Look for the helpers

By Glen Herbert, for The Grenadines Initiative

In the wake of 9/11, Fred Rogers took to the airwaves to talk to children about when something catastrophic happens. Speaking as much to the adults watching as to the kids, he said “always look for the helpers. Because if you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.”

You, me, people all around the world are experiencing another inexplicable time. And while the shock has been slower to set in—it seemed like a cold at first, or just another seasonal flu bug—it came and is still coming. We’re not getting past this quite yet. Not this week or the next, or even the one after that. Its economic effect will be lasting and persistent.

I was lucky to get to Bequia this March, this before we really knew what was happening all around us. While there, I met with some helpers. I met with teachers from across the island to hear their thoughts on how we can support what they’re doing with their students. They’d like to grow digital literacies, so we talked about what was needed there. (I’m happy to say that we now have chromebooks at the Lower Bay School, Paget Farm Government, Bequia Anglican Primary, Bequia SDA Primary, Bequia Community High School, and the Learning Center.) They talked, too, about what it means to teach; how, while it’s about ABCs and times tables, it’s also about encouraging aspirations and growing curiosities. I wish you could have heard them, and its sad that we don’t get a chance to see what teachers really do each day. Whether they’re standing at the board, or working one-on-one to read through a difficult passage, or marking a test, they’re making an expression of care. They’re helping.

On the Saturday morning when I was down I met with the junior sailors and talked to the coaches while the kids set off into the harbour to race around the buoys. They’re doing great things, better than you likely are able to imagine. In talking about the program, Rose Kaye said to me, “there’s no point if you’re not changing lives.” And they are. The JSAB, with academic support from the Learning Center, has realized a total of seven Competent Crew and five Day Skippers in the short time since it was inaugurated. For the participants, this realizes a sense of accomplishment—which itself shouldn’t be underestimated—as well as access to a range of employment opportunities. (The program was recently featured in Caribbean Compass magazine.)

Once home I was in touch with Gabby Ollivierre. She’s fine, of course, and as adaptable and resilient as ever. She’s completing her two-year degree online and, prior to the COVID shutdown, had been interning at a prominent restaurant in Calgary. But I was saddened when I received an email this week from the president’s office at SAIT—that’s the college Gabby’s been attending—saying that the graduation ceremony is cancelled. It’s just an event, of course, but it was also a point Gabby’s life. She’s come a long way, and that was going to be her celebration. There would have been a lot of people there with her, in mind at least, though some were also looking forward to making the trip in person. 

It’s not catastrophic. She’s doing well, the sailors are doing well, the teachers are missing the kids, but they’re doing OK too. But we all need something. We need stuff, and food. Right now I’d like grilled fish on a green salad with a side of Hairoun from Mac’s. On my last night before coming back to Canada in a rush, that’s what I ordered. “Why do you always order the same thing?” the server asked, laughing. We talked about where I’m from, the virus, the sense of uncertainty with whatever might happen next. Indeed, the best thing she gave me that night was just that: connection. We all need that, too. 

Truly, it doesn’t take much. Just a smile, a nod, a little joke. Thankfully we don’t need to stand within six feet of each other in order to make an expression of care. We can send a text, make a call, Zoom, wave at each other on Facebook. This is also true: the communities of Bequia will feel this pandemic in ways that the rest of the world won’t, and some will feel it harder and longer than many can imagine. But there will be helpers. At the end of that address in 2001, Fred Rogers said, “Thank you for whatever you do, wherever you are, to bring joy and light and hope and faith and pardon and love to your neighbour and to yourself.” Whatever it is, it’s worth it. Today, tomorrow, next month. We can do this.

What is it like to be Jamell Ollivierre?

for The Grenadines Initiative

What is it like to be Jamell Ollivierre? I can’t answer that question, of course—certainly we can’t really know what it’s like to be anyone other than who we are—though the outlines are there. I met with him one morning at the patio of Keegan’s in Lower Bay, just off the beach, the waves rolling in and out in the background. He’s soft spoken, but certainly not meek. You can see he’s thinking big thoughts, if not necessarily feeling the need to say all of them out loud.

Jamell is a child of the island, to be sure, though ironically not comfortable on the sea that surrounds it. While many students take the ferry every day to attend high school on St. Vincent, he opted to stay with an uncle through the week. Otherwise, sea sickness would have put an end to an education.

