Why do we go to school?

The most important reasons aren't always the ones you think of first by Glen Herbert   “It’s very Harry Potter,” says Michael Simmonds, chuckling a bit as he does. I was speaking to him about what Havergal College does best, a school in Toronto where he is vice principal. Havergal is one of the foremost girls' schools in Canada, and regularly ranks among the top schools in the nation. It really does have ivy-covered walls, and the fact that he's comparing it to a fictional school for wizards feels a bit wilting. Hence the chuckle. He continues, “But, you know, I’m serious. Harry Potter lived in a closet, hid his special powers, knew he was different, and had to go to Hogwarts to be empowered. There’s a lot to be said for bringing a group of like people together … It’s a culture of empowerment.” For everything that Havergal does—its list of alumni reads like a list of Canadian who’s who—it’s interesting that, when asked about the quality of the school, he doesn't talk about outcomes, he talks about the culture and the learning environment. We too often think about education in terms of the stuff we find there: desks, books, curriculum, lessons. We also, I think wrongly, too often think of education in transactional terms: do this now, so that you can do something else later, such as get a job, or enter post-secondary studies. The lesson of Harry Potter is that the real strength of successful schools community. The best educational environments are personal, relational. Karrie Weinstock says that “no child learns math before she learns the connection with her teacher. If the connection isn’t there, she’s never going to learn as well. This is the enduring value of connection and community.” Weinstock is a long-time educator, and currently vice-principal at Branksome Hall, another prominent private school in Toronto. Like Simmons, for her the strength of the school isn't the buildings or the books, but the relationships that form there. When I asked her what makes a school a great school, she said “it’s a million small conversations” namely those between students, faculty, and peers. "I believe every girl comes to school every day wanting to be the best she can be. And then to meet adults and peers in that environment who are similarly aspiring—that's a very good mix. That to me is a good school.” " ... the place where citizens prevail ... " The Learning Center was formed in 2003 to be that kind of environment, even if the founders perhaps didn’t think of it explicitly in those terms. Tylisha Miller, a teacher and director at The Learning Center in Port Elizabeth is like Simmonds in that she doesn't see her work as simply teaching, or tutoring. She sees her role as one of listening, and supporting, and recognizing their special powers: the skills, talents, and personalities that students bring with them into the classroom. She describes it as an environment “where they don't feel pressured but instead feel safe, loved and cared for.” "For me it was not employment," says Miller of finding a role at the center, "it was my new found family, my home." It’s a place where, says Miller, kids "are given the attention needed to excel." It’s a community in the way that John McKnight, director of the Community Studies Program at the Center for Urban Affairs at Northwestern University, defines it: “the place where citizens prevail.” Why we do what we do The support that we give, through the Grenadines Initiative, is in the service of those larger goals. That’s why we listen to teachers, first, before sending stuff—they know best what their students need, and we want to help them deliver it. Because, ultimately, the real value of school is the people you find there. People like Morrie Hercules, who inspired other people, through example, to join the effort, including Felicia Frederick. People like Devvy King, who think about best practices, and are as open to their students as they are to new ideas. Or Jan Providence, who is excited about raising chickens with her students. She should be excited. It’s great work. It’s not really about chickens, of course, it’s about the quality of the relationships that hands-on learning can engender. That’s why kids go to school: to grow those kinds of relationships. To grow their sense of who they are and gain a confidence in bringing their talents to bear in their communities. To enter a space where people laugh at their jokes, and ache in the same places. A space where they know, without question: these are my friends, this is my school.

