CRS in Lesser Antilles
The Lesser Antilles in the Eastern Caribbean is divided into eight independent nations, including Grenada and St. Lucia, and numerous dependent and non-sovereign states. The islands of the Lesser Antilles are divided into the Windward Islands, the Leeward Islands and the Leeward Antilles.
Because of location, earthquake activity is common in the region. CRS’ work in the Lesser Antilles is comprised mainly of disaster response, but has expanded in recent years to include small-scale projects focused on at-risk youth and disaster risk reduction.
Grenada: 1,650 (2012 est.)
St. Lucia: 8,165 (July 2012 est.)
St. Lucia: 164,994
Grenada: 133 sq. mi.; twice the size of Washington, DC
St. Lucia: 238 sq. mi.; three and a half times the size of Washington, DC
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CRS' History in Lesser Antilles
In 2003, Catholic Relief Services initiated the Antilles/Eastern Caribbean Initiative. The goal was to respond to the needs of the independent Caribbean community countries with the advent of the destructive hurricane season in 2004, when CRS Dominican Republic responded to emergencies throughout the Caribbean. In 2011, the first non-emergency project was started with Caritas Antilles, and focused on at-risk youth programming on St. Lucia and Grenada.
The Youth Emergency Action Committee (YEAC) Project puts young people to work preparing their communities for emergencies. Participants learn the basics: how to plan for and respond to earthquakes and hurricanes, administer first aid, map out an evacuation route, set up emergency shelters and work as a team.
Then, teams go into the community to determine the most vulnerable areas. They develop a plan of action to build resilience that includes replacing leaky roofs, cleaning clogged drains and gullies, and helping neighborhoods properly dispose of trash to keep drains from clogging during storms. They write skits, songs and dances, which they perform in schools and churches, to teach their neighbors about disaster preparation.
Along the way, they are becoming community-minded leaders with skills that can help them engage in other community development projects.
Another project, the Catholic Youth Synergies Empowerment Project (CYSEP), which began in 2009, works with school-age youth in Saint Lucia and Grenada. The goal is to create a safe space for kids while teachers work with them to improve their literacy skills and continue in the school system. Students work with mentors, who teach them communication skills and conflict resolution. Students are also given opportunities to visit key landmarks across the island. In St Lucia, parents were also incorporated into CYSEP and equipped with sewing skills to encourage income generating opportunities.