Tag Archives: Caribbean

Social Development Insight ~ The pretence of ending poverty


Last Friday I was on my way to downtown Kingston for a meeting and noticed a black dog running at the side of the road. It was carrying a prize in its mouth. As I drew nearer I realized the prize was the carcass of a rat. The dog in its hunger was tearing it apart rapidly.

Something in me sank. I remember looking around at some of the inner-city communities I was passing through and feeling a sense of helplessness. Days earlier just close by there had been a shooting at the entrance of the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH). http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/man-shot-at-entrance-to-kph, Fast forward another 10 minutes and I’m looking at an elderly woman, unwashed, uncared for – sitting at the side of East Street staring intently at her skin and digging away at her flesh. One can only attempt to guess what is haunting her mind.

Shortly afterwards I am sitting in a cool trendy boardroom preparing to start a meeting. I am numb and haunted. Those images are re-playing in my head. I am not the only one. For another 45 minutes the four of us sat earnestly reflecting on development challenges facing Jamaica. Like development, some of these issues are deep-seated, complex, multi-faceted. They require original, out of the box critique and action. They require resolve. These are problems that have been years in the making, a melange of culture, history, politics, leadership – or lack thereof – etc etc etc. They require political will, not politicking.

A few things about our approach to social development in this country (and the rest of the Caribbean!) must change:-

  1. Social development is not a competition. It is not a competition for media attention. It is not about trumpeting the glory of one over the other. It is a battle to the death for the lives of innocent children, young people, women & men in our communities. For a child to reach the age of 5, live in depressed circumstances, experience trauma, be hampered in attending school etc – then it is almost too late. NGOs, CBOs, Private sector, church bodies, Government agencies – this is not a competition. Let us co-ordinate/ link our efforts!
  2. Social development is not a business. The only business we should be running is the business of running ourselves out of a job. This would mean that the challenges we have thrown our money and efforts at, are improving. Not regressing. This is not about setting up an NGO, agency etc for the purpose of receiving funding to pay ourselves to “eat a food”, “pay a bill”, “live a little”. With that attitude we’ve already lost.
  3. Social development is not an opportunity for “slave master” tactics or political advantage. With all due respect constituency leaders, MPs, Ministers, Parish coordinators etc this is not about gaining a little mileage through “handout leadership”. I want “hand-up leadership”. This is not about ensuring our friends in high places receive the funding & the projects etc. It is a about the people. The children, the young girls & boys, the women & men in our communities.
  4. Social development is not about a quick fix. Problems that have been years in the making, will not suddenly go away by a 6 month or 2 year project. In the pages of reports that cite the numbers of beneficiaries reached, trained, served etc this does not mean that their lives have improved one iota. We need to start thinking more long-term with our interventions. Aid agencies, it is time you recognize this. Stop baiting the development sector with your carrot money and sending people scampering to meet your rules. Are you sure you know the full face of the problems? Development is not top down. We speak participation, but it seems we are really referring to tokenism.

I want to know your thoughts. Send me your opinion, let’s talk. Nothing changes when we sit silent.

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Goodbye World ~ from the Children who were …

borrowed image (no copyright infringement intended)

My heart is crying on account of the recent deaths of so many young children this weekend in Jamaica. It is overwhelming. I send out my condolences to the grieving families.

I also grieve on account of the stories of young men being arrested for various criminal activities; stories that aired on the use and abuse of under-aged girls as sex workers etc etc etc.

I call for us in Caribbean society to start looking at a more intelligent way to create a more positive environment for our children. This means Governments & Civil society listening to each other, people in communities uniting to support each other to be better parents and individuals across socio-economic lines find ways to empower each other. Parenting, child-rearing, moulding our future leaders is a collective responsibility best achieved as a joint effort. This is a battlefield where ironically we should all be on the same side. Negative perceptions, attitudes, behaviours, practices etc – those are the enemies.

Am I naive to think that it is not too late for our nations’ children?

When I Grow Up

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Vignette Insights – Is Dominica Boring?

Richard Etienne, UK film-maker and a member of the Dominican diaspora has embarked on a personal journey of discovery about his Dominican homeland. Today on Island Vignettes, he shares a 2nd snippet from his upcoming short film “The iD Project”.

“Dominica is a small Caribbean island so what can it truly offer to a guy from a big city like me? Watch what some of Dominica’s most influential voices had to say.”

This snippet is from ‘The iD Project’ – releasing Summer 2014. 

Richard Etienne
Richard Etienne

This film is publicly funded and no donation is too small. Please support at http://mydominicastory.com and click ‘Donate’ at the top of the page.

