Dame Olga Lopes-Seale, affectionately known as Auntie Olga, should be posthumously named a National Hero of Barbados, says president of the Variety Club of Barbados, Colin Brewer.
For her selfless service to the island and her extraordinary humanitarian work at large, Brewer said the Variety Club of Barbados strongly felt that Dame Olga should be accorded the country’s highest honour, joining the ranks of Sir Grantley Adams, Sir Frank Walcott, Sir Hugh Springer, Bussa, Charles Duncan Oneal, Clement Payne, Errol Barrow, Sarah Ann Gill, Samuel Jackman Prescod and Sir Garfield Sobers, who is the only living National Hero.
The call comes on the heels of this week’s National Heroes commemoration.
“We talk about National Heroes in Barbados who were created ten to 15 years ago, and we believe that when you talk about National Heroes, the question of National Heroes should be a perpetual question,” Brewer said.
He asked: “Who are our new Heroes? Who are the other people we should bring on as National Heroes? It should not be set in stone these were the Heroes ten to 15 years ago. And we feel somebody like Auntie Olga should be recognized as a National Hero of Barbados, and it is something we feel strongly about because her work was selfless and to have a selfless social worker who helped people is for me a real National Hero, and not just a politician or a trade union leader,” the president said.
Since her passing in 2011, the Variety Club of Barbados has continued her humanitarian work.
Variety International will also bestow on her the Catherine Sheridan Award, which is presented to individuals in recognition of philanthropic achievements, primarily those pertaining to underprivileged and disabled children.
Executive director of the Variety Club, Donnah Russell, said the organization had nominated Dame Olga for the international award and she was immediately accepted for the accolade, which would be presented to her family when Variety International convenes its conference in Barbados on May 22 to 26 for the second time in over a decade, the last occasion being 1999. Dr Richard Ishmael, who is one of the founding members of the Variety Club in Barbados, is the only other Barbadian to have received the award.
“The award is given to any philanthropist who has given of themselves without asking for any reward and it can be anyone in the world,” noted Russell.
Of Dame Olga, he said: “We are trying to walk in her shoes and are trying to do exactly what she did with her club, and we have only been able to implement some of her programmes so far because she did not have an administrator or secretary or anything like that. So we are trying to pick up the pieces as we go.
“We are now seeing what she has done for Barbados and I think people don’t really know the extent of what she has done for Barbados,” Russell added.
The Guyanese-born Dame Olga has been relentless in the fight for equality, and her determination to assist those in need has made her a role model in both her native Guyana and Barbados, which she called home since the 1960s. Over the years Auntie Olga who established the Needy Children’s Fund has received several awards.
Russell added that Senator Kerryann Ifill would also be honoured at this year’s Variety conference, which coincides with 20 years of service for the Variety Club of Barbados, with the Catherine Sheridan Award for her outstanding work with persons who are physically challenged.
American heart surgeon Dr Jose’ Ettedguy will also receive the James Carreras Award for his work in helping children with heart problems in Barbados and across the Eastern Caribbean.