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Local charities - long on goodwill, short on supplies

Published:Wednesday | December 30, 2015 | 12:00 AMAndrew Harris
Food For The Poor in partnership with Salvation Army, played hosts to some of the less fortunate people, recently. This man was one of them.

There's one thing that we can say about our local charity organisations: They are never short on goodwill.

We cannot say the same about their supplies. For although they feed thousands of Jamaicans daily, a number of them are faced with a shortage of supplies to reach the poor and needy.

"Although they said that we are managing our debts and all, it's not being felt in the streets. People are in terrible condition," said Father Richard Ho Lung, head of Missionaries of the Poor.

The Salvation Army and the Missionaries of the Poor are two charities that have revealed that a shortage in supplies is preventing them from doing more for the less fortunate.

Missionaries of the Poor reaches more than 5,000 persons per day in its programme. It operates a soup kitchen in Kingston and expands its reach across the island. However, Ho Lung shared that his organisation was not receiving as many supplies as it would like from donors, and when the supplies arrive, there are a lot of Customs issues to deal with.

"We have always had difficulties with getting clearance of the supplies when we do get them. However, the truth is that there is much more poverty at this time than we have ever seen before," said Ho Lung.

'A STRUGGLE'

"It's a struggle, and although I think we have been just about managing our supplies, people have been calling us for food and so on, but we have to be very careful because we are, in fact, short," he added.

He said there is a greater demand for food among the poor in Jamaica than can be met by charities.

The Salvation Army, which also provides aid for the poor and the needy, shared similar concerns.

Major Chris Matthias, secretary of the eastern arm of the Salvation Army, said: "I can agree that Food For The Poor has not been getting enough supplies as before, because I remember years ago when going there over in Spanish Town, there would be a stronger level of supplies there. But I perceive that they are now receiving less donations and are not able to do as much as they would want to."

He added: "We do get stuff from Food For The Poor and [we get] other donations, but [we face] challenges meeting the needs of the people, just like many other NGOs."

Research done by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization revealed that 200,000 Jamaicans are undernourished.

Major Matthias said he was not sure how they had gone about that research, and while he acknowledged that there was a shortage, the methodology of the research would be of interest to him.

andrew.harris@gleanerjm.com