With the introduction of Barbados’ first Hall of Fame for centenarians, a top tourism official is suggesting that these elderly Barbadians should be used to help market the country.
Speaking at the George Lamming Primary School where the Hall of Fame was launched this morning, public relations consultant with the Ministry of Tourism, Hugh Foster said the country should be pleased that it has produced so many citizens who live long, productive and happy lives.
He said with 54 living cenetenarians, Barbados needs to capitalize on, leverage and monetize the good fortune of having so many people here outliving most people in the rest of the world.
Foster also said the Hall was a step in the right direction, adding that there was hardly anyone who did not experience a sense of joy when they read or heard about the Governor General visiting another centenarian.
“Mr James Sisnett was the second oldest person alive on the planet and a large photo of him should have been mounted at the airport for visitors to comprehend the outstanding longevity of our people,” he said.
“Even a poster of Mr Sisnett or a montage of our centenarians should be in the arrival hall of the Grantley Adams International Airport and at the Brigetown Port as well,” he said.
He went further to suggest that others, who have not reached that milestone but have made an impact in other areas, should also be honoured in this way.
“National hero Sir Garry Sobers should have a portrait at the airport; so too Rihanna and draughts player Suki King, footballer Emmerson Boyce and Olympian Obadele Thompson.”
The Hall of Fame was the brain child of Government advisor on social policy, Hamilton Lashley.
A profile including a picture of those who reach the age of 100 will be placed in a school or community centre of their choice.
“Some of the benefits that would be derived from this award programme will be the preservation of our oral traditions, the preservation of our indigenous cultural heritage and adopting healthier lifestyles which will help to reduce our food import bill,” Lashley said.
The first inductee was Elise Weekes, mother of entertainer Desmond Weekes who is the founder and director of the annual Mother’s Day show, Mum, This One’s For You.
The centenarian, formerly of 2nd Avenue, Tweedside Road, Carrington Village, St Michael marked her milestone today in Brooklyn, New York, where she now resides, ahead of a grand celebration on Sunday.
Seeking a better standard of living for her 10 children, Weekes migrated to New York where she worked hard with very little pay, but managed to supplement her income by babysitting the children of Barbadians residing in that state.
While not as fit as she used to be, Weekes still has a good memory and is capable of doing everything for herself.
Weekes has always taken her Christian responsibilities seriously and to this day still worships at the St Marks Church, in Brooklyn where last Sunday, a thanksgiving service celebrating her life was held.
Minister of Social Care, Steve Blackett, in his remarks, applauded the Hall of Fame initiative which he said should have been introduced a long time ago. He extended his gratitude to those who had the foresight to conceptualize the idea and bring it to fruition.
“We can learn a lot from our centenarians. We have a rich heritage based on the contributions and sacrifices their generation has made to help Barbados develop into a nation we can be truly proud of,” he said.
“Many of them will tell you that they have reached the ripe age of 100 through a diet based on ground provisions, being hard workers and, most of all, having an abiding faith in God. Elsie Weekes exemplifies all three of these. I am sure if she was here she would tell you that she was raised on yam, eddoes, cassava and breadfruit. Personally, I have never heard any one of our elders saying that macaroni pie or chips was their staple.”