Education in the islands

You can't get there from here. But we're working to change that. by Glen Herbert Often the barriers to education to students in the Caribbean are surprising to people who haven’t experienced them first hand. In part that’s because the distances—temporal, geographic—can be deceptive. The Grenadines seem—culturally, on a map—so close to us. And they are. They, like Canada, are part of the Commonwealth, and the Queen is on their currency, too. They speak English as a first language, they’re in our hemisphere, and are as far from Canada’s borders as Vancouver is from Montreal. The US, of course, is closer still—Bequia to Miami is the roughly same distance as that from Miami and New York. As such, it’s easy to imagine that they would have ready access to the same academic resources and institutions as Canadians, Americans, or anyone throughout the English-speaking world. But they don’t. Academically, they’re often heartbreakingly isolated, something that was brought home recently when a young woman approached us for support. She had received a full scholarship to the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley. Scouted as an elite athlete, it covered room, board, and tuition. A full ticket. Given her success athletically to date, with the right coaching it’s all but guaranteed that she’d represent SVG at international competitions, including the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics. She’s that good. Her academic record is strong, as is her drive to succeed. But ... one more thing … The one expense not covered by the scholarship was travel, which is why she approached us. She also hadn’t yet secured a visa to study in the US. For Canadian students, getting that visa would be a slog through some paperwork and red tape, but otherwise more of a bother than anything else. For her, and all students in SVG, it’s a very different story. It means a number of trips to Barbados—the US doesn’t have consular service in SVG, and neither does Canada—including one to apply, which must be done in person, another a week or two later for an interview. If successful, she’d have to return again to pick up her passport. This is all further complicated by the fact that her high school is not recognized in the US, so she needed to get an academic audit before the university would accept her application to the program. And, of course, she needed a letter of acceptance to a degree program to secure a student visa. And around it goes. While the offer of financial aid was made at the same time it would be for any student—universities issue them all on the same date, no matter where the student lives—the system wasn’t created with her in mind and, unwittingly, all but excludes her. So, there she sits, with a letter of offer of complete financial aid, to a world-class academic institution, with a world-class athletics program, that she perhaps won't be able to use. She’s got the talent, the aspirations, certainly the drive. But if she can’t get the visa in time, come September, the offer will lapse. Bridging the gaps That’s an extreme case, though serves as a stark reminder of how isolated students in SVG can be, and how exasperating the reasons for that isolation often are. Her story is the tip of a sizeable iceberg, one all too familiar to communities throughout the Caribbean. Access to a quality secondary education may be barred simply by the cost of the daily ferry ride to the mainland. The development of innovative curriculum and delivery may be barred simply because there isn’t federal funding available for classroom supports. Success on matriculation exams is often obviated through lack of tutorial support of a kind that students elsewhere take for granted and have easy access to. Small things, perhaps, but unchecked, too often aren’t overcome. That’s why we’re developing the kinds of programs we are: The Learning Centre provides, for free, tutoring in preparation for the statewide exams. The scholarship program provides a means of getting them school each day. The Chromebook program, which will be further developed starting this fall, will help deliver current, sound, levelled classroom resources. The Junior Sailing Program offers tutorials and workshops to prepare sailing students for success in their application for RYA accreditation. This opens up job prospects within the tourism industry. STEM initiatives support development of the delivery of the science and technology curricula. All of those contribute to the overall goal of letting young people know that the world isn't all that far away, and that their dreams are closer than they think.

Growing the gardening program at the Sunshine School

Thanks to a generous donation, we have been able to build the gardening program at the Sunshine School in Port Elizabeth. In addition to building beds and sourcing materials, the donation has allowed us to employ Elvin Lawrence to work in the garden and support in teaching the kids the benefits of vegetable gardening. So far, they have harvested watermelon, carrots and green peppers in addition to the existing bananas, which are mature and have been bearing fruit for some time. The students love going out in the garden and getting their hands in the soil. There are currently ten students involved in the programme. Two days per week five students go to the garden. This number and frequency will be adjusted as the need arises. Though Bequia has recently experienced a long, hot dry season, boxes were constructed and laid out in the garden area and seeds planted. Soil was sourced and boxes filled. Students, with teachers, have been transplanting seedlings and preparing beds for transplanting. The benefits of a school garden are many and varied. Gardening provides a connection between the students and the real world. They learn from experience that food comes from plants in the garden and not just from a supermarket shelf. They learn agricultural skills and concepts which are integrated with several subject areas such as Maths, Science and Language. They also learn patience, as they must wait for plants to grow and mature before producing fruit, requiring them to focus as they take care of the plants. Cooperation and team work is a must as each student plays a part in the development of the garden. Social skills are developed as students and teachers communicate. As students develop the knowledge and skills of growing and taking care if a variety of vegetables so too does their confidence. Non-readers or lower functioning students learn through seeing and doing, and hands-on skills. They learn colours, shapes, sizes, smell and tastes. Older students learn math concepts, such as problem solving, measurement, estimating, counting, and data collection. They learn science skills such as how plants grow and what they need to grow: sunlight, water, and food. They learn about using fertilizers and making compost. In home economics classes students are able to follow recipes or develop their own using the produce from the garden. Students will be able to transfer skills learnt at school to develop their own vegetable gardens at home, which then can be used for self or for sale. Most importantly for them they get to eat healthy, nutritious food that they grew themselves.

