All of these islands have breathtaking natural beauty, warm, friendly people… and widespread poverty. Volunteers work with the poor in cities, and in some of the most remote areas of each country. St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Dominica are independent island countries. The country of “St. Vincent and the Grenadines” includes the island of St. Vincent, and a number of smaller islands south of St. Vincent. Dominica is often referred to as the “Commonwealth of Dominica” to prevent confusion with the Dominican Republic.
These small island countries were all under British or French rule until they gained independence less than 50 years ago. They have all been successful in establishing democratic governments, but all still struggle with troubled economies. Their traditional dependence on protected European markets for their agricultural products no longer provides adequate support in this age of global markets. Tourism has become a very important component of the economy in all four countries. They welcome visits from cruise ships and encourage tourism from Europe, North America and Asia. St. Lucia has a number of large hotels and miles of beautiful beaches, while the others offer more small hotels and guest houses, and attract more of the “ecotourist” business.
The average annual income is about 1/10 of the average income in the United States. All island governments depend heavily on import duties as a primary source of income. As a result, imported items like automobiles, tires, tools, building materials, petroleum products and food items are quite expensive. It is a challenge for these governments to provide basic services, even without the devastating effects of hurricanes. The roads, hospitals, clinics and schools all suffer from insufficient funds. Good News Project shipments of school desks, children’s books, medical equipment and supplies are much needed and appreciated. The work we do in island medical and educational institutions is always welcomed.
There is a growing middle class of educated workers in each country. The tourist industry provides many service jobs for gardeners, cooks, waiters, cleaning people and taxi and tour bus drivers. Still, many unemployed and underemployed people live at a bare subsistence level by growing vegetables, raising a few chickens and depending on employed family members and relatives who have moved to Europe or the United States to supply cash for other needs.
Convenient air transportation, stable democratic governments, and the general use of English are all factors which make these countries suitable for Good News Project trips. Most importantly, we have been welcomed and encouraged by church and civic leaders in each country.