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Are we doing everything within our power in TCI, to avoid creating a school to prison pipeline?

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#TurksandCaicos, January 31, 2023 – These are harsh words to hear, but in a climate where it appears the jails are filling up faster then the schools, we must sound the alarm.

In any given year, we have hundreds of high school graduates leaving their comfort zones with absolutely nothing to do in these beautiful by nature islands.   A very small minority are able to find jobs. Some of the brilliant scholars are often lucky to be awarded the Chevening scholarship, while others may have families in a position to send them off to the local community college or abroad to continue their studies.  What about the majority who are not as fortunate? Where are the hands-on talent workshops available to assist students that may have fallen behind academically?

Building that school to college or trade talent pipeline to attract high school students before they complete their final year is of paramount. We have got to find better ways to augment a pathway forward on this.  Paring the immigration department with labor and offering free 2 year college tuition were both smart moves by this administration. It allows the department heads and leaders to work hand in hand to identify areas of need and be in a better position to bridge those needed gaps.

What more can be done for struggling parents or those where English may not be their first language? Challenges like this may put students at a disadvantage to excel or for parents to assist them academically.

Are there any available after school programs? Where there is hope for a better life and constructive things to do, our young people will not be attracted to senseless acts of violence.

Finding ways and means to help students identify and develop their skill sets earlier in life, will also help to prepare them for the next step in their career path.  What’s even more important, is for teachers and administrators to recognize when a student is screaming out for help; often times it’s mischaracterized as criminal mischief.

Students who are having behavioral issues at school may be coming from abusive or dysfunctional households. They may also have mental and/or emotional challenges, and need an intervention that is focused on their specific needs.  We should be doing everything within our power to avoid students from being exposed to the criminal justice system.

In order for a transformation like this to take place, it will certainly require more community-led solutions, parental involvement and stronger support and commitment from civic leaders.

What’s troubling to me and many others, is the rate of incarceration the country is currently experiencing, with many involving our youth. What will it take to shift this trajectory? Is trade school one of the long term solutions?  Just take a look around the country, the mechanism that’s driving our workforce are trade and service related jobs. We should be advocating more for studies in these areas.   Inherently, despite some of our youth being dealt a hard hand in life, most want to succeed; they just need an opportunity.

Many of our young men and women may not have any interest in attending college or university, but have acquired other skills over the years.  Therefore, what opportunities do we have for this segment of the population in terms of further education or trade?

I’m of the opinion, that there are many on-the-job workers who possess untapped skills that only need to be cultivated in their area of interest or expertise.

With that being said, offering vocational education will allow students and young adults to gain the necessary practical experience with a renewed focus in their chosen field of study or career path. This is something they may have otherwise never been able to achieve through traditional classroom learning in academia.

In the 2021 PNP manifesto under education, labor and employment, it clearly states their commitment to the following:

“Create learning opportunities for students that caters to different interest, strengths and learning needs as well as provide the diverse skills that the country requires”.

Henceforth, it’s my belief government should make further provisions to subsidize apprenticeships for our young people, so it becomes more then just platitudes.

Let’s give credit where credit is due, the previous administration was on the right track when a proposal was made to launch a vocational technical school. Unfortunately, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic may have hampered those efforts.

Nevertheless, the idea was brilliant! Let’s put politics aside, this current administration should continue to work extremely hard to embark on this initiative and see that it materializes. It is my belief the return on investment would be priceless.

So, how do we attract more foreign investors in this particular area?

It’s complicated because in most cases, foreign investors are looking for businesses that can generate the fastest return on their investments. With that in mind, it would be in the best interest of our country to offer huge incentives on initiatives such as this to make it more attractive to would be investors.

For example: Annually, a foreign company is hired to come in to train and certify our boat captains on primarily international boating standards.  Depending on the location and whether it’s a new or recertification, the cost could range anywhere from $360-$650 per person, in addition to travel and hotel accommodations.

With ecotourism being the bread and butter for TCI, in addition to having some of the best and brightest boat captains, perhaps this could be a customized curriculum or certification offered at a local trade school.   This particular curriculum should include but not limited to, local regulations best practices and navigational charts for local waters to help mariners better understand the skills they are learning.   This could also be a joint effort between the school, DECR/Fisheries department and TCI Sailing Association, with qualifying personnel to assist with facilitating such training.

Other courses of interest should be offered to include hospitality management, marine mechanics, welders, carpentry, AC technicians etc. Especially trade areas where it would give students an opportunity for apprenticeship on the islands.  Not only will we have a higher level of skilled workers and tradesmen, but it will help to alleviate the need for such high dependency on foreign labor force, in addition to providing a readily available recruitment source.

In short, it is of my opinion, alternative education should always trump building more prisons. Failure to see beyond the erection of hotels, motels and villas in these islands, will leave us with no alternative but to build more prisons. Wouldn’t that be a shame!

Let’s give our youth a fighting chance! As concerned citizens, we have a choice to make, stay silent or let our collective voices be heard. This is what helps to drive governments to action.

