Humanitarian  

A life devoted to helping the most destitute and vulnerable in our society…the children, Dame Olga herself estimated that she officially helped as many as 1500 children a year and many more unofficially.  She credits the opportunities provided to her by her job as a broadcaster with opening the floodgates of public giving, when, in her first radio broadcast in Guyana she sought help for a few but had such overwhelming response for items, that she was able to help many others.  As she described it …“I aired an appeal for garments and received more clothes than I had needy kids.  So I aired another appeal for more needy children to come forward, and then had more children than clothes.”   This almost accidental happening, evolved into the Demerara Needy Children’s Fund as she continued to use her broadcasts at Radio Demerara to help that islands’ poor. 

“Auntie Olga, we need you.”, “Auntie Olga, don’t go, we love you...”

So effective were her efforts, that when the decision was made to relocate to Barbados with her husband Dick Seale, many in Guyana protested the move.  Placards were made, imploring her to stay and continue her humanitarian work in her homeland, and signed by their bearers,  they were a testimony to what her work meant to her fellow countrymen.   

      

However the move was happening and parties and functions were organized in her native land Guyana.  Her colleagues at Radio Demerara presented her with several gifts among which was a treasured silver tray engraved with the words “To Auntie Olga from Auntie Gertie in appreciation for the work done amongst the needy children of British Guyana.”

By the time she moved to Barbados in the 60s and took up a broadcast position at Barbados Rediffusion, it was natural for Dame Olga to continue her humanitarian work in her adopted home, and Barbados’ poor benefitted significantly from it.  In 1965 the Redifussion Needy Children’s Fund took off. She organised jumble sales, bingo drives, variety concerts and cash raffles to raise money in order to finance for student scholarships, books and clothes. Her work with the Needy Children’s Fund, and the Variety Club of Barbados, addressed the needs of not only the poor, but enveloped mentally and physically challenged children as well as the elderly.  She raised funds to support the purchase of medical equipment and pay for operations to help children in need.  She also visited the elderly in their homes, providing them with spectacles, wheelchairs, whatever was needed.  

I cannot see myself operating with this committee and that committee.  I’ve been doing what I can in this way and I can’t see myself changing.”

"I am the most organized disorganized person."

But how was all this giving financed and executed without any formalized operations system?  Apart from her ‘right hand’ Ms. Ena Jordan (her secretary since 1967), she almost single handedly managed the never ending supply of donations of food, clothing, appliances and the like that her appeals raised.  Auntie Olga must have been an astute money manager and business woman with a persuasive tongue.  She had the capability of persuading big businesses, NGO’s, community organizations and the like to give generously to her cause, and this is evidenced by the many letters, cards, and newspaper clippings in the collection highlighting these acts. Writing in 2002, Fedee Newton noted “ The Fund is simply the name given to the bank account."  From inception Olga did things her way and operated theroughout the years in an informal though organized environment.”    Noted as well is the fact that though her unorthodox way of managing financial funds excluded any auditing process, she had a firm grip on the eighty to ninety thousand dollars worth of assistance provided annually,  and kept records of every transaction. 

“It is the combined efforts of all kinds of people that go toward the success of what I do.”

She was quick to give credit to the many individuals,  locals and visitors alike, groups, associations and businesses who through their generosity, provided the resources to assist those most in need.  Among these longtime supporters she has repeatedly mentioned the kindness of the Syrian Lebanese Women’s Association, The Indian Women’s Association, and the Multi National Women’s Group.

But there was also a no nonsense approach to how she managed the endless financial donations which were received to assist the needy.  Vouchers identifying exactly what was being given were usually distributed to the needy as Olga did not give money.  In an interesting letter found among her documents, Dame Olga wastes no time in castigating parents who unethically used the food vouchers  disbursed to them to purchase other items.

As a testament to her determination and selfless giving to all who were in need, the Variety Club of Barbados continues her humanitarian work today in the form of the annual Chefette Fun Run.

Placards
Date: 02 December 2015
Author:
Publisher:
Letters
Date: 10 December 2015
Author:
Publisher:
Auntie Olga - Up Close
Date: 26 November 2015
Author: Carol Roberts
Publisher: Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation