OAH magazine has had the good fortune this day to meet a St Lucian mother of three who is carving a reputation for herself in Brooklyn, New York, feeding homeless people, and whose ultimate aim is to assist with eradicating poverty wherever it exists.
Her name is Carla St Romain. Before we dive into who Carla is, I did a little research into the name St Romain. Saint-Romain is the name or part of the name of several communes in France. For example Saint-Romain, in Charente, Saint-Romain, in Côte-d'Or or Saint-Romain, in Puy-de-Dôme. St Romain is French for St Romanus which in turn is Latin for Roman.
What strikes me first off is that her name St Romain speaks to communes, a group of people living together sharing a common interest or need. Need I say more? I will now share with you what I have learned of Carla and you can see for yourselves how fitting her name and purpose mesh.
Carla St Romain is by no means a rich woman, yet for the last nine years, in response to what she believes was “a higher calling”, she has been able to mobilize the means to launch a crusade in New York that is destined to spread much further. Originally from Vieux Fort, where she attended the Comprehensive Secondary School (VFSS) St Romain never had the opportunity to work in St Lucia because at 16 she left for New York. In a brief reflection on her life in St Lucia, she said: “I never did experience poverty in St Lucia personally, but we had to struggle to make ends meet as my mother was a single parent raising my sister and myself and also her sister’s children”. Nine years ago, St Romain answered a call to service and launched a feeding programme that catered for 50 homeless New Yorkers. She recalls: “I started nine years ago after a close friend of mine did a feeding and I got my calling to go feed the poor. The response was great from the beginning. I started with 50 and I am now feeding 500 people every Sunday”.
Publicity about her effort put her in contact with another St Lucian, Magdalene Cooman-Maxwell who was living in Ottawa, Canada. Cooman-Maxwell said her main interest was in spreading news about St Romain’s project and getting more people involved in feeding the homeless. Cooman-Maxwell wrote of herself: “I had my close call to being homeless 10 years ago which led me to spend time with homeless people on the streets of Ottawa and which was a life changing experience for me. When I read about Carla St. Romain’s (also known as Dawta Maloee) story, a fellow St. Lucian, feeding the homeless in Brooklyn, I felt called to do an interview with her and capture her story in more details and to help her expand her work”. The OAH and AHF like Mrs. Cooman-Maxwell will be assisting Carla with the promotion of her work and hope to soon be physically working on a joint programme of the same nature as did Mrs. Cooman-Maxwell and some friends who decided to make the trip to New York just to connected with St Romain, and physically become part of her mission.
The Cooman-Maxwell visit had another spin off as well. She wrote an article about St Romain’s project which went viral. “Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, and other media just ran with the story”, St Romain said. What exactly was the source of the inspiration for St Romain’s calling? She said confidently: “Rastafari directs my path.” Cooman-Maxwell noted in her article that St Romain comes from a family with a heart of giving adding: “She recalled her grandmother, Martha Prescot, also known as Pepet, who lived in St. Lucia had a big heart for the homeless. She often opened her door to the needy. Several years ago, Carla’s son’s godmother, Suzzette Penniston, gave her the first exposure to feeding the homeless people in Brooklyn. At that time, Carla was going through a difficult time in her own life. Suzette was supportive and encouraged her to cook for the homeless as well. She used to cook 16 plates of food which disappeared very quickly on the streets. Carla joined in the efforts and cooked 50 plates within a couple of months. She said that it was still not enough and within a couple more months, she started cooking 100 plates every other Sunday. Even 100 plates of food is not enough sometimes”. St Romain said she finances the feeding project with family help, especially her mother, who herself was also widely known for her generosity. She also receives donations, and sells T-Shirts to raise funds. “In the beginning it was from our pockets, and it’s still mainly that way, but as we moved along there has been help coming from others”, St Romain added. Also there are people who volunteer to help distribute the food and serve those who come to eat, she said, adding that there were people from other countries who were ready to take on the responsibility of feeding the poor. They are doing it wholeheartedly. From all indications, St Romain’s project is really beginning to receive wider attention. She said: “The mayor contacted me about donations and I have a huge interview with ABC News coming up. I’m excited that the word is getting out there”.
St Romain said her overall plan is to end poverty. After feeding 1,000 people in Vieux Fort last year, she plans to build a diner there to feed that same number on a daily basis. She also plans to visit schools and other countries to campaign for an end to poverty. “Also there will be concerts to raise funds to provide for the large number of people we will be feeding worldwide including Africa”. The programme also has its own line of T-Shirts with a colourful logo which according to St Romain, “attracts many people to our cause”. I am thinking the colourful logo is inspired by the colourful Afrikan clothing that Carla loves to wear.
After reading about this magnificent woman and the work she does, the question should be to self, what am I going to do to help? What would happen if we all randomly chose some one to give a breakfast, dinner or lunch to once a week? What would happen if everyone here bought one of Carla's T-Shirts. Why should we ignore another man's hunger when we ourselves get hungry. People like Carla serve not only to give physical food but in the higher realm of things her work feeds the hunger growls and pangs of humanity.
As I call into being more support for Carla in her mission, I directly ask everyone reading this article to firstly get a shirt from Carla and secondly think of a homeless or person in need you can give a regular meal to. Humanity pleads, let the sick be nourished, the hungry fed and the infant cared for, the aged protected.
You can order your T-Shirt here or email Carla at email@example.com T-Shirts cost $20USD
Will soon have my image on here with my T-Shrit on .... a medium Black for me please Carla.