Saturday, April 20, 2024

Support the Poppy League all year


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In this season of good cheer and giving, Barbadians are being asked to support the Barbados Poppy League and ex-servicemen, some of whom have to undergo expensive medical procedures.

Lieutenant Colonel Neville Edwards, who took over as president of the Poppy League in 2019, said in an interview with The Nation that while monetary donations were usually made during the annual poppy appeal ahead of Remembrance Day commemorated this year on November 13, many people might not be aware donations could be made year-round.

He explained the League, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, is the fundraising arm of the Barbados Legion which was formed in 1957. A 14-member council oversees the Legion’s administrative aspects.

“The Poppy League was formed with the intention of raising funds and administering to the needs of the ex-servicemen after the First World War ended in 1918. It was extended to the Second World War (1939-1945), and now it encompasses all ex-servicemen, those who served in the Barbados Defence Force (BDF). It’s not just for people who fought in wars,” Edwards stated.

All service men and women presently serving in the BDF can join the Legion regardless of their age. They can sign up three months after enlisting, as the organisation is not limited to those who retire.

“You don’t have to be a Barbadian to join. If you retire in Barbados and you’re an ex-serviceman, you can apply to be a member of the Legion. A number of our servicemen are not Barbadians, they’re English who retired in Barbados,” he added.

The Barbados Legion is celebrating its 100th Anniversary in 2022. (FILE)

Edwards said although the league raises funds through the annual poppy appeal which is “centered around two weeks before Remembrance Day”, other events are normally held to boost their efforts.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 no events were staged but the league received approximately $58 000 to $60 000 each year from the appeal. In previous years the annual quantum from donations was between $80 000 to $90 000.

“We extended [the poppy appeal] this year – because of our 100th anniversary – to four weeks. We’ll look at that and see whether that’s something we can sustain or modify. Every year we write to corporate Barbados asking them to donate. We inform them they can contribute anytime during the year. CIBC FirstCaribbean Bank customers can contribute by transferring money from their account to ours quite easily.

President Dame Sandra Mason inspecting the ranks of the veterans from the Barbados Legion. (FILE)

“There are a couple other initiatives that are happening now because of the heightened awareness of the 100th anniversary. People are, I suppose, beginning to take a second look, and are helping to do things, but we need a lot more, quite frankly. Year-round support is critical to helping the Legionnaires. Persons can go to the Main Guard and drop off cheques or cash to the Garrison Secretary, Warrant Officer Boyce,” said Edwards who also serves as secretary of the Barbados Legion.

About the requests for assistance, he said they were made “on a regular basis” and the Legion often approved them using the funds available. However, for expensive medical procedures such as hip replacement surgeries, funds were raised.

“The Benevolent Committee processes the requests for assistance. They do research and determine that you are economically unable or you’re in need of some sort of help before granting it. It is not a free-for-all. The committee determines the level of help needed, whether it is 100 per cent or 50 per cent, and we go ahead and arrange with the doctor or medical agency for the person to get the medical attention,” he said.

The Legion also assists members “on a temporary basis” with food and bill obligations as well as with repairs to their homes. There are about 25 to 30 individuals, some of whom are widows, who receive monthly allowances. (GBM)


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