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Bahamas Social assistance programmes continue despite increased demands due to COVID-19

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#NASSAU, The Bahamas – May 13, 2020 – Employees across the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development are continuing to fulfill the needs of their regular clients while working to address the influx of new requests for social assistance as a result of the presence of the COVID-19 Pandemic in The Bahamas.

These include employees from the Department of Social Services, the Department of Gender and Family Affairs, the Department of Rehabilitative Welfare Services and Urban Renewal, in addition to key Divisions and entities such as the Disability Affairs Division, Community Affairs Division, Community Support Services Division, and the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities and its Secretariat.

Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell, utilizing technology to conduct regular online meetings with the senior directorate of the Ministry in accordance with the social distancing measures that have been implemented. (BIS Photo/Matt Maura)

Employees continue to work on the frontlines of the Government of The Bahamas’ overall response to the COVID-19 Pandemic along with the other government agencies that have been declared essential services.

(Social assistance refers to government programmes that provide a minimum level of income support to individuals and households living in poverty. These programmes lend support either in the form of direct cash transfers or through a variety of in-kind benefits, for example, food coupons and certain other subsidies.)

Department representatives are called upon to provide assistance to regular clients in areas such as disability allowance, foster care assistance, food assistance for families, older persons and persons with disabilities, and assistance with payments of utilities (electricity and water), among others.

Personnel are also on call around the clock to provide access for persons in the event any domestic violence and child abuse matters occur, while others are working within communities to help address anger management and temperament issues.

Staff assigned to the various residential facilities for children and senior citizens, in addition to the juvenile facilities, are also at work ensuring that these facilities continue to operate at an optimum level. Rental cars that are used for deliveries during the day are also being used to transport staff in need of transportation, to the various facilities in order to accommodate their shifts.

The Department of Social Services continues to provide regular food assistance to its regular clients, in addition to Emergency Food Assistance for walk-in clients seeking food assistance as a result of the presence of the COVID-19 Pandemic in The Bahamas.

Those latter persons are provided with a $50 Food voucher to address their immediate need, and are later assessed by social assistance providers to be placed on the Temporary Food Assistance Programme upon which the client can be placed for up to three years.

Social Services personnel, who have been allowed to work from home in order to follow the social distancing guidelines – have joined colleagues at the centres in ensuring that assessments on the many new applicants as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, are done as quickly as possible. 

The Department’s regular clients who receive food assistance through The Bank of The Bahamas VISA Prepaid Card, have funds uploaded to the approximately 8,000 cards each month for recipients throughout The Bahamas.

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The Department has also been managing the provision of special food assistance to the thousands of persons in the tourism industry who were placed on a reduced work hours with effect from March 1, 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic; and has been working in partnership with the National Emergency Management Agency, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture, and various non-government organizations to promote food safety and security.

Meanwhile, team members from the Urban Renewal Department continue to have a presence in the communities within which Urban Renewal Centres have been established. Teams have distributed food packages to senior citizens utilizing curbside distribution policies, all while ensuring that the Ministry of Health’s protocols were strictly followed in the collection, preparation and distribution of those food packages.

(Plans are underway for similar deliveries in Grand Bahama, Abaco and the Family Islands in order to be consistent with Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell’s mandate “of not being just New Providence-centric.”)

Additionally, Dr. Eric Fox, an Anger Management and Temperance Expert and Consultant with the Urban Renewal Commission, who has done tremendous work in the inner-city communities over the past 32 years, continues to perform those services within the various communities — utilizing various forms of social media and other communication to remain “in close contact” with graduates and participants of his programme.

The Executive Director of Teen Challenge, Dr. Fox has also reached out to those members of the public at-large who may need his assistance, while adhering to the personal distancing protocols.

The Ministry has also made provisions for the community of persons with disabilities who are not clients of the Department to provide their information via telephone to the Social Workers at the Disability Affairs Division so that they can receive Emergency Food Assistance. They are required to show their ID’s upon collection. Persons with disabilities can contact the Disability Affairs Division at telephone: 325-2251/2 for assistance.

Bahamas Phased ReOpening plan

Additionally, officials at the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, and its Secretariat, have also been diligently working to ensure that the needs of the community of persons with disabilities are being met.

