by Latoya Burnham
The twists and turns as one village melded into another were brisk. Jemmotts, Chance Hall, Mount View — the road signs almost literally flew by as the two vehicles drove deeper into the middle of St. Lucy.
And suddenly, a yellow building up ahead, it’s a church, and the vehicle leading me began to circle to the back. I would later learn this Life and Light Apostolic Assembly was first built in 1952, by a man that is one of the island’s several centenarians, but a celebrated honouree of St. Lucy — Cameron Boyce.
The winding journey was simply the path to meet the Parish Ambassadors for St. Lucy — Damian Bishop, 21, and his partner, 19-year-old Sad? Gibson. As we exit the vehicles, and make quick introductions, the scene before me hits me full force and I just have to open the lens of my camera to take a shot.
Before us is spread the St. Lucy valley, if one can call it that, in all of its green splendour, and in front of us, comes the slightly “hard-of-hearing” but smiling Boyce, whose handshake is doubly firm. To his right is his church perched on this hill where we will spend a few moments in discussion; and talking comes easy for these two St. Lucy natives.
No two parish ambassadors had probably wanted to reach the age of 18 like Damian and Sad?. In fact, Sad? recalled as a lass waiting anxiously for the period before November to roll around, so she could get to follow around the chosen ambassadors for the year as they did the required walk-throughs of the various communities.
Too young to enter, she contented herself with being part of the parish shows, first modelling, then entering a quiz competition, and even a police competition, just to be part of the do. Then finally, she was of age and it was her turn to have an entourage follow her through the various districts as she got to meet the people of St. Lucy.
“I came out successful in all the competitions I entered. I have first place trophies from the Parish Independence Committee for all the things I entered in primary and secondary school… I was waiting patiently until I reach age 18 to enter. As I reach, the first thing I went to do was sign up to join the programme. What motivated me more was my love for the stage and my love for volunteering,” she said.
For Damian, it was quite the same. A lover of the stage as well, this lad who wants to be a teacher and an actor, said he first tried to enter the Parish Ambassadors’ Programme while still at St. James Secondary School, but he was told he was too young. So he bided his time, until he was successful in his attempt. He saw it as an opportunity to help develop himself, his confidence in public speaking, and it could only enhance as well his own stage presence and love of performing.
“I always had a love for my parish, St. Lucy… so getting through wasn’t that difficult because I knew a lot about my parish and during the interview we were asked questions and the majority of the places I already knew,” Sade, as a high wind whistled through the open windows of the church, whipping her hair around her face.
Damian said that it was in fact a joy for both of them, getting to meet the various parishioners, as they had calculated that they had already personally visited about 78 per cent of the parish. They even have it down to a figure — 8,857 people.
The Parish Ambassadors’ Programme has certainly taught them a few things. For Sad?, a Banking and Finance student at the University of the West Indies, it has been a lesson in time management, and has also pushed her to maximise her spare time completing class assignments, so she has her schedule free should her ambassador duties come knocking.
It’s also a dream of Damian’s to be able to afford to go to UWI next year to pursue a degree in Linguistics and Literatures, as well as Theatre and Film. In the meantime, he has been learning a few things about himself, including how to be an all-rounded person and to strive for what he wants.
“Doing this project I told myself I cannot let the trailblazers efforts die, so I am determined to live up to what they have done. So what I am trying to do is start a reading programme for those who can’t read because that is my way of giving back and what I am taking from this programme,” said Damian.
But to get these two talking about their parish is to learn about the six trailblazers and 52 unsung heroes they are honouring for their contribution over the years.
Their project’s theme is Builders of Our Communities, Pillars of Our Progress, and along with the Parish Independence Committee, they have been busy finding some of the noteworthy individuals whom they believe have left indelible marks on the parish.
Finding them have not been easy, but they are determined to honour them so the entire parish knows who they are and will remember. firstname.lastname@example.org