Tag Archives: Development

Life gave me lemons…and I sold them!

A struggle for life

Reflections from working with the poor & disadvantaged…

Some days life serves me lemons. They say that I should make lemonade. How do I do that? I can’t afford the sugar and my taps don’t have water. How I hate lemons.

Some days life serves me blows. Life wears itself like a noose adorning my neck. They say I should persevere. How do I do that? I still can’t afford to buy the pair of scissors to cut that noose. How I hate that noose.

Other days life serves me hope. Just a teaspoonful. They don’t say much, for now I am a threat. It seems I might be emerging from that hole…finally…

These days life serves me vision. It overflows my cup. They say absolutely nothing for they are busy. Busy taking away the means to attain the vision. I see lemons on the horizon…again…

One day life served me perspective. A moment of illumination. I no longer hear what they say. It is of no consequence.

I sold the lemons and used the money to buy a pair of scissors. I used the scissors to cut the noose. I used the noose to tie the hope to my new perspective. I used the perspective and realized that while I was being pressed and squeezed, I had emerged onto the other side and am in full bloom.

The noose got their tongues now.

[© Copyrighted material – O. Barrett/Island Vignettes 2012]

I survived the struggle

The Unsung Heroes of Caribbean Development

International development is all about civil society and governments pooling resources and efforts to change the conditions which give rise to poverty and inequality, in the process helping humans achieve their potential. Central to it all are human beings. Lives. People. For many of us involved in development work, we often start by thinking about everything we will bring to others’ lives. The solutions we are going to propose. The difference we will make. The interaction seems somewhat one-sided. Occasionally however, a light bulb goes off and in a brief instance of self-awareness, we are willing to admit that our perspective, ideas and thoughts are also being challenged, scrapped and rebuilt in the process. We become as much a beneficiary of the process of development as actors of change.

 Today I highlight a few faces and persons whom I’ve met along the way. For different reasons they’ve left an indelible impression on my mind. Their words changed something in me and flavoured my perspective – for the better, I think. Thanks to each of you for the role you’ve played in advancing the development of your nation – even without you realizing it! (Click the photos to be taken to the related stories).

Lorna Hamilton Henry. She challenged the status quo. She changed me. Lorna having been diagnosed with HIV many years ago, stood up and continues to speak out about discrimination against PLWHA. My encounters and work with her opened my eyes to some of the unconscious prejudices I held and instead transformed me into an advocate of her mission. Today Lorna runs a small NGO – Mothers2Mothers TnT. Check her out on Facebook to see how you can help.
Mr. Mason is no stranger to the Cuso Jamaica community. He is one of the first persons many of us meet. He runs an unofficial orientation session into Jamaican life, culture and music. Neville is an unending reservoir of fact & popular opinion that dates back to very early years. His unfailing courtesy and smile are always appreciated. He has been one of many sources of contextual information as I developed the child access to justice project.
I met this group of enthusiastic young men in Crossroads – while we were doing cutaway filming of graffiti. They were so open and friendly. Reminded me of the innocence of childhood and all that we should be working to protect. It was also a sobering reminder of the obstacles our young men face in society as they navigate into adulthood.


All of us are not holders of PhD’s or recipients of public accolades. Yet this does not diminish the potential for our impact in society. I met this man in Trench Town a few months ago. As he stood in that position by the wall, he related many stories of Bob Marley’s life and the changes the community has undergone over the years. What a sobering reminder of the importance of the elders in our communities. Through their presence and story-telling, traditions and customs are preserved and history is archived for the benefit of future generations.


There is a popular saying that tells us we should not judge by appearances. Orlando Hamilton reinforced this lesson to me in a lasting way. I met him in the Burgher Gully community of East Kingston a few months ago. Orlando is a UNICEF X-Changer. This programme aims to give critical skills to young persons in communities severely affected by violence. The project is a brainchild of Trinbagonian star Machel Montano. Orlando, through his work both at home & abroad, has fulfilled his mission to resist the stereotypes given to persons from inner city communities. He has a remarkable story – one that will be featured very soon on ISLAND VIGNETTES. Look out for it!

On Log Frames and Gunshots…

 Log Frame design                                   (image – World Health Federation)

I started this post several weeks ago and never got around to publishing it. At the time I thought it was a bit morbid. I don’t think very differently now, I’ve merely rationalized that it is an inevitable part of Development work. The positive and uplifting accomplishments come hand in hand with downright depressing moments at times. You just learn to take it all in stride. Funnily enough I was reminded of this as I watched Judi Dench & cast in the movie – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Who would have thought one could learn such a lesson from an odd mix of seniors living in India – one of whom is even afraid of buying green bananas as she may not live long enough to see it ripen!

The past few weeks met me busily drafting a full monitoring and evaluation plan for the country-wide programme I am expanding. It was a time for reflection as I facilitated discussion on the best ways to monitor/evaluate our work. Part of it involved creating a Log Frame. This is a programme I know has had tremendous impact for young victims and witnesses of crime who are part of the Justice system. Now, to translate that into measurable components. It is so easy to get caught up in the paperwork and “the Plan” that sometimes we lose touch with the human component – the people whose lives drive and are affected by our decisions.

I was reminded of this as I left the office one afternoon. I heard that in a nearby community there had been an exchange of gunfire. I’m still not clear as to whether there were casualties, but I’m sure you can imagine what a chaotic and traumatic few moments it must have been for anyone close by. Perhaps it may have even given rise to yet another young witness or victim making their way to the Office. Another one whose needs are to be taken into consideration as I put together this M&E document… What a reminder of the importance of the work we do.

This sweet young girl wants to be a doctor when she grows up. After sending some time with her, I believe that she is going to do her best to change her world.

Now for the sweetener. I was fortunate to meet this young girl many weeks after the incident. I was in an inner city community. Her sweet smile and shy demeanor were heartwarming. However, it was the words on her jersey and assertion that she wants to be a doctor when she grows up that was so uplifting. Now it has me wondering how can I help to keep the dreams of these little ones burning. For that matter, how can you…?