The Commission has established a 24hr call and WhatsApp line at 376-8328. The community of persons with disabilities can also register online through the Ministry’s link on the government’s website: www.bahamas.gov.bs. They may also email the Disabilities Commission at Disabilitiescommission@bahamas.gov.bs.

“The Ministry’s response to COVID-19, through its various Departments and Divisions, takes into account the needs of our most vulnerable groups of clients consisting of our children, senior citizens and persons with disabilities, in addition to our regular clients and those persons who now find themselves in need of social assistance as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell said.

“We have endeavoured to use every avenue to remain accessible to not only our community of persons with disabilities, but those who are generally in need.

“I extend my sincere thanks to my staff who have persevered through the increased demands of Hurricane Dorian (2019) and have now risen, yet again, to the challenge of executing their normal duties while providing special assistance to those in need as a result of the economic fallout from COVID-19. Many do so amidst fears for their own safety and that of their families,” Minister Campbell added.

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PM Davis’ Remarks at Wreath Laying Ceremony – Majority Rule Day 2022

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Happy Majority Rule Day to all and thank you for coming

I thank the organizers of this wreath laying ceremony because this auspicious occasion is a symbolic reminder of the significant role the Progressive Liberal Party and the Father of the Nation played in bringing about one of the most consequential and transformational events in our history, eclipsed only by the abolition of slavery in 1834.

With the addition of National Independence on 10th July 1973, these three epic events changed the course of Bahamian history forever and etched in the annals of history the Bahamian national identity and the depth of our indomitable spirit.

We must never grow weary of telling our story lest we lose our identity and heritage as a people.

Further — and more nationally — as a free, modern, democratic and independent state, history must record that Majority Rule Day is also an occasion where all Bahamians come together to reflect on and celebrate the enduring principles of democracy.  Today then, I stand with my Bahamian brothers and sisters from all walks of life in memorializing this day as a seminal moment in the ever-evolving Bahamian story.

MAJORITY RULE IS A MAJOR TRIUMPH FOR DEMOCRACY AND FREEDOM, HUMANITARIAN PRINCIPLES THAT WE HOLD NEAR AND DEAR TO OUR HEARTS.  THESE PRINCIPLES ARE ALSO THE CHIEF PHILOSOPHICAL CORNER STONES AND PILLARS ON WHICH THIS COUNTRY WAS BUILT AND WILL SUSTAIN US FOR GENERATIONS TO COME.

We must never allow our detractors to minimize, trivialize or relegate this great day and event to the scrap heap of historical irrelevance. To do so is to dishonour the vision, memory and legacy of those great courageous souls on whose shoulders we stand.

We cannot and must not conveniently disinherit our glorious legacy because our truth is inconvenient to some.

A cause rooted in social justice, freedom fighters courageously stood in the vanguard of change – unyielding in their demand that all were created equal — with God-given rights to human dignity without regard to race, gender, colour or creed. This stand of conscience galvanized a nation, a generation of Bahamians, and in the process significantly reshaped the character and national identity of The Bahamas forever.

I pay tribute to the many unsung heroes and heroines whose endearing and enduring legacies of selflessness and shared sacrifices remain the gold standard of our national culture in both public life and in the way we conduct our personal affairs with one another.

I continue to draw, conviction, inspiration and influence from the passion of the Suffragettes, the labour movement, the church and from countless Bahamians who put it all on the line to secure a more perfect Commonwealth.

Speaking of passion, conviction, inspiration and influence, I wish to take a moment to recount the role the late Sir Sidney Poitier played and the contributions he made during our journey to Majority Rule.

As a Bahamian with dual citizenship, Sir Sidney used his celebrity status in the struggle for civil rights —  fighting racism, bigotry and injustice in both the United States and The Bahamas.

Many Bahamians still recall his speaking to the issue at a reception in his honour to the then United Bahamian Party (UBP) government in recognition of his Academy Award for ‘Lilies of the Field.’

A well-known story in PLP circles is his assistance to the Progressive Liberal Party in the run up to the 1967 general elections. There is an iconic photo of Sir Sidney and Sir Lynden at the back of an open limousine celebrating the 1967 victory.

