I sit in front of the computer screen with thoughts and frustrations ravaging my soul and my mind. There is so much I want to say, so much that needs ventilation and attention.
Another set of Barbadian women have organized themselves into a social media force to bring awareness and support to another aspect of women’s lives. Another big, hairy, no speak issue has been yanked from under our dirty and festering national rug.
Queens healing Queens is a new Facebook space which is catering to women who are living with depression and mental illness. It was a relief for many of the women to just be able to be in a space where they could claim their issues and not be ridiculed. The space is a non-Christian space and it was refreshing for their challenges not to be labelled as demons or for the prescription not to be ‘you want saving’.
The group is still quite infantile and there are several issues of confidentiality and operationalization left to be worked out. I, however, thought I would share the initiative in this space now in case anybody needs to reach out. Heredity is a factor in mental illness and sometimes in the most extreme cases, mothers with mental challenges are sometimes unable to rear their children because of their own challenges.
In other cases, women upon whom the burden of care falls often unevenly, are struggling to keep sons, daughters or husbands alive as they struggle with issues of mental illness. For all the cases, and because we know there is not enough support in Barbados around these needs, I thought I would let those who needed the hope know that a group has started around the issue and you can reach out to me through the email below if you need support.
The other issue which is causing me worry is the continued state of sports on the island and the ‘nuff lotta long talk’ surrounding the issues. Sport has become the new panel discussion topic. The Barbados Youth Development Council, a few Saturdays ago, hosted talks on the future of sports in Barbados. Meantime, in real time, athletes from across all disciplines in Barbados continue to write their names and that of their little dot of an island on history’s pages not because of the support they receive, but in spite of receiving no support.
How brazen can the Government of Barbados be to use sports as a ‘buzz topic’ at the start of a heating election campaign when their record on the matter has been so abysmal? The schools across Barbados, for the second straight year, have been forced to use less than acceptable conditions at the National Stadium to host the Inter-Schools track meet. For quite some time at the start of the year, question marks hung over whether the National Primary Schools Athletic meet (NAPSAC) would have been held.
There is still no national strategy for sports in Barbados. We exploit the raw talent of children and most of them are retired too early in their careers because of poor management and avoidable injury. The national associations are all underfunded and oft times there is serious conflict and capacity issues which hamper the administration of sports. Several sports are without official homes and those that do have homes struggle to keep them maintained and in the black.
Perhaps you have the picture and perhaps not. After this personal testimony, I am sure you will. The Barbados Junior Golf team is made up partly of talent which was scouted using the National Sports Council’s yearly sporting camp. I have noted before that the Sports Council Camp is one of the few wholesome and functional things in the Barbadian sporting structure. Once yearly, the Government subsidizes all disciplines coached under the Sports Council programme which exposes ordinary Barbadian children between eight and 16 to various sporting disciplines.
Were there effective monitoring and evaluation of the camp, I would be able to tell you the numbers of semi and professional athletes we have produced from this set up. But alas, I would be surprised if we could even say how many children this camp has served over the last few years. The challenge is that once the camp is completed, there is no other structure to support talent that is scouted during the six-week period. Children who exhibit the raw talent to play a sport like golf, find themselves in the middle of the ocean with mounting expense from the demands of the sport and parents and coaches who do everything, except what is illegal, to scaffold the children.
This is the model we are following to produce elite athletes. This is our model for producing high net worth Barbadians which we can sell to the world as an industry. We send children to compete against other national teams who have physiotherapists, weekly organized junior programmes, meal plans. Largely our children make a good showing but it is because we exploit raw talent, not because we are doing any of the things we should to bolster our young athletes.
Let me end by introducing you to thirteen year old Dario Sargeant. Dario stumbled across golf because the Barbados Golf Club abuts the community in which he used to ‘lime’. Dario took interest in the game he was seeing and he started to knock some balls. The coach for the National Junior Team, Coach Denis Foster, saw Dario’s swing and offered the child an opportunity to join his lessons. In seven short months, Dario has come through trials with scores clustering around 83 and is currently the top ranked player in the 11-13 boys age group.
Dario is a student of the Grantley Adams Secondary School. Since the school’s bus is always late in the morning and not guaranteed to come in the evening, Dario opts to stay home on Fridays to ensure that he can get to his 3:30 p.m. coaching lesson with his coach. The parents and coaches have basically adopted Dario because there are no financial outlets immediately available to support his talent. There is not even a mechanism to get Dario transferred to a school closer to the course to make school and golf possible on Friday. That is the true state of sports in Barbados.
The Barbados Golf Association has scraped to send our national team to the Republic Bank Open in Trinidad. The boys are sharing rooms and they travelled alone at the grace of the Immigration Departments of the region because the Association could not afford to send their coach too. At the end of the first day of play, Dario was second in the 11-13 boys category. Barbados was 1, 2 in the 14-16 age category with Zavier Wiggins and Oaziah Layne comfortable ahead at the top of the group. Regular name, junior player Iz Hustler, was tied third in the boys 16-17 category while in the 11-13 females, Barbados was 1, 2 in Emily Odwin and Eryn Blakeley.
So talk. While you all talk, our athletes are working. Their work looks like play to many. Maybe, someday their talk will catch some action and we will start to produce world class athletes as we were once known to do.
(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full-time mummy and part-time lecturer in communications at the University of the West Indies. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)