 

Ed Forbes,

Concerned citizen of Grand Turk 

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Grace Bay Beach Crowned Caribbean’s Best  

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PROVIDENCIALES, TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS (February 29th, 2024) – Experience Turks and Caicos is pleased to announce that the world-renowned Grace Bay Beach has been recognised by Tripadvisor’s® Travelers’ Choice® Awards No. 1 Beach in the Caribbean and Best of the Best for 2024, ranking No. 5 among the Top 25 Best of the Best Beaches in the world.

Grace Bay Beach has consistently ranked among the top beaches in the world on the Tripadvisor Traveler’s Choice Awards since 2019.  The highest level of Tripadvisor’s awards, the Best of the Best winners are among the top one percent of listings around the world on Tripadvisor.

As the world’s largest travel guidance platform, Tripadvisor has unparalleled authority with travelers and diners. This award is based on genuine feedback from anyone in the community who has visited and left an authentic, first-hand review on Tripadvisor over a 12-month period, making it a valuable and trustworthy designation of travelers’ favourites.

Responding to this latest accolade for the Turks and Caicos Islands’ most famous beach, Minister of Tourism, the Honourable Josephine Connolly said as a luxury destination, the Turks and Caicos Islands has a natural allure with its breathtaking beaches that allows affluent leisure travelers to unwind and relax in comfort.

“Tripadvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Award is one of the most recognised and coveted awards in the travel space, so it is very valuable to us to have our very own Grace Bay Beach included yet again among the best beaches in the world. I want to thank all of our visitors who continue to make the Turks and Caicos Islands their vacation spot of choice and who enjoy the white sand and clear, turquoise waters of Grace Bay Beach. For those who are yet to experience the beauty of the Turks and Caicos Islands, I urge you to visit and spend some time with us. We look forward to welcoming you,” said the Minister.

“Congratulations to the Turks and Caicos Islands and Grace Bay Beach on its recognition in

Tripadvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards Best of the Best for 2024,” said John Boris, Chief Growth Officer at Tripadvisor. “Ranking among the top percentage of businesses globally means you have made such a memorable impact on your visitors that many of them took time to go online and leave a glowing review about their experience. Travelers rely on Tripadvisor’s Best of the Best lists to help them navigate the myriad things to see, eat and do across the globe. We hope this recognition continues to drive business to you in 2024 and beyond.”

Tripadvisor said Grace Bay Beach is a scenic spot with powdery-white sand and bright blue waters where you can relax on the shore, swim in the calm sea, try some water sports and at the end of the day, go for a walk along the beach and catch the breathtaking sunset.

Check out all the reviews and discover more about Grace Bay Beach HERE.

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Bahamas Development Bank and Food and Agriculture Organization Partner to Empower Women-Led Businesses 

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Nassau Bahamas, 29 February 2024- The Bahamas Development Bank (BDB) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) are excited to announce the signing of a groundbreaking contract aimed at advancing the Joint Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Fund’s Building Back Equal project.

The initiative is jointly led by UN Women, FAO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and United Nations Development Program (UNDP). It will support women-led businesses in the agriculture, creative, and tourism industries, and will serve as a regional pilot for best practices in gender equitable financing in advancing small island developing states (SIDS).

Gavin Christie, the Bahamas Development Bank’s Deputy Chairman, said, “This partnership signifies a significant step forward for BDB, FAO, and the nation at large. It underscores BDB’s dedication to driving inclusive economic development and gender equality, aligning with the sustainable development goals. As we support and empower women-led businesses, we are fostering social growth and sustainability in The Bahamas.”

Nicholas Higgs, the Bahamas Development Bank’s Managing Director, added, “The collaboration with FAO underlines our commitment to not only bolster the economy but to also ensure that women entrepreneurs are at the forefront of this advancement. By providing these targeted funds, we aim to catalyze a transformation in the industries that help form the backbone of our economy. This initiative is not just about financial investment, but also about investing in the skills and capabilities of women-led enterprises. The empowerment of women is a cornerstone for resilient and sustainable economies, and BDB is proud to lead by example. Through these efforts, we aspire to create a ripple effect that will not only uplift women within The Bahamas but also set a precedent for gender equity in funding across the region and globe.”

BDB is the national coordinating authority on the Joint SDG Fund and has played a crucial role in shaping the project’s design and implementation. The total contract allocation to BDB for the FAO-funded section of the project is $186,000. The proposed blended financing instrument is a collaboration between BDB and FAO, and will combine capital from the Bahamas Development Bank with non-reimbursable funding from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The strategic partnership will provide women-led businesses with access to low-cost capital after undergoing technical capacity development. A portion of the funds will also be allocated to a grants program.

BDB will also sign a similar agreement with UN Women, which will add a further $100,000 to the fund for women-led businesses and further showcase its commitment to empowering women entrepreneurs in diverse sectors.

The Bahamas Development Bank is implementing a streamlined approach to its adjudication process to facilitate a faster decision-making process, ultimately ensuring expedited access to funding for women-led beneficiaries in the program. An announcement regarding applications will be announced in March.