May he rest in peace.

As a beneficiary of their sacrificial work, I thank them all — Sir Lynden Pindling, Sir Milo Butler, Sir Randal Fawkes, Sir Clifford Darling, Dame Doris Johnson and Sir Sidney Poitier — for their passion, faith, perseverance and uncompromising commitment to social justice, democracy, freedom and a sense of fair play.

It is indeed an honour and a privilege to stand on their broad proverbial shoulders to continue their invaluable work in building a stronger and more perfect Commonwealth to positively impact the lives of generations yet unborn.

Our cause is indeed national, inclusive and intergenerational in its nature, range and scope.

On behalf of my wife Ann Marie, my cabinet and parliamentary colleagues, my government, the officers and members of the Progressive Liberal Party, I extend best wishes and highest regards to the people of The Bahamas as we celebrate Fifty-Five years of Majority Rule.

May Almighty God continue to bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

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BASH Launches Youth ‘Build-A-Skill’ Project

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By Kathryn Campbell

BIS

 

#TheBahamas, January 15, 2022 – Bahamas Association for Social Health (BASH) commemorates its 31st anniversary with the launch of a skills training initiative for youth.

BASH Youth ‘Build-A-Skill’ Training Programme will provide specialized training to high risk youth in soft, social and hard skills in conjunction with the Ministry of Education (MOE) the University of The Bahamas, BTVI and other stakeholders.

Terry Miller, founder of BASH, which is an adult male residential substance dependency treatment and rehabilitation facility, said his organization will work with Urban Renewal to identify young men and women in the community who could benefit from the courses.

During a ceremony January 12, 2022 at BASH facilities in Chippingham, the Hon. Glenys Hanna Martin, Minister of Education and Technical & Vocational Training, congratulated Mr. Miller and his executive team as they celebrated the 31st anniversary, and as The Bahamas celebrates the 55th anniversary of Majority Rule (January 10th 1967).

“Any effort that brings awareness and allows people to find within themselves who they are, what they are, and move beyond whatever challenge they face is very much in line with the struggle of our people which led to 1967,” said Minister Hanna Martin.

“I stand here to support the work of this organization, Terry Miller and his leadership. I am very proud of our legacy, heritage and history.

“You have been so faithful to the cause, you have understood the journey and you have been faithful against all odds, facing every challenge, setback, disappointment. Many would have gone in a different direction but you stayed the course.”

Dr. Jacinta Higgs, veteran educator and former director of the Department of Gender and Family Affairs of the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, in a recorded speech, commended Mr. Miller for his noble venture.

She said the certification programmes in soft skills, social skills and hard skills are needed in The Bahamas.

“Coming out of and during COVID-19, we’ll need an amplification in the offerings for our young people because there are going to be so many gaps that would have occurred as a result of the lockdowns and shift to virtual learning and teaching as a result of COVID-19.

“Soft skills are critical. Social skills will definitely be needed. The genesis of education was to socialize young people and children toward becoming productive, contributing citizens. Therefore problem solving, conflict resolution, patience, motivation, anger management, grief therapy — these are critical — especially grief because during COVID-19 thousands of families would have lost hundreds of family members. Because it happened unexpectedly, suddenly, persons were not prepared, it happened at a time when there were lockdowns: what happens [then] is the grief experience is going to be more problematic, exacerbated because we didn’t have the old traditional ways of gathering so grief could be shared.”

Dr. Higgs said the hard skills, including construction, organic farming, hydroponics, aquaponics, multi-media social media, solar panel technology, are very much aligned with some of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The goals include: encouraging young people to grow their own food, partnership with the Ministry of Health to encourage good health and well-being, and partnership with the Ministry of Education to display emphasis on survival life skills.

Mr. Miller said the youth programme is an indication of the organization’s commitment not only to the social health of the country but to the most valuable asset any nation can have – its youth.

“On this our 31st anniversary, we are a social asset that has paid the price, stood the test of time and is now ready, willing, able and eager to go the extra mile,” said Mr. Miller.

