Residents of St James, on the island’s beautiful west coast, have much to celebrate about their parish which can boast of scoring ‘firsts’.
It was there, for example, that the first British colonial settlers landed almost 400 years ago. St James was also where the first church on the island was built.
If all goes well, the 2016 St James parish ambassadors, Regina Hinds and Keimar Blackman, are hoping to add another first by taking the top spot at the Spirit of the Nation show during the celebration of Barbados’ 50th anniversary of Independence in November.
Speaking to Bajan Vibes, the pair was clearly delighted to have been afforded the opportunity to make a difference in their community.
Keimar, who is affectionately known as Joe-Joe, was particularly passionate about working to uplift young people in the community, constructing a basketball court and improving drainage along the parish’s main road.
He is using the Parish Ambassadors Programme as his platform to lobby for assistance to make these projects a reality.
Keimar enjoys surfing, boogie-boarding, playing football, music (he is currently learning to play the steel pan) and shopping. He is enjoying life.
Regina is the typical 21-year-old who loves to shop, is quite a beauty queen and loves to take nice long naps. She is a decorative artist who is also into soap-making. She takes full advantage of her front row seat to the “best beaches” in the world and swims regularly.
On the more serious side, the parish ambassadors experience has been an eye opening one for Regina. She saw herself as a ‘destination addict’; however, she believes the experience in the competition so far, will better prepare her for the world of work.
Christina Haynes is the attendant and has enjoyed working with the pair. Her job is to chaperone the ambassadors to all of their events and to be their “strongpoint” to the Parish Independence Committee (PIC).
Parish ambassadors in each of the island’s 11 parishes are required to undertake a project each year. This year’s project is broken down into two components under the theme of “Celebrating Who We are …Proud of Our Heritage”. There are a Junior Ambassadors Programme and a Heritage Trail.
Celebrating Who We are …Proud of Our Heritage involves placing emphasis on persons, places, events, customs/traditions, industry, health or educational achievements which have had a positive impact or have been a catalyst for change.
St James features prominently in the history of Barbados and also its socio-economic development in diverse activities such as tourism, fishing and Agriculture. This rich background showcases a diverse range of cultural, natural, social and historical interests which can encourage persons to explore the heritage of St James.
With the context of this year’s Parish Ambassadors Programme, St James has launched a Junior Ambassadors Programme which is open to children from primary and secondary schools in parish.
Participants will be trained as junior ambassadors so that when they are eligible at the age of 18 to be parish ambassadors, they will already know what is expected and would be better equipped to carry out the various duties.
Additionally, the initiative aims to equip school children with the necessary competencies to support their personal and professional development. To date, there are 20 junior ambassadors drawn from St Silas Primary, Gordon Greenidge Primary, St Albans Primary, St James Primary and Frederick Smith Secondary.
Training sessions to date have dealt with topics such as The Role of an Ambassador, Know Your Parish, Self Esteem, Communication Skills, Conflict Resolution and The Importance of Community Service.
Regina explained: “This project is two-fold as it will also encourage young men to be a part of the Parish Ambassadors Programme because it is growing difficult to find young men who are willing to participate.”
The Junior Ambassador Programme was launched at Gordon Greenidge Primary in May 2016. It is expected that the Heritage Trails will be unveiled in October, 2016.
Last year, the St James Parish Ambassadors focused on R.I.C.H. (Resourcefulness, Integrity, Creativity and Heart), a community tourism based project. Its goal was to improve the livelihood of St James residents by utilizing existing resources in the provision of tourism services.
The project also created a greater awareness of community based tourism and its importance in building a sustainable future. It underscored the significance of harnessing local history, heritage, natural environment and cultural uniqueness, as part of tourism offerings, to enrich the experience of domestic, regional and international tourists while creating employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.
This year’s St James Parish Ambassadors project builds on last year’s efforts. Coming out of that project, 20 tour guides from the parish were trained, entrepreneurship opportunities were created, and there was a clean-up of the Weston community, including the gully, drainage and beach.
Asked what makes St James the best parish in his opinion, Keimar mentioned the people, the rich heritage which stands out among the other parishes, the only working sugar factory (Portvale) and the best hotels.
As for Regina, she replied: “We are a R.I.C.H Parish (Resourcefulness, Integrity, Creativity and Heart). We have the platinum coast, the best beaches in Barbados, nightlife and, of course, Folkestone Marine Park.”
The St James Parish Ambassadors are going all out to win this year after placing second to St Lucy in 2015. We wish them the best in their endeavors.