 

Photo Caption: Standing from left to right are the Bahamas Development Bank’s (BDB) Deputy Managing Director, Dave Munroe; United Nations Country Representative, Aneesah Abdullah; BDB Deputy Chairman, Gavin Christie; Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Regional Representative, Alexis Bonte; FAO Bahamas Representative, Precious Fortune-Thompson; BDB Board Member, Kyron Strachan; BDB Strategic Development and Initiatives Manager, Sumayyah Cargill and FAO Bahamas National Correspondent, Keith Phillipe.

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She Pivoted then She Soared: Meet Sandra Lightbourne, Telephone Operator Turned Executive Office Manager at Beaches Turks and Caicos

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February 29, 2024                                                                                           

 

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks & Caicos Islands: In 1983, Sandra Lightbourne embarked on her professional journey at a popular telecommunications company, as a telephone operator. Little did she know that her career would evolve into a remarkable story of resilience, adaptability and continuous growth.

She quickly proved her mettle and climbed the corporate ladder. From the sales department to customer service, and later as the billing and credit control manager, she demonstrated not only a keen understanding of the industry but also an ability to excel in diverse roles.

However, every success story has its challenges. After facing redundancy, Sandra embraced change and transitioned into the dynamic world of hospitality. In August 2013, she started anew as an administrative assistant at Beaches Turks and Caicos (BTC). She described her transition to the hospitality industry as a smooth one owing to the fact that she had received extensive customer service training and brought with her experience, and a fresh perspective to her new environment.

“I will never forget the wise counsel of one of my customer service lecturers, Mary Duprose who said, ‘to be successful in anything you do, do it right the first time.’ Because of this teaching, I have always had a keen eye for detail. It has been embedded in me to always carry out a task to the best of my ability. There is no compromise for me when it comes to that.”

Additionally, she is appreciative of the continuous training and development she has had through the Sandals Corporate University. She has completed several courses, some of which are:  Leadership Excellence Level 2, Professional Communication, Professional Leadership and Art of Selling. She has also successfully fulfilled the requirements for the Autism and Sensory Awareness Training Programme with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES).

When asked what she loves most about her job, Sandra shared, “helping people is who I am. I enjoy solving guest and team member issues. Of course I do not like to know that situations arise to make a guest disgruntled but when it is brought to my attention and my intervention appeases them, it brings me great satisfaction.”

Sandra is so passionate about guest satisfaction that in a lighthearted moment she quipped, “if I were to have a superpower it would be to create smooth, perfect vacations thus eliminating guest concerns.”

Her dedication and contributions have not gone unnoticed. She recalls her most memorable experience at BTC being the time she was selected to participate in a familiarization tour of other resorts within the Sandals chain. She was chosen to be among a small group that flew to Grenada, Barbados and Antigua on the company’s private jet. “I was both humbled and honoured to have such an opportunity to see what the other resorts had to offer. This experience helped us to evaluate ways in which we could improve our resort.”

With such a mindset, it is no wonder that just two years into her role, Sandra earned a well-deserved promotion to executive administrative assistant, showcasing her commitment to excellence.

The pinnacle of her career came in 2021 when she was bestowed with the distinct honour of serving as the executive office manager. This recognition not only reflects her exceptional skills but also speaks volumes about her leadership qualities and the impact she has made at BTC. She continued to receive accolades and was one of the recipients of the Pace Setter Award in 2023. The Pace Setter Award, formerly known as the General Manager’s Award, is awarded to a team member who leads from the front and is always working alongside members of their team. He/she is punctual, hardworking, and reliable and is always willing to go the extra mile. The awardee is one who inspires the team and accepts nothing less than excellence. Sandra embodies these qualities.

She has been inspired by Managing Director, James McAnally. “Jamie has had the most profound impact on me, not only because I work directly with him but I recognize the passion that he has for the success of the resort. He knows the property and though there is so much to manage, his personable nature always inspires that personal touch which makes me feel valued. Other team members have attested to this.”

The respect between the two is mutual. The Managing Director, in highlighting what he admires most about Sandra shared, “I respect Sandra for her innate qualities of care, steadiness and confidentiality. As our world becomes increasingly busy and with so many team members and guests, Sandra is a pillar of stability in our Executive Office. She not only represents the resort on a global scale but also me personally, and having someone I can trust is something I am grateful for.”

Outside of work, Sandra enjoys spending time with her four children and grandson as she seeks to instill in them positive values that will help them recognize their full potential. “I want them to be the best, not just in terms of rank or winning but more so in terms of character and the positive influence I would like them to have on their peers.”

Sandra has turned setbacks into opportunities. Her journey serves as an inspiration to aspiring professionals, highlighting the importance of adaptability, continuous learning and unwavering determination in the ever – evolving professional world. As Sandra continues to thrive in her current role, her story remains a testament to the potential for growth and success that lies within every career, regardless of the obstacles faced along the way.

 

Caption: Sandra Lightbourne, Executive Office Manager at Beaches Turks and Caicos shares a smile as she sits at her desk at the World’s Number One All-Inclusive Family resort

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