The CBU Hall of Fame citation given her in 1997 sums up Olga’s contribution nicely. It says in part:
The story of Olga Lopes-
Olga grew up in Georgetown, the capital city, where she started singing in her early teens, accompanying herself on the mandolin. She is reported to have said that her singing career was launched when she was paid 75 cents as a teenager to perform two songs on what was the first sponsored program on radio in British Guiana.
She married Grafton (Dick) Seale, a Barbadian working in the country as a sugar estate overseer. She then moved to the county of Berbice to live with him at the Providence Sugar Estate, just outside New Amsterdam.
It was the 1940s. Olga’s singing performances were much in demand. From her new location in Berbice, she commuted to an improvised “studio” in New Amsterdam – at first, the residence of the Menezes family at Pope and Main Streets, and later the New Amsterdam Town Hall – to perform for as wide an audience as possible. Her live shows were transmitted via telecoms land lines to Georgetown and out to the entire country.
The programs were “Olga Lopes Sings” and “Berbice Calling.” Berbice Calling, a talent show, featured the brightest and the best she could lay her hands on. She worked closely with Nesbit Chhanghur, the popular Guyanese singer.
Olga also made singing tours of the Caribbean and people soon began to call her the “Vera Lynn of the Caribbean.” Vera Lynn (now Dame Vera) was the English singer and actress whose musical recordings and performances were immensely popular during World War II.
Radio in Guyana
On "Yours Truly Olga" the women of Guyana were her target audience. The music and chats were heavily inspirational; the information (recipes, health, household hints, aids to living etc) was of great practical value. Her children’s talent shows were notably successful, and Auntie Olga was popular with children, their parents, and the general audience. She wrapped her programs in warmth and friendliness.
Olga also presented the Birthday Requests program. Among the most popular, most requested songs on that program was her rendition of “If I can help somebody.”
"If I can help somebody as I pass along,
It was her life’s song.
Community Work in Guyana
Olga continued her singing appearances as she was much in demand. During a singing appearance for charity, Olga learnt of five boys who were unable to attend a Christmas concert because they did not have suitable clothes. She set out to help them by appealing on the air for help. The response was more clothes than were necessary for those boys.
She then broadcast invitations for other needy children to come forward. A number of listeners started routinely sending her donations of clothes, food and gifts. And Olga kept on asking others so that as many children as possible could be served. In the early 1950s, the Radio Demerara Needy Children's Fund was born.
Auntie Olga made sure that each child got a suitable gift that recognized the child’s true needs. She started the “Radio Demerara Needy Children’s Party” in December of 1954. This children’s Christmas party has become a fixture in Guyana’s national calendar. In 1963, before she left Guyana for Barbados, Auntie Olga was helping an estimated 1,500 poor Guyanese children
Radio in Barbados
Soon she was singing there again, on radio again, and invited to go into community service again.
Her new home was a bungalow in the Black Rock area of the St. Michael parish; her new studio was at Barbados Rediffusion, a wired radio network at 3 River Road, now the Starcom Network.
Her children’s programs and "Yours Truly Olga" were back on the air again. These programs, and also "Beautiful Music," were among her contributions to several generations of listeners to radio in Barbados. Again, she was "Auntie Olga" to those who listened to her popular weekly children’s show and to the children who gathered around her for the Children's Party in Studio 3 at River Road
She was also a poet and newspaper columnist, writing “A Column To Cherish” for the Easy Magazine of the Sunday edition of the Barbados Nation newspaper.
Community Work in Barbados
As before, it was demanding work. On the air she requested donations and thanked donors. Off the air she received the donations, picking them up herself in her own vehicle where necessary.
Olga has been looking after hundreds of needy children a year, along with their parents: providing food vouchers, school uniforms, shoes and textbooks. She helped adults, especially the elderly, with dental fees, house repairs, funeral costs, acquiring wheelchairs and more.
See Rafiq Khan’s Tribute to Olga Lopes-
A video presentation featuring the outstanding Barbadian, one of the greatest and most successful composers of Caribbean music.