The Sargassum crisis

An initiative taken jointly with Action Bequia may be one of the first steps in addressing the problem. It certainly won't be the last. By Glen Herbert   "This may be the worst algal bloom in the history of mankind on earth that we've ever seen," says George Buckley, a professor of the Harvard University Extinction School. (Buckley has created an excellent backgrounder on the problem, which can be viewed here.) That algae, sargassum, is a weed, though the potential for it to affect lifestyles and livelihoods is substantial. When researchers use the word "crisis" in reference to the bloom, they are thinking specifically of its ability to impact to the economies throughout the Caribbean. To date, nearly nothing has been done to counteract the effects in a way that answers the sheer size of the bloom. Some hotels in Mexico have been using sargassum as a medium in which to grow mushrooms. Other communities, including that of Mustique, rake the beaches every day at dawn. Those things are a starting point, to be sure, though they will soon be overcome by the scale of it all. Says Buckley, "the treatment that's being done so far is at best reactive. We really need to look quickly beyond that in terms of controls," including harvesting it in greater quantities, and establishing recycling facilities where it can be prepared for industrial use. We've partnered with Action Bequia and to submit an application for a major grant to the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA), a World Bank organization, targeting the problem. As noted in that grant application, this isn't one that can be solved easily, nor is it one that can be addressed without significant partnership across the island and throughout the region. We believe that education is an important first step, both on island and beyond. If you have any ideas for student programs, we'd like to hear them. As happens so often, it's the work and the voices of children that can gain a unique purchase in the international commons. The fact that SVG has been elected to the UN Security Council puts the country, its communities, and its organizations in a unique position. This could be an opportunity to play a significant leadership role. That might begin with raising awareness at the UN, using the issue as a means of lobbying for a greater engagement with climate change initiatives. David Leonhardt of the New York Times wrote this week about a Yale University study that found that, since 2011, the number of Americans who say they are concerned about climate change has risen substantially. He reports that the primary reason cited by respondents was that they were "directly experiencing climate change impacts." The second was, "hearing about climate change impacts." That's a story that Vincentians can tell. Bequia, to be sure, has had a longer period of direct experience than the majority of the world population, first with the rising sea levels—there used to be beach off the Belmont Walkway not all that long ago—and now this. It goes without saying that most people in the world don't know what sargassum is, how it can affect them, or how they contribute to its growth. The irony is that they are one of the causes—the runoff from farms in North America is one of the main contributors to the crisis. Buckley notes that "help is needed from all fronts, particularly [from] those that are not on the islands. The victims can only clean up so much." It's a global problem, not a regional one, and it requires a global response. How the world responds will provide an analogue for how it will respond to later examples of the effects of climate change. Ultimately, this isn't a story about how we treat the environment, it's a story about how we treat each other. We don't have any answers, but Action Bequia and the Grenadines Initiative are keen to work with local projects and initiatives. We're also able to accept dedicated resources from benefactors in Canada, the US, and Britain to support those activities. An important and simple first step is to join the Bequia Sargassum Action Group, either online, via their facebook group, or in person. Please do that. Sometimes it's not the big things that change the world: the treaties, the work of presidents and prime ministers. Maybe this will be one of those cases. Perhaps it begins with raising our voices, both within the community and beyond. Bending the ear of local politicians, certainly, is indicated. Delivering messages by and on behalf of the local student population is too. Given that Vincentians may have easier access to the halls of the United Nations puts us in a position not only of opportunity, but responsibility. SVG is the only Caribbean nation to have that pulpit. In many ways, the next two years may prove to be a very interesting time.

