Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s) want clear guidelines from Caribbean governments

FT. LAUDERDALE – As non-government organizations in Florida prepare to be able to assist disaster relief organizations back in the Caribbean should these countries be affected by hurricanes or other natural disasters, they are calling on regional governments to issue clear guidelines on the procedures for providing assistance including the requirements for supplies to qualify for duty free concession.

The call came during a recent workshop for non-government organizations to educate them about the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Ocean Freight Reimbursement program administered by the Florida based Americas Relief Team (ART). The joint ART/ USAID/ Laparkan workshop, held at Laparkan’s corporate training center, brought together representatives of more than 10 non-government organizations involved in providing assistance to charitable causes in the Caribbean region.

Under the USAID Ocean Freight Reimbursement program NGO’s can qualify for reimbursement of up to 80 per cent of their freight costs. The program does not cover in-land transportation and warehousing charges.

While welcoming the USAID program, the workshop participants lamented the problems their organizations often encounter at the receiving end, such as duty free concessions being denied even when a letter is provided by a government agency advising of such concessions as well as clear accountability of donations made to government institutions such as hospitals and schools.

The participants were drawn from several organizations including Cross International, Love Unlimited, the Trinidad and Tobago Diaspora Foundation, Fort Lauderdale Sister Cities, the Coalition of Haitian Organizations, the Florida Association of Non-Profit Organizations, Hands of Hope Ministries International, International Children’s Outreach, Jamaica Nurses Association and the Ex-Police Association of Jamaica.

In declaring the workshop open Laparkan executive chairman Glen Khan pointed to the importance of the work of non-government and non-profit organizations which “not only is geared to provide relief in time of disaster but to sustain the lives of so many in the region through their contributions to medical, educational and faith based programs.”

He welcomed the initiative taken by USAID/ART to assist these organizations with their freight costs and pledged the continued support of Laparkan to facilitating donor shipments. Several of the organizations praised the efficient service provided over the years as well as the discounts granted on their freight costs.

ART Executive Director Dr. Teo Babun and USAID/ ART Program Director Dulce Boza explained the steps in the process for pre-approval of reimbursements while Laparkan’s Vice President Operations Maureen Singh addressed packaging, documentation and compliance issues.

A follow up workshop, to include invitees from the Caribbean Consulates in Florida is to be held later this year.

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