The Aunty Olga Memorial School Aid Programme is a celebration of the life and times of Barbados’ well-known philanthropist the late Dame Olga Lopes-Seale, who spent her life taking care of the less fortunate children on the island. Variety has pledged to ensure that her legacy lives on in the programme that was most dear to her – the back to school programme.
At the beginning of every school year, the programme ensures that children whose parents experience financial difficulties are not disadvantaged by not having the necessary uniforms, bags, shoes and stationery to begin a new school year.The main source of support for this programme is the Annual Chefette Fun Run held in May. The fund is supported by corporations and individuals who donate in currency or in kind to the cause.
Dame Olga Lopes-Seale’s passing in 2010 was mourned by the people of Barbados who loved and admired the dedicated philanthropist. Dame Olga’s legacy did not die with her, however; before her death she stipulated that Variety, the Children’s Charity, should be bequeathed the funds from her Needy Children’s Fund in order to continue support for the children of Barbados.
Variety the Children’s Charity had a long and close association with Dame Olga, providing her with the vehicle she used to visit families and transport donations. Variety’s mandate is to assist needy and sick children. The Charity has been active in Barbados since 1994 and among other activities, donated funds to purchase equipment and outfit the first Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The annual Gold Hearts campaign is Variety’s most visible fundraising programme.
The school programme aims to provide uniforms and basic school items to children of families whose parents are unemployed or are on the welfare system.While there is government funding which assists some families, the demand increases year after year and includes single-parent working families; families that temporarily need assistance and families falling into ill-luck, such as losing jobs or homes and possessions to fires during the course of the year. The programme’s database now has 124 families with 300 school aged children.
Items supplied to the children include:
- Uniforms (shirts, skirts, tunics, pants)
- Back packs
- Games bags
- Paint brushes
Recipients are screened by Variety for identity and authenticity and are given a short face-to-face interview at their residences. The programme is run by a small committee comprising Variety staff and volunteers with experience in administration and social work. The programme averages $40,000 BDS in donations to children annually.