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Charity calls for public relief for needy families

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Fiona Dill, who founded the charity It Takes A Village Foundation last year to provide assistance to needy families (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Government needs to help families more with basic necessities, according to a nurse and charity organiser who said “families in this community are definitely going hungry”.

“Anything to do with families should be in some way subsidised by the Government,” said Fiona Dill.

Ms Dill, who founded the charity It Takes A Village Foundation last year to provide assistance to needy families through a voucher scheme, was speaking as David Burt prepares to unveil the 2023 Budget today.

“Food is a basic human right,” she said. “If we want a healthy community we need to focus on children and health.”

Through her Facebook group, It Takes A Village, she said she fielded one to two anonymous requests a week for help from people, mostly single mothers who are working two jobs.

With food prices rocketing, Fiona Dill says an hour’s work may buy not much more than a head of cauliflower, which ranges from $8.20 to $12.99 in the grocery store (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

“This week I got a request from a professional in the community who is working with a woman who is 36 weeks pregnant,” Ms Dill said.

“The woman had not eaten that day. People just don’t know where to go and where to turn. Whenever there is a request, people say go to The Coalition for the Protection of Children, or go to Family Centre, but even those resources are struggling in terms of having the money to help.”

She said because some schools had a healthy lunch box policy, some mothers who could not meet the request were simply not sending their child to school that day.

“It’s the embarrassment,” she said.

Ms Dill said that in the past people who struggled to this level were generally without jobs, but now she was seeing people who had jobs, sometimes multiple jobs, who could not make ends meet.

She added that some mothers of young babies were making difficult choices.

“If a mother has half a tin of formula left and knows she will not be paid for a month, she will water down that formula or give the baby something inappropriate such as evaporated milk. The baby cannot thrive.”

Running It Takes A Village has given Ms Dill a new perspective on the levels of desperation in the community.

Her husband, the Right Reverend Nicholas Dill, the Anglican Bishop of Bermuda, runs a feeding programme at the Anglican Cathedral in Hamilton.

“They typically see the older men and increasingly the younger men, but tend not to see the families,” Ms Dill said.

“Through It Takes a Village, I am seeing the level of deprivation within the families. I can’t say whether it existed before Covid-19 because I have just come into this space.”

She said there was financial assistance but many people struggled to get on it.

Sheelagh Cooper, of Habitat for Humanity Bermuda, said she got constant calls from people looking for help with housing.

“Many families are one pay cheque away from homelessness,“ she said. ”It has to do with the cost of food but also is related to the lack of affordable housing.

“One of the things we see clearly here is the increased number of people who are turning spare rooms or small apartments into Airbnbs.

“That has had a profound effect on availability of affordable housing because those units were typically rented for fairly affordable rents.“

Juliana Snelling, of the Grateful Bread programme, said: “Obviously, the situation is desperate to so many in Bermuda with the 10 per cent inflation on food.

“Every person who is fortunate not to worry about the cost of what they buy at a supermarket has to do his or her part in helping the people that cannot make ends meet on food.

“The Grateful Bread is all about looking out for each other with the haves helping the have-nots as much as they can.”

• On April 29 at 1pm, at City Hall, Grateful Bread will be giving away second-hand clothes, shoes, household items, bedding and miscellaneous items

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Published February 17, 2023 at 9:27 am (Updated February 17, 2023 at 9:27 am)

Charity calls for public relief for needy families

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