Learning to fly

Kadeen Hazell, Valedictorian  Kadeen Hazell was chosen as valedictorian of his graduating class, representing his cohort of the Essentials Fixed Wing Flight Training at Canadore College in North Bay, Ontario. In his address he spoke about how far he'd come, both geographically and conceptually, as well as the challenges he faced. He implored those gathered to "do what you feel passionate about, take chances, go the extra mile, and don’t be afraid to fail." He began by quoting the Greek poet Horace on the effect of adversity:  "Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.”  —Horace  Faculty, family, friends and graduands of the class of 2019, good afternoon.  My name is Kadeen Hazell and it is my pleasure to address you on behalf of the Essentials Fixed Wing Flight Training Program on this remarkable day. Allow me to give a brief insight into my journey towards my development in this program and highlight a few of the challenges that I’ve faced and overcome to become the person I am today. I migrated from my home island, Bequia, which measures only 7 miles long, 1 mile wide and has a population of 10,000, to the south of Canada to pursue my dreams. I must admit that getting from there to here wasn’t a smooth journey. My aspirations of becoming a pilot, as a youth from Bequia, was beyond a dream; it was beyond the realm of possibility. But I’ve dreamt of being a pilot since I was the age of 5 and it was my objective, my deepest desire to make that dream a living reality. I grew up in a poor and turbulent neighborhood. When my “friends” asked what I would like to be in the future, they all laughed at me when I said a pilot and shook their heads indicating how foolish they thought I was. The one feature that I loved about where I lived was that my house was located a minute’s walk from the airport, so I would look at pilots trying to get their planes on the ground with the vigorous Caribbean trade winds. At the age of 15, when my only goal in life was to further my studies in aviation, I took courses in social sciences.  However, coping with these subjects was only one of the many challenges. I had to travel at 6:00 a.m. via ferry to mainland St. Vincent and I would not return home until 8:00 at night. At age 18, I graduated from the St. Vincent Community College with a distinction in Pure Mathematics, Physics and Geography, but these accomplishments meant very little to me because at that time in my life I did not have sufficient resources to fund my studies in the aviation industry.  I therefore began working with my father, knowing well that this would not be the end of my dream of becoming a pilot. I then met my Canadian guardians Dave Anderson and Christine Anderson, both of whom helped me reach where I am today. At this time, I am publicly expressing my heartfelt gratitude to you both for all that you have done for me, making my dream a reality. With what would seem as the most difficult of challenges conquered, I had visions of myself flying soon. However, to ensure this was what I really wanted, life threw at me some other challenges. For example, the temperature in St. Vincent stays around 25 degrees throughout the year, and this being my first winter, I would say that North Bay has welcomed me with its opened arms. Another basic challenge that I faced was simply living on my own with no family around, and don’t get me started on my cooking skills! I could recall the first time I met Elaine Ross, a devoted individual who also helped me with my transition into the program. Elaine was very enthusiastic and passionate about the flying side of the industry and she told me everything that I needed to know to become not just a pilot but an outstanding pilot. At the beginning of the program, my colleagues and I were very isolated, and being the only international student with a tad bit of language variation made it even more difficult for me to socialize with the others. However, as time progressed and the studies began my class blended and we became close friends, probably too close for the instructors to handle from time to time. The Canadore program was flawlessly outlined with the bulk of the theory in the month of November, but with consistency comes perfection. At this point of my life in Canada I was beginning to feel comfortable with the weather, the new lifestyle and all the various new customs. I will like to say thank you to Rob, our senior flight instructor, who stuck with us throughout all of the obstacles that we encountered in the Fixed Wing side of the program. He was strict at times when the job had to be done, but always a comedian in the classroom; a true inspiration and role model. In December of 2018, the fixed wing side of the class was already prepared to write our private license exam. The competition was on in January, infusing the final touches to mold us into the figure we needed to be to pass our exams. I recall a quotation my Dad used regularly as I was growing up. It is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous words.  He said and I quote “The heights by great mean reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.” As a little boy I never truly understood what my dad meant by this quotation, but as time progressed I learned that nothing in life worth having comes easily. Nothing in life worth having is given to you without a challenge and I urge everyone here today to face your challenges with a positive and confident attitude knowing that anything is possible if you set

