Government has not closed the door on the possible restart of its Vision 2020 We Gatherin’ campaign that would see Barbadians from the diaspora returning to connect with their heritage, according to Project Coordinator for the campaign Selma Green.
She however told Barbados TODAY that a final decision would be made only after Prime Minister Mia Mottley and her Cabinet have assessed the country’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation after commercial flights start returning to the country this month.
In the meantime, Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Trade Sandra Husbands has disclosed plans to assemble a Diaspora Engagement Unit aimed at identifying opportunities for investment and engagement with people of Barbadian heritage living abroad.
Following a shutdown of the Grantley Adams International Airport due to the ongoing pandemic, Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that commercial flights from North America and the UK, where the diaspora is mostly located, would resume this month. Those two regions are also epicenters for the dreaded Coronavirus.
Consequently, the We Gatherin’ project coordinator has promised that authorities will adopt a “wait-and-see” attitude, given tremendous interest in the initiative from Barbadians here and abroad.
“I know there is a lot of goodwill for We Gatherin’ and we appreciate that and we certainly look forward to being able to safely recommence as soon as we can. Barbadians here and abroad have been asking when we would be able to reconvene, so the interest is still very keen for We Gatherin’ activities,” Greene told Barbados TODAY.
“But we can’t rush to do it because the premise of We Gatherin’ is gathering and if we restart it and there are spikes [in the number of cases], then that will compromise things. That is why we have to wait and see how the situation unfolds. The diaspora was a huge part of our programming as well, so we would like to see what travel patterns are like before we decide.
“Once we have been given the all-clear when the borders are open, then we will determine how we will move forward with the other activities, but that will be determined by the Prime Minister and her Cabinet,” she further stressed.
When contacted by Barbados TODAY, Minister Husbands acknowledged that a main pillar of Government’s Vision 2020 objectives is the development of a “diasporic economy” that will include the skills and resources of Barbadians living abroad in the country’s growth plan.
Amid the fallout of Covid-19, the Ministry of Trade has instead assembled a Diaspora Engagement Unit to seek out members of the diaspora and connect them with their heritage even if We Gatherin’ is unable to restart in full.
“Members of the diaspora who grew up here are connected to Barbados, but their children and their grandchildren are not, and if we don’t move now while those grandparents are still alive to encourage them to connect to Barbados, we will continue to lose entire family lines, because their destiny will remain solely in England, Canada, America or wherever they are located,” Minister Husbands explained.
“So within this next year or two, we need to get connected with those second, third and fourth generation Barbadians to help them to know they have a Barbadian heritage, a Barbadian home and that there are ways to integrate and engage the Barbadian space for their benefit and ours,” she added.
Although most of the We Gatherin’ initiatives have been postponed since March, the Pride of Barbados Awards will continue to be extended to community stalwarts and those in the diaspora. This month, those awardees will come from St Philip and St Thomas.