To see Richard’s first installment for his upcoming short film, visit his first story that was featured on Island Vignettes: Vignette Insights: My Dominican Story

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My Top Pick for Staycation Saturday

Today I will relax. Yes, relax. Sometimes this is difficult. There is always a distraction – phones, internet, work, bills… It’s an endless list of things that constantly occupy our minds. My remedy is to do things that put me at ease eg daydreaming, baking, reading, sitting in the garden.

My top pick for today is baking. I’ve kicked off my Staycation Saturday with a fresh batch of lime & fruit scones. It only took 30 minutes because my dough was already frozen. Here’s a taste. How are you spending your Saturday?

Wishing you a good one!

Lime & Fruit scones
Lime & Fruit scones


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Earth Day 2014 – Going green in Kingston, Jamaica

Can gardening be called an adventure? After my experiences in the garden the past few months I have to say, “Yes!” The world celebrated Earth Day on April 22nd 2014. For the past two years I’ve either planted a tree or got involved in some other activity. This year I did nothing – or so I thought. I’ve since re-considered and remembered that I have done something HUGE all year.
Strawberry in Island Vignettes garden
Strawberry in Island Vignettes garden

I finally started my own little garden in the heart of Kingston. In the midst of city life I have reaped tomatoes, scotch bonnet peppers, parsley, thyme and very soon, strawberries. This is actually part 2 of my personal downtime which thus far has focused on ornamental plants.

Scotch bonnet peppers
Scotch bonnet peppers

What really motivated me finally? Two things. (1) For years I’ve listened to persons across the Caribbean talk about “eat what you grow, grow what you eat”, “feed the nation”, etc etc etc. (2) I got tired of paying too much in the grocery for these items. These days I enjoy my seasonings fresh from garden to pot.


My gardening has become the gift that keeps on giving. Thanks to my dear Arthur who got me started with seedlings and endless trips to the garden store for supplies. Enjoy.






Thanks also to my dear friend Kate for her encouragement in getting me blogging again.

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From Africa to the Caribbean: A Case for South South Cooperation

Posted from Island Vignettes: Guest Feature

The population of Ghana is approximately 25 million.  The population of Jamaica is 2.8 million. Ghana – a country in Western Africa – the word itself means “Warrior King”. Jamaica – an island in the Caribbean Sea known as “the land of wood and water”. The ties between these two countries span the centuries and within the pages of the history books are characterized by the story of slavery.

Several months ago, I had the distinct pleasure of working with a young man from Ghana on several initiatives promoting access to justice for women and children in Jamaica. This was the opportunity I needed to further explore the linkages between the two territories. In this Guest post I ask Mr. Jacob Soung a few questions on his time in Jamaica and probe a bit for his perspective of life in these two great lands.

From Africa to the Caribbean: A Case for South South Cooperation

1.    What brought you to the Caribbean?

I was inspired by the decision of the Judiciary of Jamaica in their effort to establishing National Judicial Training Institute under the newly formed Agency, (Court Management Services). Intrigued by the possibilities through volunteering and with the broad aim of the Access to Justice Program of CUSO-VSO*, I took time off my schedule to join CUSO-VSO* as a South-South Cooperant.

2.    How did your work in Jamaica contribute to an improvement in delivery of social justice?

I believe that my work as Judicial Education Programme Development Advisor had significant impact on social

Contributed Photo
Contributed Photo (2013)

justice delivery. During my time I delivered several strategic documents which over the next five years will be a critical road map. Some of these included: a Training Needs Assessment to guide the training of judiciary and staff, a proposal for an Annual Chief Justice’s Forum, over twelve (12) training modules designed for the CMS and two (2) induction modules developed for Newly Appointed Superior and Lower Courts members respectively.

3.    What about the Caribbean struck you as remarkably similar to your home?

Life in Accra is not any much different from Kingston. The hospitality of the Caribbean, culture (belief in Christian faith and marriage), the peaceful/societal solidarity and politics are so similar to Ghana.  Some words in Patois are so similar to some Ghanaian dialects. Of course, like Ghana, the place abounds with beautiful ladies and a youthful population!

4.    What seemed really different for you?

I observed that in the Caribbean, people seem to be able to create huge benefits out of literally nothing while Africans, in my opinion, make very little out of the abundance around us! While Ghana is fighting for empowerment of ‘Girl-Child’ education, Jamaica is focused on ‘Boy-Child’ education. Police are friendlier in Ghana; In Jamaica, the public seems skeptical about Police Officers and Police Officer suspicious of persons. In Kingston, Police and other security officers hold their guns in readiness, you hardly see such in Accra. In that regard I feel that Accra is safer.

On the other hand, there are so many beautiful beaches with lots of places for ice cream. My experience of carnival – it was so colourful! In the banking halls, I noticed many persons receiving phone calls, this does not happen in Ghana. I find that there are many more strategically placed super markets in Kingston than in Ghana, where food can be found on many roadsides, gas stations and fast food ventures.  Interestingly, many young people I met thought that Africa is in the ‘bush’ and not as developed as it actually is.

