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BAHAMAS: Mercy Corps & GBPA Bring RISE Initiative to a Successful Close

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BAHAMAS, March 29, 2021 – It has been eighteen months since the passage of Hurricane Dorian and fifteen months since the Restoring Industries, Sustaining Employment (RISE) initiative journey began. While evidence of the catastrophic Category Five storm is still very much apparent, so too is the reemergence of more resilient pockets of economic activity throughout the length and breadth of Grand Bahama – a reemergence hundreds of business owners believe would have been considerably more challenging without the RISE program’s support.

The RISE initiative is a collaboration between implementing partners Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian organization, and The Grand Bahama Port Authority, Limited (GBPA), with the generous financial support of the American Red Cross and Bacardi Limited. As the initiative officially comes to a close, its impact can be seen and felt in the day-to-day operations of the businesses it has empowered and helped.

Mercy Corps Bahamas’ Country Director, Paula Miller, attributes the accomplishments of RISE to the generous financial support of its donors, GBPA as the implementing partner, and the adaptability and incredible resourcefulness of business owners. “This initiative would not have been possible for any single agency to do alone,” said Ms. Miller. “We have really enjoyed working together with GBPA, and it is inspiring to see Grand Bahama businesses re-opening despite a pandemic on top of a natural disaster.  While this particular initiative is closing, we stand ready to support Grand Bahama in future initiatives if needed.”

The RISE pilot launched in December 2019, supporting local merchants in the run up to the business year’s most profitable shopping season. The program’s initial goal was to assist 100 local businesses that were impacted by Dorian with grants of up to $10,000 to support their recovery efforts. As the pilot program was monitored and its impact and success measured, the RISE team reevaluated its goals and revised its targets upward, aiming to provide $2.5 million in funding to nearly 300 micro and small businesses across Grand Bahama.

Derek Newbold, Sr. Manager of Business Development for GBPA and Invest Grand Bahama, expressed, “GBPA is profoundly appreciative of the partnership created through the RISE initiative, and its accomplishments on Grand Bahama. We are extremely proud of each participant’s progress within their respective businesses and what that means for the business community as a whole moving forward.

“Business owners across the island continue to manifest the tangible and meaningful impact of the RISE initiative,” Mr. Newbold continued. “For many, it helped them defy the odds of a post-Dorian recovery, while creating a bolstering effect to help soften the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Equally important, we are impressed to hear participants speak of the value of the business resiliency training and mentorship aspects of the program, which many asserts have helped them emerge stronger and much more prepared to face similar challenges moving forward.”

Comments such as “I started budgeting for the first time” and “I learned I’m actually really good at social media marketing” are common sentiments shared among business owners helped through the RISE initiative.

“A lot of work went into measuring the impact of RISE,” said Allison Dworschak, Program Quality and Partnerships Lead for Mercy Corps. “The data we gathered during the program tells us a lot about the strength and resilience of the small business community in Grand Bahama. For example, 87 per cent of participants reopened and were regularly transacting after they received the funding and training. More than a quarter said that, without RISE, they wouldn’t have reopened at all. Another 12 per cent said they likely would have reopened eventually, but wouldn’t have retained staff.

Others leveraged the program to expand and grow. “The RISE program did a lot of good, but we are especially excited to have saved at least 300 local jobs,” continued Ms. Dworschak. “And looking at how the $2.5 million in grant funds were spent, we know the majority – 75 per cent – was reinvested locally into reconstruction, large equipment repairs and other local purchases. These numbers would be good in any small business disaster recovery program, but I think the RISE team and the community should be extremely proud of what these business owners have achieved, especially considering everything they’ve been up against since September 2019.”

GBPA and Mercy Corps are considering future ways to collaborate in the event of a new crisis. GBPA Executive Director Henry St. George commented, “When a restaurant that had been damaged by Hurricane Dorian was able to reopen having received a RISE grant, and then partnered with another recipient who was able to provide delivery services, and together they collaborated to distribute meals to the aged and vulnerable during the summer lockdown last year, then the impact of the program and the significance of the small business community was really visible.