That’s not a barrier to higher learning that most of the world can associate with— sea sickness—though it was the first of many that are unique to young people in the region. In can be a difficult path in all kinds of ways. “I wasn’t like the other kids,” he says trailing off as he does. It’s less a statement of fact than an admission of his predicament—a nod to the arc of his life, of who he is and who he has been, growing up in Lower Bay. “It was humbling,” he says, if able to admit the joys as well. As we walk through Lower Bay he points out where he played soccer with cousins and neighbourhood kids in a stand of trees just in from the rocky part of the beach.

It was idyllic in a way, though even from when he was very young, Jamell knew he wanted something more. He wanted to learn about science, healing, and systems. He wanted to become a doctor. “Some of my classmates, when I told them, a lot of them used to laugh,” he says. He gets it. There has never been a primary-care doctor from Bequia, just as there has never been an astronaut from Tibet. It’s not impossible. It just hasn’t happened and, in its way, can seem a bit distant. “Just the thought and the idea of becoming a doctor seems silly to most people,” he says. “But it wasn’t to me.”

What’s it like to be Jamell Ollivierre? That comment— “but it wasn’t to me” —is a good hint. He saw a breadth of possibility that others maybe didn’t. He saw things in himself that others couldn’t visualize in themselves. He wasn’t like the other kids.

Jamell attended Bequia Anglican Primary, then St. Vincent Grammar School, then college and now university. He attributes much of what he’s accomplished to the support of his family and his mother in particular. She pushed him into positions of leadership, even if that’s not the word she would use. “My mom, she encouraged me to hang out with teenage guys that play football. To hang out with them, encourage them, help them with their homework, ‘so they can see you as an influence.’” He is an athlete, and has competed regionally. He also has long been a volunteer with the Red Cross, recently as part of the executive committee. One of the tasks he organizes is flood monitoring in a village on St. Vincent. After heavy rains, he goes door to door, taking stock. Did the water come into your house? Is there any erosion? Are your foundations intact? He writes up what he finds and reports back to the Red Cross. Those reports help inform the level and type of response. 

It’s not the kind of work that garners much thanks or even notice, but he has a lot to give, and he regularly gives it. “I must admit I’m a sore loser,” he admits when pressed. “I like sticking to what I want, I like digging into it. That’s what influences me to continue.” He’s currently in his second year of medical school at the American University of St. Vincent. That in itself is an achievement, though he knows better than anyone that it’s one point in a much longer journey, the completion of which remains anything but certain.

“A majority of the students live close to the school, but I live far from the school. So getting to school is troublesome.” He gets up early each morning, goes to sleep late each night. The days are long, but he feels everything is worth every effort he’s able to give. It’s interesting, for one, and pathology, in particular, has peaked his interest. “It helps to understand how different diseases can affect the system,” he says. “How to look and how to understand how the body is effected by pathogens … it helps you to understand how fragile the human body is.” (In reference to the ratio of time spent to lessons learns, he says, “it’s very high yield.”)     

Yes, he’s not like other kids, even if that’s perhaps true in varying degrees for all of us. “I know what I have to do. I know what I need to do to make my dreams become reality. So that’s what I’m doing.” In contrast, he admits “a lot of people on the island who are my age, they limit themselves. A lot of them get into drugs, smoke, drink … they limit their sight or their insights. And I didn’t want to limit myself.”

There are two more years of medical school, then specializations, rotations, exams, and fundraising to support it all. He’d like to do at least some of his training out of country, so there will be visa applications, travel and living expenses as well. “To be honest,” he says, “the St. Vincent hospital [Milton Cato Memorial] is not well equipped. It’s become very limited in what they can teach.” He’s well aware of the complexities of studying abroad will bring. “I need to think three steps ahead.” He’s able to do that, in part, thanks to the support of two significant donors.

I ask him how he’d like to people to think of him. Most people would demur at that kind of question, and for a moment it seems that he will as well. But then he decides not to. “When people look at me, I’d like them to think that this guy came from this small island, so many obstacles before him, and he overcame every single one of them to achieve what he could achieve, and come back and help to pull others up with him. That’s what I really hope to achieve.”

He’d like to become a doctor from Bequia, practicing on Bequia, in part because of what it will say to other young people who are like him. To date, as Jamell notes, Bequia imports doctors. He will become the first primary-care physician from Bequia who practices on Bequia—someone from the island, who has lived the island experience, and who provides care for islanders. Once there’s a first, the door will have been opened for the second and the third, in part because of the message that kind of achievement sends: that it’s ok to think bigger thoughts, and to hold larger aspirations.


