Seniors luncheon held in NY by Indo-Caribbean activists

Dear Editor,

Indo-Guyanese community leaders of greater Richmond Hill, in partnership with community organizations planned, organized, and hosted an entertainment, packed luncheon for seniors last Sunday at Villa Russo in the heart of Little Guyana. It was appreciated by the seniors allowing them to socialize with others they had not seen for some time, and it provided for much merry-making. It brought together seniors from Indian, Black, White and Hispanic communities.

This annual luncheon has been going on for almost a dozen years now, put together by Indo-Caribbean activists from Guyana, Trinidad and Jamaica.  No other ethnic community hosts such a luncheon for the elderly. It was a free event. The elderly had a most joyous time celebrating the yuletide season.

One is heartened that the organizers see it fit to host a special event for our seniors in NY. In today’s American society, senior citizens are often not treated with the respect they deserve.  They are often neglected or ignored by their loved ones. Some are even abandoned by family members. Many have had a very lonely life in America with hardly anyone caring for them. Thus, it was good to see a few leaders such as Frank Singh, Taj Rajkumar, Kay Ramdat, Mala Dasrat, Ena Persaud, and some others, hosting a luncheon for them and giving each a gift. Thanks also go out to Reggie Rawana, Son Son, Joyce Urmilla Harris, Randy, Rohan, Sita Pandey, Shawn Persaud, and the Alaina dance group for entertaining the gathering.

The luncheon included traditional Guyanese dishes, followed by Bollywood and chutney music and dancing. The songs were interspersed with speeches from the community leaders and politicians. Some community persons, including music promoter Mr Mohabeer, were honoured by Councilman David Weprin for their service to the community.

The holiday luncheon was initiated by several individuals including Frank Singh, the late Jagdesh Mohunlall, some wonderful ladies, Rita Persaud, the Indo-Caribbean Federation, Ralph Tamesh, Taj Rajkumar, Vishnu Mahadeo, Balram Rambrich, and others.  It started in a very small way with just a few dozen seniors the first year.  But as the years went on, some 500 attended the fete annually. Several non-Indians from the greater Richmond Hill area also attended the luncheon. In addition to the seniors’ luncheon, the Hindu Senior Citizen Center of Richmond Hill, founded and managed by Trinidadian Chan Jamoona, also held its annual holiday luncheon for many elderly citizens, including non-Hindus. Many Guyanese patronize that centre daily.

The Villa Russo event also 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.

Villa Russo hall was transformed into a festively decorated atmosphere with a Christmas tree. The hall was decorated with party favours and Christmas paraphernalia.

The lunch was served at no cost to anyone. This year, unlike in the past when it was buffet style, the seniors were served their meal and drinks. Volunteers from York College Indo-Caribbean Students Club served as the waiters/waitresses. Some 42 trays of foods were donated by Indo-Guyanese and Trini restaurants. Fried rice, chowmein, roti, various curry dishes, bara, phulourie, baked and fried chicken, cakes, pine tart, cheese rolls, salad, fruit, drinks, etc, were served.

The senior citizens took part in the proceedings with lot of enthusiasm singing, dancing and cheering performers.  They sang several old Bollywood songs of yesteryear and took to the dance floor when old chutney or Indian songs were belted out. The non-Indians cheered and also danced away. The songs from ʼ40s through the 1980s brought back the favourite memories of the past.

The elderly expressed their appreciation for all that was done for them. The luncheon brought out an energy of its own among the elderly and one could see the joy and happiness beaming from their smiling faces. As the celebrants left, each received a holiday present in a lovely bag.

The efforts of all in organizing the luncheon are laudable making it a memorable event for the hundreds of seniors in attendance.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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