The Learning Center

Super Cape-Abilities A joint project between the Learning Center and Action Bequia creates a new breed of environmental super-hero By Tylisha Miller On the 11th of May 2019 The Learning Center embarked on something amazing with Nico and Action Bequia. Alicia told me of the initiative 2 weeks ago and right off the bat I knew it was something The Learning Center would love to be a part of. We asked the kids to come in but we were not expecting the turn out. We had 21 kids who came in to lend a helping hand. The kids set off on their superhero adventure by designing their capes with whatever their hearts saw fit, but not before having their superhero abilities put to the test in a series of jumping, twisting and showing off their best hero sounds and poses. Nico gave the kids an extensive look at how litter hurts us and what we can do to make sure we keep our island clean. The heroes and heroines then journeyed to Paget Farm where we went to a beach and cleansed it of any plastics and other garbage. The kids all expressed how much fun they had while doing their super hero duties of saving the world one plastic bottle at a time. Big thank you to Action Bequia, the teachers that came out, and to Nico for his inspiring work.

Volunteer profile

Sister Cherrylyn Glynn For nearly three decades, Sister Glynn has been providing essential services to the youth of Bequia By Glen Herbert “I love my work because I get to meet people directly,” says Sister Cherrylyn Glynn. “It’s one-to-one. I do counselling, I get to meet the families.” For the bulk of her career Glynn’s been in the role of nurse practitioner, working out of the hospital in Port Elizabeth. Her office there is organized, clean, if a bit spartan. The one photo on the wall, wedged behind the electrical intake, shows her when she was a nursing student. “That’s when I was in the clinic as a staff nurse,” she says when I point it out. “I had a breast-feeding support group for the mothers. We used to go all over St. Vincent, our group. We went to all the clinics to show them what we do and how they can initiate their own groups.” Glynn first arrived on Bequia in 1990 and has provided a broad range of care ever since. Today, when she’s not called by her nickname, Cheps, she’s known as Sister Glynn. “It’s the rank of our nursing profession. I don’t know why the ‘sister,’” she says, aware that some might think it means that she’s a nun. “We have males but they are referred to as charge nurses, not brothers. But once you reach the level of ward manager, then you earn the handle of ‘sister,’” something she’s rightly proud of. Glynn was educated on St. Vincent, and she has developed in her profession and educated others ever since, including as a preceptor at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. In her current role she runs health clinics as well as the school health program, an aspect of her work that she particularly enjoys. “I love to see that parents adhere to my dietary instructions, my dental instructions, and so forth. And that by the time I see the children again in Grade 6, I can see real improvement.” Children have a complete health assessment when they enter primary school, and then again when they are preparing to move to secondary school. In some cases she’s seen the children of those she first saw when they entered school. Having an effect In her work and her demeanour, Glynn is an example that the most important aspect of health care isn’t the stuff or the buildings, as important as those things are. It’s the relationships and the expression of care—the knowledge that you have someone by your side who knows you and recognizes what you’re going through—that can form the most abiding, and often most effective, aspect of primary medical practice. In the course of her career Glynn has done conceivably tens of thousands of in-office exams. She’s also advocated outside of that, oftentimes in ways that many don’t see, or don’t feel directly. “I pick up conditions that would have gone unnoticed, things that would have been missed,” she says, “I like to see that they’ve gotten the necessary referrals and help that they need,” especially in cases of cardiac pathology, which present with some regularity. But it’s the small stuff, too. “A few years ago, when I see children and I ask ‘do you eat your vegetables?’ they say ‘no.’ But now I’m hearing children say ‘I love tomatoes, I love cabbage,’ so I know that it’s” having an effect. Volunteering with the Bequia Mission “I was intrigued by what they were doing, and because of that I volunteered,” Glynn says of her first involvement with the Bequia Mission. At first, she packed food hampers and helped ensure that those who could benefit from them received them. For the past decade, she’s worked closely with Linda Harrier, providing lists of supplies needed on island, from an EKG to cotton balls. “I like the stickers. You know, when the children come in and you give them at sticker, they feel so good. And I give a pencil to the kindergarten kids … ” Her voice trails off, though the smile remains. She doesn’t say it, and perhaps would demure, but the stickers and the pencils are emblematic of the care that she offers to the children of the island, the personal interaction and the relationship that builds from it. It’s an interesting thought experiment to wonder about the net effect that Glynn has had on the health of the island population. True, she’s not working alone, something that she’d hasten to point out. But for so much of the program of care during her career, she’s been the front line. She manages her clinics and is the go-to person round the clock. When I toured the hospital with her, she was on a day off, but was stopped regularly by the nurses for advice on how to handle this and that, or what she felt about a patient’s progress. You’d think that kind of constant attention might wear thin, though Glynn smiles through it all, and clearly enjoys and appreciates the role that she fills. She admits that it feels good to be needed, and to know that her work helps others. For three decades she’s been a quiet example of the impact one person can have, while also providing an example to others, especially young girls, of what they can do, too.