“We are highly aware of the work still to be done in rebuilding our small business economy, but we are extremely proud of the RISE program and even more so of the men and women who participated in it,” added Mr. St. George. “Our partnership with NGO Mercy Corps has been a crucial pillar of our response to Dorian, and we are grateful to them and to both the American Red Cross and Bacardi.”

Release: GBPA

Photo Captions:

Header:The RISE pilot launched in December 2019, supporting local merchants in the run up to the business year’s most profitable shopping season. The program’s initial goal was to assist 100 local businesses impacted by Dorian with grants of up to $10,000 to support their recovery efforts.  Pictured from left to right are grant recipients of the RISE Initiative Pilot Cohort: Jonathan Campbell – 5S Maintenance Service; Virginia Cooper, Program Officer – Mercy Corps; Kristian Rahming – OnPoint Designs & Printing; Kelsey Lundgren, Project Officer – Mercy Corps; Nicole Pinder – Skyline Express; Derek Newbold, Sr. Manager of Business Development – GBPA Group; Pete Sweetnam, In-Country Director – Mercy Corps; Sophia Smith – Escante Boutique; and LaShawn Dames, Business Services Manager & RISE Program Coordinator – GBPA.

1st insert: Partners of the RISE economic recovery initiative have supported the post-Dorian recovery efforts of nearly 300 micro and small businesses across the Grand Bahama, with upwards of $2.5 million in grant and post-COVID assistance. Picture from left to right are the RISE Initiative executives; Al Panico, Field Representative – American Red Cross Society; Michael Bowers, VP Humanitarian Leadership – Mercy Corps; Henry St. George, Director – GBPA; Mahesh Madhavan, CEO – Bacardi Limited; and Ian Rolle, President – GBPA Group.

2nd insert: As the RISE initiative officially comes to a close, its impact can be seen and felt in the day-to-day operations of the businesses it has empowered and helped. Pictured are members of the RISE Team Kerline McPhee, GBPA Customer Relations Officer (top left) with Ashleigh Lockhart, MC Program Manager (top right), providing one-on-one support to East Grand Bahama residents during a site information session for the RISE Initiative (photo taken in early 2020 before the onset of COVID-19).  The RISE team continued all program activities throughout 2020 despite the COVID-19 lockdowns, delivering greatly needed support to RISE program participants.

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Commander Defence Force attends UK-Second Caribbean Chiefs of Defence Conference, Antigua

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#Bahamas, September 13, 2021 – In keeping with the Global Security Collaborative Framework and Commander Defence Force, Commodore Dr. Raymond King’s strategic intent in strengthening joint relationships with its regional and international partnerships, Commodore King attended the UK- Chief of Defence Staff (CHoDs’) in Antigua from 1- 3 September, 2021 to share best practices and to discuss matters of mutual interest.

Accompanied by his Aide, Sub Lieutenant Delroy Dennis, the sessions also included General Sir Nick Carter; Gen Chief of Defence Staff, United Kingdom of Great Britain, and Northern Ireland; Major General C S Collins, General Officer Commanding 1st UK Division; Lieutenant Colonel Simon Westlake Royal Marines United Kingdom’s Defence Attaché to the Caribbean; and Commander Brian Trim MBE RN Commander task Group.

Also in attendance were countries with various Chiefs of Defence Staff, in particular; Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and defence and security partners across the region, who took part virtually, and shared their views on global security and joint partnerships. They all agreed on several initiatives with training and education designed to improve collective capacity to deal with the diverse security challenges that confront the region.

The inaugural conference convened virtually in November 2020, with each of the regional Chiefs of Defence. This second conference focused on building on the success of the virtual event in strengthening the UK-Caribbean relationships, and developing concepts for UK engagement with its Caribbean partners on issues of mutual interest.

The three-day conference commenced with an ice-breaker reception and concert at Blizzard Camp, hosted by Antigua and Barbuda (ATG) – Chief of Defence Staff Colonel Telbert Benjamin, and joined by the Governor General, Sir Rodney Williams. The core conference which took place on September 2nd, began with an opening ceremony, supported by the Prime Minister of ATG, Sir Gaston Browne.