 

(BIS Photos/Yontalay Bowe)

Press Release: BIS

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New Chairman Looks to Grow BAMSI

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#TheBahamas, January 15, 2022 – Critics of the Bahamas Agriculture & Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) might argue that the Institute had been left to languish in mediocrity after a stellar launch in 2014. Initially, the Institute soared, with laser-like focus, on an upward trajectory of success including; experts, both international and Bahamian from the field of agriculture and marine science, were brought in to equip students, staff and farmers with technical knowledge, the academic arm held the first of successive graduations in 2016, and international partnerships were formed that would benefit students and staff alike and bring a level of esteem to the Institute.

Woven amongst these triumphs however, cracks, setbacks, and seemingly insurmountable hurdles arose. Combine these inefficiencies with the impact in recent years of major hurricanes, a downturn in the economy and the loss of key personnel, BAMSI struggled with its identity and lost sight of its original mandate.

Under the leadership of newly appointed Chairman Tyrel Young, who assumed office November 1, 2021, the way forward for BAMSI is steadily and strategically being carved out and a return to the original objectives and mission statement seem assured.

“I want people to know that from day one, my priority was to understand the Government’s plan for BAMSI and to carry out that mandate to the best of my ability, and with the full support of the staff. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the globe, food security must remain at the top of our agenda. We must be able to provide at least the basic food items for ourselves on a consistent basis and we must be able to do that in a sustainable manner, so that future generations of Bahamians will be supported and have access to arable land, and delicacies like conch and lobster. “

Finding the farm in a disappointing level of disarray – this is one of the first areas Mr. Young turned his attention to. With almost 90 percent of the tractors down, Mr. Young moved to have the machines quickly repaired so that production on the farm could ramp up to an acceptable level and also so the Institute could better support its Associate Farmers.

The wellbeing of the farm itself was quickly reasserted as a critical objective, as was identifying the essential crops and increasing production, research and training of farm staff.

“As we head into 2022, my goal is to see a steady increase in the types of crops grown by BAMSI, our partners in the Associated Farmers program and all farmers across the Bahamas. Part of BAMSI’s job, as research Institute, is to provide critical information for the sector in terms of best practices, best variety for our environment, and healthiest options for our populace,” he said.

“We want to balance supporting the business of farming – that is seeing farmers maximize their earning potential – with making the healthiest produce available to the widest spectrum of our citizenry…and available at a cost they can afford,” Mr. Young said. “Persons living in the inner cities, the less fortunate, those living on the margins of society, they should all have access to healthy produce in their neighbourhoods and be able to actual include these items – fresh fruit and vegetables – in their grocery budget.”

The academic arm also required greater support. Unlike many government departments, agencies and ministries, there was an immediate need to increase the staff compliment with educated, motivated and focused individuals who would assist in the training of young and not so young future agriculturalist and marine scientists.

A key component of the new mandate is driving enrollment levels up by widening the recruitment net and making it easier for recent graduates and those interested in making a career change to choose BAMSI and work through the enrolment process quickly and smoothly, all while feeling supported by staff and administration.

“Just like UB and BTVI, the Government of the Bahamas is committed to providing free education to qualified candidates at BAMSI. We want students and parents to know that if you pass five BGCSE’s, math and English included, the BAMSI Government Tertiary Education Grant is available to you. It covers a range of things from tuition and fees to textbooks. We want senior high students, especially those in grades 10 and 11, to start planning now to enroll in BAMSI. A beautiful campus along with a talented team of educators awaits you,” Mr. Young said.

Other areas of BAMSI are also scheduled for revamping. The Distribution Centre, long a favourite amongst the Bahamian public, especially those who are focused on locally grown, healthy food items, will again showcase the best produce the nation has to offer. The $20 produce box continues to be a much sought-after item.

Pulling all of these areas together, Mr. Young noted, the Institute is set to launch an aggressive marketing campaign to ensure that BAMSI becomes a household name in the best possible way…a leader in sustainable farming, a world-class academic institute in agriculture and marine science, a top regional research Centre, and a partner and stakeholder along with every Bahamian farmer. “My goal is that every Bahamian is aware of the full range of services and goods the Nassau/Andros-based Institute has to offer.”

 

Press Release: BAMSI

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