By Lincoln DePradine
Shenae Harris and her mother, Marsha Hector, were both born outside of the Caribbean but have grown up with a passionate love for the region. So deep is that love that mother and daughter have embarked on projects to provide assistance to children and the elderly in the Caribbean.
Canadian-born Harris spearheaded the formation of Camp Unity, a non-profit, charitable organization that is “committed to providing children living in the West Indies with a fun-filled camp experience’’ during the annual summer holidays in July.
The first Camp Unity venture was launched in summer 2016 in Grenada, a country Harris remembers visiting “many times’’ as a child with her grandparents.
“I developed a strong sense of connection with the Grenadian community. From then on, I decided I wanted to give back, especially for the kids,’’ Harris told the Caribbean Camera. “I really just love giving back and making a difference in their lives.’’
Harris, the mother of a three-year-old daughter, is returning to Grenada for another camp, July 16 – 27, at Grand Mal, a St George’s community that is represented in parliament by Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell.
She is limiting this year’s camp to 20 children, ages five to ten. Their camp experience will include the provision of meals, arts and craft and card games, football and other outdoor physical activities and excursions to the beach.
“I love kids, I love working with them. They brighten up your day. Their joy is my payment,’’ said Harris, a York University psychology student.
Her mother, Marsha Hector, is president of Pay It Forward With Open Hands, an organization that focuses its efforts on helping people living on Grenada’s sister island of Carriacou.
“While my daughter, Shenae, is doing the summer camp, I will be going down December and I will be running a food bank,’’ said Hector, who was born in England and was brought to Canada when she was about seven. Her mother is now living in Carriacou.
Last year, Hector sent ten barrels, packed with foodstuff and clothing, that were distributed during the Christmas holidays.
Recipients of the items – families and individuals in need – were asked to make small token payments. The money was reinvested in helping two families who lost their homes through fires.
Hector, with an educational background in gerontology, has spent the last 18 years working with patients with dementia.
“I feel that it’s very important not to forget our seniors over in the Caribbean, as well as single mothers,’’ she said. “I enjoy the food bank, especially; it brings out so much happiness. The reward is seeing their smile. seeing their morale is lifted. We enjoy paying it forward.’’
Hector and Harris are accepting donations of supplies and cash for their summer and December initiatives. They say they are prepared to make collections anywhere in the Greater Toronto Area. They can be contacted at 647-970-1262.