of the applicants does not qualify, or own the land, you go to the next application, continuing down the line?
Noella Sankar: Yes, that’s what I did. When they first fill out an application, I call. Before I go to the site, I call them to find out that they own the land – if they own the land, that’s when I go to visit it. Sometimes it’s all the way downhill, or uphill, that’s why I go visit. (The volcanic island of St Lucia varies such in elevation that some sites are not buildable for the Good News volunteers)
Toni Schmitt: What if somebody fills out an application and doesn’t own the land today, but a year from now can claim the property?
Noella Sankar: The following year, I call back all old applications to check with them before I look at new applications. If they have the land, they may qualify to get a house.
Toni Schmitt: So, you don’t throw any applications away?
Noella Sankar: I never throw applications away unless they tell me they already have a house…that’s when I discard it. I still have applications from the time when I first became the Good News coordinator until now.
Toni Schmitt: You have applications that are ten years old that are still reviewed to receive a house?
Noella Sankar: Yes!
Toni Schmitt: Now, tell me what happens when the shipments come in – I know it’s a lot of work.
Noella Sankar: When the shipment comes, we go to the airport to meet the cargo plane and bring all the boxes and crates up to the Pastoral Center – there can be hundreds. We store them for the night, and the following day we come in and sort. It takes almost a week to completely clear the shipment and clean out the Pastoral Center, leaving the boxes that belong to Good News in a storage locker.
Toni Schmitt: How do all those boxes get to the Pastoral Center?
Noella Sankar: We use 5 trucks. Some are trucks that belong to volunteers, some we hire.
Toni Schmitt: I know that many of the boxes go to different facilities on the island, some may be marked Missionaries of Charity or Upton Gardens. How do you coordinate for those places to come pick up those boxes?
Noella Sankar: In the early years we used to go and deliver each box to each facility. Now I know in advance, through a box list, how many boxes will arrive for each center. I contact them all and ask them to pick up their items at the Pastoral Center so that they can transport their own things. I give them one week to do it. We will deliver a box or two ourselves, if necessary.
Toni Schmitt: Soon it’s January and the first wave of volunteers arrive. How does your life change for the two months that the Good News members are here?
Noella Sankar: Big time! (laughs) I enjoy it. Finding my old friends and making new friends… My family and I enjoy working with Good News very much.
Toni Schmitt: What about at the end? What happens when the third shift of volunteers leave?
Noella Sankar: I am always very sad. I cry a lot! But I always look forward, then, to the coming year.
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Good News Project thrives on the participation of enthusiastic volunteers (who pay their own way) and tax deductible donations (that support our projects). If you feel called to volunteer with us or donate to the project please call us at 715-843-5985 for more information. Or visit our website at www.goodnewswi.com
Good News Project, Inc
1106 Fifth Street
Wausau, WI 54403