By Deandrea Hamilton
#TurksandCaicos, July 25, 2022 – A very dangerous culture of quietness grips the Turks and Caicos people and residents. This unnatural silence where people with opinions, concerns, suggestions or critiques are frozen by a fear of bringing their thoughts into open spaces is hampering the potential of the TCI by too often demoralizing and ostracizing the very thing the country needs most: PEOPLE, thoughtful people.
The “climate of fear” label of 2008 is still stuck to the back of the Turks and Caicos, make no mistake.
Only a few indulge in the freedom of expression, as far more people believe if they say what they feel or what they’ve experienced they will be washed away by a tsunami of victimization. Imagined or real, this is a prevailing view and it is a ‘kill shot’ to honest, earnest public engagement and national development.
A few weeks ago, Angela Williams of Ashley’s Learning Center – a special needs facility – decided to share her experience on a potential Ministry of Education partnership. The deal which to her once had hope, flopped when she was asked to do, what she says she could not. Williams believed the impasse developed out of some personal distaste for her by an unnamed ‘someone’ within the Ministry of Education.
A live streamed press conference from her school and media reports exposed the situation and thousands expressed outrage at the idea of the facility shutting its doors.
In uncharacteristic fashion, the Ministry of Education actually responded with notice of a press event. It was not what I expected of a seasoned Government office.
While it appeared the Ministry was innocently setting the record straight on the issue, the true mission emerged and it was nothing more than a strategic attempt, led by the highest ranking officials in the Ministry of Education to muddy the reputation of Angela Williams and her school.
The damage was done and the message was sent: when you mess with me, I will mess with you. Tit-for-tat; basically, child’s play.
A chance for enlightened leadership was missed; and partisan fans praised the Government’s response. It was not a praiseworthy moment.
Angela Williams should have been at that press conference with the Ministry of Education and the public, concerned about the welfare of dozens of special needs children, could have been given a ray of hope and a taste of something fresh from this newest PNP Administration.
The Ministry would have not only demonstrated in a tangible way its desire to see the school continue, but it would have redeemed itself without the need to utter one slight against Ashley’s Learning Center.
A focus on the partnership and using the platform to lay out the Ministry’s own plans and strides in Special Needs education would have raised the bar and demonstrated an empathy and wisdom of a government quick to care, not to cut down. I believe this approach would have even earned the Ministry a public apology and a hearty thank you from Ashley’s.
In the weeks since both press events were held, there has been silence except for word that Ashley’s Learning Center is planning to certainly close.
The Education trio – Rachel Taylor, the Minister; Wesley Clerveaux, the Permanent Secretary and Jas Walkin, Special Needs Officer – came out in a live stream and shared damaging information and then rode off into the sunset seemingly feeling victorious.
But there was no win here. It was a significant regression.
The Ministry of Education owed the public the explanation; there was no error in their swift response to the alarming claim by Mrs. Williams. But we got way more than we bargained for, way more than we needed.
In any leadership position, there are days when one is the hero and days when one is the villain. It is impossible to control how people feel, but leaders are compelled to make those individual, independent decisions as situations emerge which help to shape public sentiment – for the positive – about them and what they stand for.
The people whom leaders serve need to be confident that they can express themselves without fear of unfair retribution; Protected by the Constitution but better than that, heard at the heart of their matter by leaders who understand the dynamism of their roles.
In retrospect, once you extricate the negative vibes between Ashley’s Learning Center and the Ministry of Education, you hear of some of the most progressive plans for Special Needs Education and Support the Turks and Caicos has ever revealed.
It took Angela Williams speaking out about her plans and issues for the country to learn about the intentions of the Ministry of Education which includes the construction of a Special Needs Centre. That was a first.
Public expression has a place of importance in a country under development. It is essential to not only have but to hear the dissenting voices, to welcome other ideas, broader perspectives and constructive criticism.
In Turks and Caicos, these varied expressions become particularly vital when you consider that the Government of the day was selected to serve by only 3,500 of Turks and Caicos’ 45,000 population.
Barbados to Host 41st Caribbean Travel Marketplace this Spring
By Sherrica Thompson
#Barbados, February 2, 2023 – Barbados has been selected to host the 41st edition of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s (CHTA) Caribbean Travel Marketplace. The event will be held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre in Bridgetown from May 9 -11, and it is expected to build on the success of the 40th staging held in Puerto Rico last fall.
CHTA President Nicola Madden-Greig, who made the announcement recently, said it’s the first time in the organization’s history that the association’s largest annual event, which brings together buyers and sellers of the region’s tourism products and services, will be staged in Barbados.
“CHTA has a very strong relationship with both public and private sector stakeholders in Barbados, and as we position the region’s top earner for robust growth this year, we are delighted to lock arms with our Bajan partners to drive business to the Caribbean,” she stated.
Noting that: “This year’s Marketplace will also provide unique access to the Eastern Caribbean for buyers and tour operators as the region places a strong focus on the revival of multi-destination travel.”
