Member of Parliament for West Portland Daryl Vaz has added his voice to those endorsing Food For The Poor (FFP) in the wake of the recent controversy surrounding the building of houses by the charity.
Vaz, who is the Cabinet minister charged with negotiating a new contract with FFP based on a directive from Prime Minister Andrew Holness, last week told our news team that he felt compelled to add his voice to the issue based on the work the charity has done in his constituency.
“I can say categorically that the people of Portland love FFP as an organisation because of the wide-ranging help we have got.
“I have seen them go from one bedroom to two bedrooms, so you can see where improvements have been made over time. As a matter of fact, Food For The Poor has gone from just doing houses in my constituency to over time making improvements with sewage, water tanks, furniture and appliances, as well as building the foundations of the houses,” declared Vaz.
He said his relationship with FFP started in 2007 when he became member of parliament, and he has since worked closely with the non-profit organisation to provide housing solutions, among other things, for members of his constituency.
Vaz said between 2007 and June 2017 he submitted 518 applications for housing assistance to Food For The Poor, with 58 housing units having been built while an additional 49 requests have been accepted and are to be built.
According to Vaz, during the 10-year span, 36 fire victims have also been helped, with an additional 98 units constructed following the passing of Hurricane Sandy in 2008.
“Many may ask how have I been so successful, and many would even say it’s because of my position as minister previously or now. It has nothing to do with that,” said Vaz.
“The bottom line is that you have 630 houses that are approved separate and apart from fire and emergency situations, and all I do is put myself in the position that if any other constituency has not qualified for the 10 houses per month I benefit.
“It is not easy to have the documentation and everything in a position where it’s there waiting because you constantly have to be supplying more info. So what I have done is employ somebody full-time in my constituency office to do nothing else but to deal with the applications.”
Under the existing five-year joint venture agreement between FFP and the Government, which expires in August, the charity is to build 1,200 two-bedroom wooden houses per year, which is given free of cost to the poor across the island.
At present, the cost of US$6,400 to deliver a unit is split evenly between both parties.
But FFP’s work in West Portland goes way beyond just providing housing solutions, as it has also helped in sports and youth development, agriculture, disaster relief and welfare and education.
Vaz said FFP has also partnered with various foundations to build five early childhood institutions across his constituency.
“I hope that my own shared experiences will assist other MPs, new and old, of some of the partnerships that can be forged with Food For The Poor,” said Vaz.
“The most important thing is that dialogue takes care of a lot of issues, and the bottom line is all that is required now is MPs to have closer dialogue to iron out whatever misunderstandings and to forge a relationship (with FFP) going forward,” added Vaz.