While societies would always have members who find themselves in need of special assistance, Barbados, for a number of reasons, has found itself at a juncture where persons at the two extremes of life are being neglected.
That’s the view of Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Jerome Walcott who over the weekend noted the increasing proportion within the population of elderly persons whose existence is pitted against a modern and less caring community.
At the same time, he cited examples of increasing deviant behaviour among the young and argued that they were also being left behind by a community that has with the passage of time become more individualistic.
For these reasons, the Senator implored members of the Lions Club Scotland District at their 27th Charter Night Dinner not to be satisfied with two decades of community work but set forth anew to take on additional selfless tasks in a society that finds itself with more persons having increasing needs.
During the Club’s anniversary dinner at Island Inn, the Lions singled out Lion Nigel Williams for his exceptional volunteering efforts towards community development.
Lion, Laureen Hinds, recalled a large number of community projects completed and looked at those the Club intended to take on as she advised, “but let us not rest on our laurels. There is much work to be done”.
Acknowledging that the Club already had under its belt a large number of completed projects, Walcott, however, invoked the call synonymous with the island’s Landship, when he said, “Barbados most definitely needs all hands on deck …these times are clearly not the best”.
He spoke of “social disruption” and while asking this Club to step up its efforts, made a general call for other such charitable organizations and the private sector to increase their role.
“There is a definite drift in our accepted socialization, to the extent where the block culture has become the choice for several young people. Deviant behaviour in our schools is generating appalling consequences, as is seen far too frequently in the various videos which go viral via social media,” he said Saturday night, adding there are “numbers of those in need, be it for food, shelter or financial assistance. While issues such as child abuse and elder abuse continue to occur in worrying proportions”.
“Each of you can and must make an impact, by giving of your time, experience and knowledge,” Walcott said to the assembled Lions.
“Your focus in the community should be on the elderly, the teenagers and the environment.”
The Senator observed that Barbados ranked among the top three nations with centenarians on a per capita basis.
“We have a growing aging population and our life expectancy is over seventy-five for both men and women. Unfortunately, with progress and development, we have become more sophisticated and the traditional family structure has all but disappeared.”
As a result, he said there was a “demographic chasm” with the aged being left to care for themselves.
“Now many grandmothers and grandfathers are left to live alone”.
He said that despite Lions members visiting the elderly, providing hampers, procuring wheelchairs and walkers, and feting them with picnics, “these persons still need to interact more with others and many of them have skills and are an untapped resource. In these circumstances, there is definitely a need for an Elderly Day Care centre/facility, in the Scotland District”.
He identified the abandoned former Elayne Scantlebury Home and suggested that it could be converted into an elderly centre.
“Develop a system of mentoring of teenagers in the communities of the Scotland District,” Walcott said as he turned attention to the other end of life’s spectrum.
“Go into the communities, build relationships, and identify community groups with which you can work. …so that the Lions club would then have a series of tentacles of activity on the ground in the communities.”
This, he said, will build a level of comfort and trust within the communities, and “thereafter you can identify teenagers in communities in challenged circumstances whom you can mentor. Take them out, expose them to different activities, these may be sporting, cultural and social, subtly influencing their system of values”.
Regarding the environment, he advised them to promote anti-littering and recycling activities to keep the Scotland District clean.
Zooming in on Belleplaine, which he bluntly said, “looks terrible”, Walcott urged a full debushing and beautification exercise. (GA)