Minister of Tourism and International Transport of Barbados Ian Gooding-Edghill, said the Barbados tourism industry was undergoing a major renaissance in the post-COVID environment, and the timing could not be better to welcome Caribbean Travel Marketplace to local soil.
“We are honoured to host such a preeminent gathering of tourism stakeholders from around the world,” Minister Gooding-Edghill said, noting that the meeting aligns with Barbados’ value offerings, which appeal, among others, to the very important MICE [Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions] market.
The launch of the first Caribbean Travel Forum & Awards, a highlight of the Puerto Rico meeting, will return for a second edition and will be held in Barbados on Tuesday, May 9, 2023, ahead of the official opening ceremony of Caribbean Travel Marketplace.
The Forum will also focus on the business of tourism, and business appointments will be conducted on Wednesday, May 10 and Thursday, May 11.
Over 150 delegates, including Ministers of Tourism and key private sector leaders, engaged in the Caribbean Travel Forum last year.
National Food Policy to be created in the Bahamas
By Shanieka Smith
#TheBahamas, February 2, 2023 – A new initiative by the Ministry of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs in the Bahamas will see the creation of a National Food Policy geared towards ensuring food security on the island.
“This agricultural policy would encompass a holistic approach and incorporate regulations, legislation, and other aspects to assist the farmers who have not really gotten the attention they deserve for a long time,” said the Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs, Hon. Clay Sweeting.
Other initiatives within the agriculture sector will also be implemented, such as the digitalization of applications and forms, which will make farming more efficient.
Clay said, “we have already digitalized for the most part the Department of Marine Resources and soon we will unveil new services such as dog licences, import permits, and other services needed for a successful agricultural sector.”
The construction of the Cultivation Centres (TCC) in Eleuthera and New Providence with produce exchange, food processing kitchens and farm stores will continue.
Sweeting said he hopes these initiatives will help to decrease the country’s yearly $1 billion food import bill.
The Incredible Story of David Avido of Kenya, 24 Year old designing for the Grass Roots to the Stars
By Dana Malcolm
#Africa, February 2, 2023 – One Kenyan designer began a sewing business out of the slums where he was born; now he dresses some of the Caribbean and Africa’s most famous faces.
Born the oldest son of a single mother and from Kibera Nairobi, David Avido Ochieng did not have an easy start. In Kibera, the largest urban slum in East Africa opportunities for international success are hard to come by and yet Avido can now say he has dressed the likes of former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Beyoncé, Chronixx, Romain Virgo, Tarrus Riley, Chris Martin, Ty Dolla Sign, Koffee and many more.
As explained on his website, David dropped out of school to work and support his family quite young. In just first form he was working on a construction site but he knew he wanted more from life. After quitting his job he danced and saved what he could and tried his best to complete his education.
He told Vogue magazine: “When I started dancing I used to save money in order to go back to high school, with the little that I could get from dancing and my mom’s money from doing work as a house help, we were able to raise 15,000 shillings and with that, I joined an adult school and skipped forms two, three and four.”
David picked up a sewing machine to make costumes and realized his talent. By 2015, his brand LookslikeAvido was born. He completed a fashion & design diploma at Buruburu Institute of Fine Arts and began to sew incredible pieces right at home in Kibera. Even as his brand is globally recognized, Kibera is where his workshop remains; David says, his homeland is his great inspiration.
“There is no barrier if you believe in your talent and take the next step. I want to encourage and create beauty, where people don’t expect.”
Talented and thoughtful Avido is well aware of the stereotypes surrounding him, his home and the black community globally.
“We know about injustice and violence, prejudice, racial and social discrimination – we experience it within Kenya and we experience it globally, as people look at us as the poor, the uneducated, the needy,” he said.
Featured in Vogue, CNN and other international publications, Avido remains connected to his origins in a tangible way and as his success grows his roots just go deeper. Twenty per cent of all sales of his jackets and other clothing items go directly back to Kibera; his website explains that all the tailoring, product photoshoots and collaborations ‘is all done here in Kibra.’
There is no fabric waste from his garments, instead, scraps are repurposed into masks and shopping bags for residents, all his tailors are local residents, a portion of profits are used to pay school fees and Avido and his team put in extra time to make school uniforms as well.
On his website, is a photo of him sitting around a sewing machine, his worktable resting on hard-packed earth with presumably a group of family and friends surrounding him, a source of pride. The introspective photograph could have been taken in Nairobi, Trinidad or Barbados, so nostalgic is the picture, the bench and the story of community success that it represents.
In a video posted to his YouTube, David sits at his new work desk, and beside him hangs a rack of clothes in the cramped space that serves as his kitchen as well.
“I’m the firstborn of Kibera,” He explains, “Every kid in Kibera is looking up to me— my main dream is to open up a place where I can inspire people to work.”
David has a dozen employees and is listed in Beyonce’s directory of black businesses; with an uncommon wisdom, the designer knows that his successes so far are not parking spaces but rather stepping stones as he faces his future announcing that the journey, for him, continues.
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