by Latoya Burnham
The evening was late. The sun was heading fast for the horizon, but the breeze sweeping St. Joseph was strong – a literal breath of fresh air. High above Andrews Factory a Barbados flag flapped loudly, as in the distance the strong, yet aged voice of an old lady singing church hymns carried on the wind.
St. Joseph was life, personified, and so were its two Ambassadors.
Kimberley Knight and Rommell Marshall are so full of vigour it renews hope in the future of Barbados’ youth. At 26 and 23 years respectively, their love for their parish and their individual ambitions put paid to some beliefs that the island’s young people only think of themselves.
The Parish Ambassadors Programme was something Kimberley always wanted to get involved in, but somehow her schedule seemed never to ease enough to allow her to dedicate the time. This year, it seemed the stars – or fate – were in her favour so she gave in to the desire to serve.
“I’ve taken a lot from St. Joseph. I went to primary school in St. Joseph; I went to church and I remember training at Grantley Adams School for athletics. This land has fed me and done so much for me – to whom much is given, much is expected and I just wanted to give back,” said the ambassador.
It’s statements like this, from both Kimberley and her partner, that tell the story of them getting involved in the programme.
“When I was about 11 I was in the talent section for St. Joseph and I guess just being around it, because my dad was the chairperson at that time, so I just wanted to do it. It took me so long because essentially I am a lazy person, so I would only remember in the heat of the competition and would tell myself, okay next year, let me look to apply,” Rommell explained.
So far, he said it has been one of his best decisions, as it has served several purposes, for example – bringing him and his dad back close together after he frankly noted that some of his decisions about his life and career put a strain on their relationship.
With a creative mind and plans of being a professional dancer, Rommell said this year he and Kimberley are the perfect blend. Where he is creative, he said his partner was firm, solid, practical – a fact that it seemed was borne out with each answer to every question posed to the 26-year-old woman.
“Rommell is the creative side of me, so we are like two sides of a conscience. I am more serious but Rommell would come like, ‘We have to put some sass into this’. So it works really well,” she stated.
Her serious side is also an industrial side as she admitted that she enjoys being extremely busy – it is when she feels most useful.
“I like to have my hand in a million things at the same time. So the programme is useful but it is also time consuming as you can imagine. You are trying to save the world one community at a time, so it is not going to take five minutes, but we make it work,” she laughed.
And that community spirit, they said, has been one of the most enjoyable parts of the programme. Every community they have been to, they said the people have been extremely supportive, with some even warning them that they have to bring the crown east this year.
Their project for the year, The A-Z of Josephine Legacies: Crafting and Budding Our Communities, has helped to solidify this family feeling because it has allowed them to research and eventually award nine stalwarts in the parish for their contributions.
From early when people heard about the project, Kimberley said they had parishioners walking up to them and suggesting names of people they needed to interview to be honoured.
“It is a real serious thing here [in St. Joseph]. People saying, ‘look Kimberley, we want to win’.”
“I think part of the problem is that we never win and we are never in the runnings… but I think this year we are in a good position and we had two good turn outs for the phases. So I think we can do it,” noted Rommell.
It was Kimberley, once again though, who put the programme and the upcoming Spirit of the Nation into perspective: “But bigger than winning or losing and bigger than Rommell and myself or Caroline [the attendant] and the entire PIC is the fact that from January to December we believe the community is a little bit better because of us, win or lose. It is about giving and planting a seed and watching it grow, so we feel good about ourselves.”
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