For the first time in its 119 years in Barbados, the local chapter of the Salvation Army will be headed by a Barbadian couple.
Major Darrell Wilkinson, who hails from Eastbourne, St Phillip, and Major Joan Wilkinson, originally from Upper Carlton, St James, took up their positions on July 13.
The couple will be installed by the Territorial Commander of the Salvation Army in the Caribbean, Mark Tillsley, in a public welcoming ceremony on September 17.
Welcoming the appointments, the couple said: “ We are excited about the appointment. It is a challenging time for us because of the economic downturn. The expectations of the needy may be greater because we are also Barbadians. However, we feel that we are equal to the challenge.”
They added: “People are going to be facing more pressure as their spending power decreases. However, we want to remain relevant at a time like this.”
The Wilkinsons have spent 18 years in Jamaica, three years in Trinidad and Tobago, one year in the Bahamas and two years in Guyana.
Commenting on the housing of recently released prisoners at their Reed Street headquarters, Major Darrell acknowledged that Government had provided funding for the construction of facilities and the Salvation Army provided the accommodation.
He however told Barbados TODAY that many difficulties had arisen under the programme.
“The behaviour of some of the prisoners was not very good and to handle it there was an issue. We want to revisit the programme so that we can have a different kind of prisoner,” he said.
“We have to screen the prisoners so that we would know for whom we are providing shelter. The Probation Office wants to work with us so that we would know who we are accommodating,” he added.
Major Darrell said during his tenure, Speightstown, St Peter will be provided with a feeding programme, an emergency disaster centre and a skills training centre.
Acknowledging that the Salvation Army in Barbados has never had a shelter for women, he promised to address the situation whilst expressing concern that the number of homeless young women with children is rising.
Major Darrell said his focus will be on transforming lives, especially in these difficult times.
As for Major Joan, she will be in charge of the women’s ministry in Barbados and St Lucia. She will be establishing a holistic ministry which will look at the provision of clothes, food, counselling and the word of God.
The Salvation Army provides meals for 160 persons per day, with 34 of them being delivered to homes.
Giving the assurance that the Salvation Army can be of assistance to the island if there is a disaster, Consultant to Major Wilkinson, Major Denzil Walcott, said; “ We can provide about 100 meals twice per day at the Salvation Army. There are times when we have gone to as many as 300 meals, but we do not want to make a commitment to that because it is one of those things you have to watch as you go along.”