Why we love the Junior Sailing Academy Bequia, and why you should too

Junior Sailing Academy Bequia From soup to nuts, the Junior Sailing Academy Bequia (JSAB) is a prime example of what people can do when they pool their talents and resources, producing something that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Through structured education and training, the JSAB aims to promote sailing skills and career development for youth on Bequia. Shore-based instruction is provided by the Academy’s Training Manager. On-water practical instruction and formal assessment is provided by Sail Grenadines, a Royal Yachting Association (RYA) accredited training and charter company. Grenadines Sails provides sail repair service free of cost Why we love it In all of that—training, resources, support, admin—the program relies on local expertise and entrepreneurship, providing meaningful employment and authentic engagement. The effects are many: It provides a positive point of contact, one that engages youth within a group of peers around some targeted short-term goals and long-term aspirations. It prepares youth for further education and employment in a key local industry. It prepares them to become trainers and mentors to others, so the model is sustainable over time. It’s visible. The JSAB puts up to 15 boats in the water every Saturday, supported by two safety boats manned by paid local coaches. The sails can be seen from points around Admiralty Bay, which not only looks beautiful, but also draws the attention of local youth. There is no cost to participants, ensuring access to all who can benefit. What next? For the 2019-20 period the JSAB is working to build on the success of the 2018 season by providing courses for up to 10 students in two cohorts at the Competent Crew and Day Skipper levels. All going well, a second Competent Crew course will be offered in the fall of 2019. Math and English (written and spoken) are components of RYA certification, as are CV and job application writing. The JSAB intends to mount a series of courses taught by qualified instructors to help participants meet and exceed the required academic standards. These will make use of the Learning Centre, making it an even richer hub for education and development. What we can do In all of that, the JSAB program is a fantastic opportunity to help deliver employment and education to the island community in an efficient and sustainable way. The model is proven and successful, and the room for growth is evident. Financial support is required in order to further scale the program size and scope, though there's clearly a lot of bang for the buck. For donation, volunteer, and participation details, email me or visit the GI website. Tax receipts for Canadian and US donors are available on request.