 5.    What are your thoughts on the future of the Caribbean and perhaps for relations with continental Africa.

Based on the similarities I noticed, Africa and the Caribbean would be better off if we initiate CARIB-AFRICA Games to share experiences. International collaboration should also strengthen the link.

 *CUSO-VSO is now known as Cuso International

Mr. Jacob Zurobire Soung is Ghanaian born and raised. He has worked with various NGOs, Private & Public sector Institutions on projects in Ghana, Canada, Kenya, Tanzania, Jamaica and Liberia. His areas of interest include Judicial Education, Social justice, Project Management, Effective Court Communication and Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism. Mr. Soung is currently the Deputy Director of the Judicial Training Institute Accra-Ghana.

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International Day to End Violence against Women

Female genital mutilation, Slavery, trafficking, incest, rape, battery. These are just a few of the horrors many women in the world face. Today is International Day to End Violence Against Women. Let me introduce you first to two women who have told their stories. Prego and the Loon tells her story of surviving an abusive relationship. Stella Marr tells her story of being domestically trafficked in New York for 10 years on The Secret Life of a Manhattan Call Girl.

Secondly, I am asking you to share this blog post immediately. The act of spreading awareness is no small thing!

Let’s end it!

Thirdly, take your time and read these statistics. This is how real violence against women is:

  • Three Caribbean countries are among the top 10 for reported incidences of rape. All Caribbean countries (where comparable data is available) have higher than the global average for rape. One in three women in the Caribbean on average will experience domestic violence (UN Women Caribbean)
  • Nearly 20% of women in New Hampshire say they have been raped. (NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, University of New Hampshire, and state authorities, 2007)
  • In Seoul, Korea, 22% of adult women said they had been the victims of rape and attempted rape (UNIFEM)
  • In a survey in South Africa, 25% of the young men admitted to having had sex with a woman without her consent, before he was 18 years of age (Human Rights Watch)
  • Domestic violence is the major cause of death and disability for European women aged 16 to 44 and accounts for more death and ill-health than cancer or traffic accidents. (reported by Amnesty International)
  • In Barbados, a national survey of women and men aged 20 to 45 found that 33 per cent of women and 2 per cent of men reported having been sexually abused during childhood. (UNFPA)
Say NO to Violence against Women!

In her message for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet calls for bold action and decisive leadership to galvanize efforts to end the pandemic of violence against women and girls.

As a  future mother I am imploring us to get involved and stop being bystanders to such violence. I do not have all the answers, but please find an Agency in your area where you can volunteer or learn more. To the women who are victims, I pray that you have the courage to get up and walk away. Please revisit Prego and the Loon’s blog. See how she did it.

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Make a Difference today: Universal Children’s Day

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children” Nelson Mandela

This sweet young girl wants to be a doctor when she grows up.

Today is Universal Children’s Day – a day of activity devoted to promoting the ideals and goals of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Did you know that children have certain rights assigned to them? Also did you know that as a caregiver you have certain responsibilities toward our young ones? I encourage you to read more about this here – now!

This gentleman, resplendent in starched garb and dignified with age shuffles across the road in Downtown Kingston as he does his part to protect the children.

Children are such beautiful beings, trusting, innocent and deserving of our love and protection. Sadly many adults who have responsibility to protect them are exactly the ones who strip them of their innocence.


 “child abuse or maltreatment constitutes all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.” (WHO Consultation on Child Abuse Prevention, 1999)

The innocence of childhood

WHO estimates that 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence during 2002. In Jamaica, statistics show that more than 12,000 cases of child abuse have been reported since 2007.

You can make a difference! Click here to find out how!

Let us work together to protect the leaders of tomorrow. Start with those children in your home, on your street, in your local community and never ever underestimate your ability to make a difference!

Join me in the quest to make a difference and spread the word of Universal Children’s Day today!

These children play jumprope in the yard of the Trenchtown Reading Centre

Check out this video that was done sometime ago and recognized by UNICEF as an inspiring piece.

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Haunted Caribbean Destination: Can you guess where this is?

Today I want to challenge you. I took this photo more than one year ago. Now I’m sharing it with you. I also want to share the story of ghostly appearances, black magic, dead lovers and beauty that is associated with this place. Help me by guessing the place and location and I’ll finish the tale for you!

The story of this haunted manse will set your hair on edge!

Since this is ISLAND VIGNETTES, you know there must be more stirring in the pot than the stew! Not only will I share the story with you, but I’ll also tell you a bit more about how life at this once bustling home seems so inextricably intertwined with the social development of the country in which it resides. Help me do it, guess the destination!

Looking forward to your responses:)

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