In the first core session, UK- Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland General Sir Nick Carter set out the UK perspective on the strategic context, informed by the recently concluded Integrated Review (IR) and Defence Command Plan (DCP). The three individual sessions covered issues of serious organized crime threats; regional initiatives and the implications for UK Defence engagement; and natural threats.

The UK- CDS expressed his ambition to use the conference as a vehicle for institutional capacity building, military capability development, training and education, doctrine, and concepts. These are ways to maximize collective security development with focused UK engagement while better constructing an approach that matches the region’s aspirations and requirements.

The final session of the three-day conference was held aboard HMS MEDWAY, River Class Offshore Patrol Vessel built on the Clyde. This permanent Caribbean patrol ship was deployed to the Caribbean to support disaster relief and conduct counter-trafficking operations as an alternative setting for a maritime security focused discussion. It served as a setting to discuss regional maritime security, which included talks around preparedness for Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Response (HADR), and UK involvement in regional partnerships.

Photo Captions: 

Header: Participants at the UK- second Caribbean Chief of Defence Staff (CHoDs’) in Antigua, 1- 3 September, 2021. 

1st insert: Commodore Raymond King, the Commander Defence Force, presenting his country’s brief on board HMS MEDWAY, during the second Caribbean Chiefs of Defence Staff conference in Antigua. 

2nd insert: Commodore Raymond King, Commander of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force; Brigadier General Steven Andrew Ortega, Commander Belize Defence Force; Lieutenant General Rocky R Meade, Chief of Defence Staff, Jamaica Defence Force; Brigadier Godfrey Bess Chief of Staff, Guyana Defence Force; Air Vice Marshal Darryl Daniel Chief of Defence Staff, Trinidad and Tobago Defence Forces: In the front row; Colonel Telbert Benjamin, Commander of Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force and General Sir Nick Carter, General Chief of Defence Staff, United Kingdom of Great Britain, and Northern Ireland.

3rd insert: Commodore Raymond King, the Commander Royal Bahamas Defence Force; Brigadier General Steven Andrew Ortega, Commander Belize Defence Force; General de Brigada Angel A Camacho Ubiera Inspector General of the Dominican Republic Army; Antigua and Barbuda – Colonel Telbert Benjamin, Commander of Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force; Major General C S Collins, General Officer Commanding 1st UK Division; Lieutenant General Rocky R Meade, Chief of Defence Staff, Jamaica Defence Force; Brigadier Godfrey Bess Chief of Staff, Guyana Defence Force; Air Vice Marshal Darryl Daniel Chief of Defence Staff, Trinidad and Tobago Defence Forces Trinidad and Tobago; and Air Vice Marshal Darryl Daniel Chief of Defence Staff, Trinidad and Tobago Defence Forces.

(Photos courtesy Mr. Wayne Mariette)

 

 (For further information please contact the RBDF Public Relations Department or visit our website: www.rbdf.gov.bs, follow us on FacebookTwitter and view our Youtube channel) 

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Caribbean Wellness Day 2021

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#Caribbean, September 13, 2021 – Health, in every facet, is sought-after, at great expense, by all members of the global community. Though the success of our endeavours in health varies from region to region, it must be emphasised that in our Region, a healthy Caribbean is always the goal for which we strive.

Each year the Caribbean Region observes, Caribbean Wellness Day since it was established at the 2007 landmark summit, ‘Declaration of Port of Spain: Uniting to Stop the Epidemic of Chronic Non-communicable Diseases.’

This year’s commemoration focuses on equitable access to health; an all of society approach to health and well-being, and building healthy communities under the theme, “Power Through Collective Action: In it Together, Building Healthy Communities.”

As health care systems are being taxed by the devastating effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic, it is even more important now to advocate for equitable access to health. Too many of our Caribbean citizens face harsh realities, because of inequities in access – this should not be. Caribbean Wellness Day is the most opportune time for the members of our Caribbean community to ensure that the health of our people is indeed a priority through legislative change, health in all policies and all of society action.