Off to school

by Glen Herbert Lauriel Stowe wants to be a volcanologist. “We had a geography class," she says, recalling some years ago, "and [the teacher] was talking about plate tectonics, and I really found the topic interesting.” She did some of her own research and, among other things, learned that there is only one working volcanologist in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. “I was thinking about what would happen if this person was to get old and can’t do the work anymore? And I thought that's what I’d like to do.” The volcanologist monitors La Soufrière, an active volcano that is also the highest point on St. Vincent. It dominates much of the skyline. The history of its eruptions is as good an example of the value of volcanology as you could hope to find: in 1902 it erupted killing 1680 people. When it erupted in 1979 there were no casualties, thanks entirely to the advanced warning offered by those tasked with monitoring it. Lauriel's desire to learn about her world, to ask questions, and to think locally with a mind to ongoing service is why she was such a good candidate for the scholarship program. In addition to ferry costs, the scholarships provide school uniforms, shoes and books, lunches, and ground transportation on the mainland. Little things, perhaps, though they make a world of difference in the lives of the students. The scholarships remove the barriers between them and their academic aspirations. While there are two secondary schools on Bequia, there are more course options and more academic resources in schools on St. Vincent. For some students those options—including physics, chemistry, and better-equipped biology labs—are essential to successful applications to post-secondary programs. Such is the case for Lauriel, who attends St. Joseph Convent, known as one of the best schools in the country. “It’s a good school,” she says. Each day she meets the ferry in Port Elizabeth. The hour-long passage takes her past schools of dolphin, terns, and, at certain times of year, schools of flying fish. “This one time we saw a whale, and it was really up close,” she says. I ask if we’ll see flying fish. “We’d have to be really lucky. I don’t know if it’s because of climate change, but we rarely see them anymore.” (We were lucky that day, actually, seeing schools of fish taking flight in the wake around the boat to flee the birds diving from above.) As the boat lists, I ask if this is a rough day. “It’s not that rough because you can still walk around pretty easily.” When it’s rough, you can’t. St. Joseph is in Kingstown, the nation’s capital. As such, Lauriel's journey each day takes her seemingly the entire length and breadth of the country. While Bequia can feel at a remove, once in Kingstown she walks past all of the key institutions in the nation, including parliament, the prime minister’s office, the national banks, the supreme court, even a sizeable prison, its perimeter girded with concertina wire. The city has a population more than three times that of Bequia and is home to the largest customs port in the country, its main commercial centre. There’s a lot of bustle, and the colonial history is evident, too, in historic stone buildings blackening beneath a patina of lichen. (Also nearby is the botanical garden. Founded in the 18th century, it includes a breadfruit tree that is a direct descendant of the one William Bligh planted there in 1793.) She typically doesn't get back to Bequia until 7pm, so it makes for a long day. Still, Lauriel knows that it's the right thing for her, and is thankful for the opportunity. Recipients of the scholarships give back by providing academic support to students of the Learning Center. As such, the scholarships have a significant and lasting effect on the development of educational opportunities on the island through improving delivery of the curriculum, encouraging mentorship, and promoting the value of academic achievement. Lauriel, nearly 50 other students, and the culture as a whole all benefit from the program. “It helps everyone to bring out themselves,” she says of the school she attends and, by inference, the scholarship that helps get her there. "It’s important.” She's right. It is.

Volunteer profile

Carmette Gooding By Glen Herbert “We call it the Big Rock,” says Carmette Gooding, “but it’s the only rock.” She recalls jumping off of it into the surf when she was growing up on Bequia. “We’d wait for the biggest wave to come, then we’d jump in it. When the wave was breaking. We loved that, I loved that as a kid!” I say that it sounds like a fun place to grow up. “Fun place?! Not in my day. It was hard work!” She remembers walking across the island to get milk for the family. “I used to go there every morning before school to get a bottle of milk. I would get up so early, it was dark you could barely see through the bushes. I had to go through all those gullies, and up the hill and down, before you go to school. To get the milk for our breakfast. That was the only milk we had then. We didn’t have any can milk or powder milk, or all of this kind of stuff. We had to go for it every morning.” I ask if she ever felt like saying, forget this, get your own milk. “Forget?! You forget and your mom and dad knock your head off!” She bursts into a laugh, then adds “You couldn’t say no in those days.” Still, it does sound like fun, and in truth she admits that much of it really was. She recalls making banana and fish dumplings, and long days at the sea. “In those days you’d never even feel the sun, either. You’d be on the beach all day, all day sitting in that sun waiting til people finish the cooking, and then you go back in the sea again.” I spoke with Carmette in Solana’s, the shop in Port Elizabeth she runs with her daughter. Sitting there, it feels like being in the thick of things, and perhaps you are. Spend long enough and perhaps the whole island will drop in. “My mother’s the kind of person, everybody knows her,” says Solana. “Everybody feels comfortable coming in and telling her their problems. They know her and they can relate to her, and she will sit down and talk with them.” “She could get carried away sometimes,” says Solana. “If she could help everybody, she would. She doesn’t like to tell people ‘no.’ She likes working with people who are just as passionate as her about taking care of things that need to be taken care of.” She’s got lots of opinions, as well as a brilliant way of expressing them. When I once asked her about the value of volunteerism, she said “the more you pay, the less work you get.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that, borne of her decades of experience on various committees and initiatives. Apart from work in the shop, Carmette is the FedEx agent for the island, and sells real estate. Since the 1990s she’s been treasurer for the Bequia Mission, a role she continues today with the Grenadines Initiative. It’s been years of raffles, and repairing homes, delivering food and supplies, selling books at the book sales beneath the almond tree. “I always enjoy meeting people,” she says. “And why not? I love doing that kind of work.” I ask if she’s game to oversee the book sale tables on Hero’s Day again this year. “Why not?! Of course.” And she means it. She’ll be there.