Christmas luncheon for Guyanese seniors in New York

Dear Editor,

I write to applaud Guyanese community leaders, the Indo-Caribbean Federation, District Leader Dr Taj Rajkumar, Vishnu Mahadeo and other advocates in Richmond Hill, Queens, for hosting a wonderful, entertainment-packed holiday luncheon for senior citizens last Saturday at Villa Russo catering hall in the heart of the community.  The elderly Guyanese American citizens had a most joyous time celebrating the yuletide season and the end of the year in NY. The event included a traditional Guyanese holiday luncheon, followed by music and dancing interspersed with speeches.

This is the seventh consecutive year of the luncheon that was initiated by Frank Singh, the Indo-Caribbean Fed and others.  It started small with just a few dozen Guyanese seniors.  But this year saw almost 500 being feted in Richmond Hill and the guests included several non-Guyanese from the greater Richmond Hill area.  In addition, the Caribbean Hindu Senior Citizens Center, managed by Chan Jamoona, held its annual holiday luncheon that same day drawing hundreds including non-Hindus.

The Villa Russo holiday luncheon was sponsored by several community organizations to show appreciation for the seniors who have had a very lonely life in America. The event helps to promote partnerships between businesses and the local communities. It was funded by donations from several businesses and a host of volunteers who worked very hard to put together the programme and organize gifts for everyone. The lunch was served at no cost to anyone allowing seniors an afternoon to be out of their homes and to socialize with other local senior citizens they had not seen for some time. It provided merry-making. The hall was transformed into a festively decorated atmosphere. Chan’s Senior Citizens Center, owned by a Guyanese, was also transformed into a Christmas wonderland for the hundreds of the community’s senior citizens and families who gathered for a Christmas celebration and luncheon.

Both halls were decorated with party favours and Christmas paraphernalia. Villa Russo had a Christ-mas tree and other decorative items, providing an atmosphere of festive fervour and celebration for the elderly citizens. Fried rice, chowmein, cakes, chicken, salad, fruits, drinks, etc, were served. The senior citizens took part in the proceedings with lots of enthusiasm singing, dancing and cheering performers.  They sang several old Bollywood songs of yesteryear and took to the dance floor when old chutney songs were belted out. The non-Indians cheered and also danced away. The songs from ’40s through to the 1970s brought back the favourite memories of the past. Such songs linger in the mind and enthused the large congregation. Some reminisced about their Christmases past.

The master of ceremonies, Frank Singh, encouraged people to sing their favourite songs. A live band provided back up music entertaining the gathering. “A laugh till yuh belly bust” skit enlivened the programme. Christmas messages were delivered by several speakers. Frank and Chan Jamoona implored the senior citizens to lead happy and meaningful lives despite their age and health conditions.  The old people blurted out many times: “We appreciate all you’ve done for us.” The non-Guyanese also showed their appreciation of what the Guyanese community has done for them. As the celebrants left, each received a holiday present in a lovely bag.

As Prof Jagdesh Mohunlall noted, the event seeks to restore the youth in many of the elderly as well as to get them to appreciate their heritage.

I applaud the efforts of all to make the celebration such a success, as well as a memorable event for the hundreds of our seniors. The luncheon brought out an energy of its own among the elderly and one can see the joy and happiness beaming from their smiling faces.

I never saw a similar celebration for old people in Guyana and I am heartened that my colleagues see it fit to host something for them in NY. I hope next year, a celebration will be added for the poor youths of the community.

Yours faithfully,
Vishnu Bisram

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