Equitable access to health care in the Caribbean is one of CARPHA’s points of focus as can be seen through our work to ensure equitable access to PPE, equipment, supplies and vaccines through the COVAX facility, a mechanism whose primary function is to ensure the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and donations notably the US Government donation of 5.5 million doses of Pfizer BioNTech.

Without the power of voices in chorus, like with the COVAX facility; the Caribbean Cooperation in Health (CCH) and others – many more would be disadvantaged and unserved. Achieving health for all in the Caribbean also means attaining and sustaining healthy environments.

The built environment, which provides for sidewalks, bike lanes, community parks and green spaces, can influence lifestyles, body weight, and improve mental health. As these necessary frameworks are made reality and we avail ourselves of them, we exercise Power through Collective Action showing that we are truly in it together, Building Healthy Communities.

As we speak about the environment, we must mention the effects of climate change. The inaction in the past has set the world on a course of environmental destruction. We need to act now; it is the only way that we can protect the generations to come from even worse realities than those we face today.

As we seek to mitigate the damage done due to inaction on the recommended major climate change interventions, we need to address other pertinent issues. Vector-borne diseases remain a challenge in many Caribbean territories, and unlike the bleak outlook that is presented on climate change, simple adjustments in our behaviour can make the world of difference.

By eradicating breeding grounds of mosquitoes in our immediate environment and communities, we minimize the spread of many vector-borne diseases. Advocacy in health should be the standard operation of every Region, State, and organisation. Sustaining Health and well-being is one of the very few universal desires.

Regardless of creed, culture, or any other divisive line – all organised bodies have a responsibility to promote health. Further to this, we need to take the time to look after ourselves and our families and communities.

Simple actions – increasing our intake of local produce, reading labels of processed foods to make informed decisions, scheduling regular exercise – these actions will drastically improve the health and quality of life of our people.

Working together to this end, will lead to healthier minds, healthier bodies, and a Caribbean that exudes wellness.

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US new Vaccine mandate not for tourists and students

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#TurksandCaicos, September 9, 2021 – The vast majority of visa applicants such as students and tourists do not have to worry about the new CDC requirement for Immigrant Visa applicants to be fully vaccinated.

Our news organization reached out to the US Embassy in Nassau, where Public Affairs Officer Daniel Durazo informed the notice floating around social media is true but only impacts people who are applying to live and work in the United States.

“The information circulating on social media is a notice stating that starting on October 1 the CDC will require age-appropriate Immigrant Visa applicants worldwide will to show evidence of COVID-19 vaccination.

The key detail here is the difference between Non-Immigrant Visas and Immigrant Visas. Non-Immigrant Visas (for which the requirement does not apply) make up the majority of visa applications, and include student and tourist visas. Immigrant Visas on the other hand typically involve moving permanently to the United States through a Green Card, for example, and which make up a very small fraction of visa applications,” said Durazo.

Similar to TCIs work permit holders rule, which requires guest workers to be fully vaccinated in order to be legally in the Turks and Caicos, this rule takes effect for the US on October 1st.

The notice caused quite a buzz, as the United States is a popular destination for islanders to visit and attend school. The US is also the #1 tourism source market for the Turks and Caicos; and only its vaccinated residents will be allowed into these islands;  that mandate started on September 1st.

“First, I’d like to reassure your readers that the vaccination requirement will not apply to the vast majority of Visa applicants, such as those applying for tourist and student visas.  In summary, the vast majority of visa applicants (such as students and tourists) do not have to worry about this requirement. It’s only Immigrant Visa applicants who need to take this requirement into consideration, and they will receive instructions and clarification from the consular section as appropriate when they apply.”

Residents suspected the US was activating a similar entry requirement but Durazo said the rule does not apply to visitor and student visas.  Permanent residency applicants, like those wanting Green Card will need to have full Covid 19 vaccination and he said, will receive instructions and clarification from the consular section as appropriate when they apply.

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