Whether it is the Grade 2 student at the Charlestown Primary School who is in need of extra English lessons or the young men of Cotton Ground whose time and energies can be put to better use via the formation of a community club; these are the people who will always be in need of our unconditional commitment.
Indeed, it is because of this spirit of community service, why I have always stood in awe of certain individuals, who I personally believe have gone above and beyond the call of duty to push our people forward.
Nevisians like the immaculate Mrs. Jeanette Grell-Hull come to mind. A lady whose work ethic and passion for netball and the empowerment of women, I have long stood from afar and admired. Her timeless commitment to organizing netball tournaments, training young women in the sport, lobbying for it in the schools and even via the social media just could not pass my eye. Consequently, I have to lend my voice to her effort and tip my hat to the lovely Mrs. Jeanette Grell-Hull!
If I wish to speak authoritatively on community service, I must mention the name of the venerable Eric Evelyn, who has worked with scores of senior citizens on Nevis; organizing tours and lunches so that they would feel valued in the community. I recall on the 31st of March, I telephoned my loving grandmother, Yolan Freeman, to wish her a happy birthday and she sounded unusually cheerful. I said to her, “Granny, I know it’s your birthday but why are you in such a great mood this morning?” I simply had to smile when she blissfully responded, “Son, I just came off the phone with Eric Evelyn!” Mr. Evelyn’s commitment to the seniors of this country is near beyond compare! In addition to that, his eagerness to give of his time to work with our young boys in social and sports groups so that they can become agents of change in our society makes me pray every night that we had more men, and particularly fathers like that ever gracious Eric Evelyn!
When I think of encouraging a spirit of community service, I think of Mr. Halstead “Sooty” Byron – our very own “Mr. Culture”! From since I was a 5 year old student trotting to the St. John’s Primary School; Mr. Byron was always in the community promoting Nevisian heritage, organizing village competitions to aid the cultural awareness of our students and involving our young men in the art of drumming. To this day, Mr. Byron still fights the good fight, with no end in sight and it’s why I can’t help but laud his commitment to community!
As I expound on the spirit of community service, I just have to mention my former French teacher, Ms. Dyann Hobson. For if Mr. Byron can be referred to as “Mr. Culture”, then my dear linguistic tutor must be “Mrs. Culture”! Her work in Culturama, the performing arts and most recently, with her renowned dance group, “Rhythmz Dance Theatre” has left a near indelible mark on the cultural landscape of our country and so I have to salute my former teacher – Dyann “Mrs. Culture” Hobson!
It is also this same spirit of community service, why I have always had immense respect and admiration for politicians such as the Hon. Vance Amory and the Hon. Hensley Daniel because long before they delved into national politics they were already immersed in the service of their community and fellow countrymen; truly attuned to the needs of the people.
I remember in my younger years at St. John’s Primary, I was always so impressed by Mr. Daniel’s work in the St. John’s Community Improvement Club (SJCIC) and his willingness to give students lessons in French, Spanish and Geography; all for the sake of improving the lot of our island’s youth. When I came to 6th form, I had a chat with one close friend who said to me, she would never forget when in Secondary School, they suddenly found themselves without a Geography teacher and Mr. Daniel came to bail them out, such that they were able to pass the Geography exam for CXC with flying colours! This is the service of which I speak.
To this very day, I still reminisce on that moment when I learnt that my good friend, the Honourable Vance Amory, was an eminent educator, the founding President of the Nevis Football Association, a lay reader within the Anglican Church and well involved in Nevisian cricket, that I ventured to ask my mum if there was anything at all left for Mr. Amory to do in the community; so enthralled was I by his record of community service!
It is this same spirit of service that must be mirrored by others throughout Nevis, for while there are those, such as the aforementioned individuals, who have always stood out as beacons in the community, too many are still concerned with self-aggrandizement. There are still too many who wish to grow to be prominent doctors or lawyers, ONLY to make millions, drive flashy cars and look askance at the community that moulded them. As the Hon. Victor Jay Martin was famous for saying, “They are all of self and none of thee!”
I therefore suggest that the Ministry of Education reform our system of student assessment, such that in addition to the academics, greater emphasis would be placed on the civics and our students would be mandated to complete a set period of community service each academic year. This way, a culture of volunteerism and civic responsibility can be inculcated in our people from an early age; and they would become possessed by the spirit of community service, as they focus their efforts not only on making a dollar, but also on making a difference!