The challenges remain many, and while no one can become a doctor for him, we can make the road a little less rocky and help to ease some of the obstacles Jamell faces. We can do that, first, by simply letting him know that we want to see him succeed. As Kadeem Hazell once told me said about his journey to becoming a pilot, “You do better when people believe you can do better.” Certainly, he’s a prime example of that principle. Any thoughts you have for Jamell, please respond to this email and we’ll be sure to pass them along. Tuition, supplies, too, need to be paid for, and if you can help there, you can do that through our donation page, indicating that you’d like to direct your gift to supporting Jamell’s education.

Why do we go to school?

The best reasons aren’t always the ones you think of first

by Glen Herbert

“It’s very Harry Potter,” says Michael Simmonds, chuckling a bit as he does. I was speaking to him about what Havergal College does best, a school in Toronto where he is vice principal. Havergal is one of the foremost girls’ schools in Canada, and regularly ranks among the top schools in the nation. It really does have ivy-covered walls, and the fact that he’s comparing it to a fictional school for wizards feels a bit wilting. Hence the chuckle. He continues, “But, you know, I’m serious. Harry Potter lived in a closet, hid his special powers, knew he was different, and had to go to Hogwarts to be empowered. There’s a lot to be said for bringing a group of like people together … It’s a culture of empowerment.”

For everything that Havergal does—its list of alumni reads like a list of Canadian who’s who—it’s interesting that, when asked about the quality of the school, he doesn’t talk about outcomes, he talks about the culture and the learning environment. We too often think about education in terms of the stuff we find there: desks, books, curriculum, lessons. We also, I think wrongly, too often think of education in transactional terms: do this now, so that you can do something else later, such as get a job, or enter post-secondary studies.

The lesson of Harry Potter is that the real strength of successful schools community. The best educational environments are personal, relational. Karrie Weinstock says that “no child learns math before she learns the connection with her teacher. If the connection isn’t there, she’s never going to learn as well. This is the enduring value of connection and community.” Weinstock is a long-time educator, and currently vice-principal at Branksome Hall, another prominent private school in Toronto. Like Simmons, for her the strength of the school isn’t the buildings or the books, but the relationships that form there. When I asked her what makes a school a great school, she said “it’s a million small conversations” namely those between students, faculty, and peers. “I believe every girl comes to school every day wanting to be the best she can be. And then to meet adults and peers in that environment who are similarly aspiring—that’s a very good mix. That to me is a good school.”

” … the place where citizens prevail … “

The Learning Center was formed in 2003 to be that kind of environment, even if the founders perhaps didn’t think of it explicitly in those terms. Tylisha Miller, a teacher and director at The Learning Center in Port Elizabeth is like Simmonds in that she doesn’t see her work as simply teaching, or tutoring. She sees her role as one of listening, and supporting, and recognizing their special powers: the skills, talents, and personalities that students bring with them into the classroom. She describes it as an environment “where they don’t feel pressured but instead feel safe, loved and cared for.”

“For me it was not employment,” says Miller of finding a role at the center, “it was my new found family, my home.” It’s a place where, says Miller, kids “are given the attention needed to excel.” It’s a community in the way that John McKnight, director of the Community Studies Program at the Center for Urban Affairs at Northwestern University, defines it: “the place where citizens prevail.”

Why we do what we do

The support that we give, through the Grenadines Initiative, is in the service of those larger goals. That’s why we listen to teachers, first, before sending stuff—they know best what their students need, and we want to help them deliver it.

Because, ultimately, the real value of school is the people you find there. People like Morrie Hercules, who inspired other people, through example, to join the effort, including Felicia Frederick. People like Devvy King, who think about best practices, and are as open to their students as they are to new ideas. Or Jan Providence, who is excited about raising chickens with her students. She should be excited. It’s great work. It’s not really about chickens, of course, it’s about the quality of the relationships that hands-on learning can engender. That’s why kids go to school: to grow those kinds of relationships. To grow their sense of who they are and gain a confidence in bringing their talents to bear in their communities. To enter a space where people laugh at their jokes, and ache in the same places. A space where they know, without question: these are my friends, this is my school.

Profile: Carmette Gooding

By Glen Herbert, for The Grenadines Initiative

“We call it the Big Rock,” says Carmette Gooding, “but it’s the only rock.” She recalls jumping off of it into the surf when she was growing up on Bequia. “We’d wait for the biggest wave to come, then we’d jump in it. When the wave was breaking. We loved that, I loved that as a kid!”

I say that it sounds like a fun place to grow up. “Fun place?! Not in my day. It was hard work!” She remembers walking across the island to get milk for the family. “I used to go there every morning before school to get a bottle of milk. I would get up so early, it was dark you could barely see through the bushes. I had to go through all those gullies, and up the hill and down, before you go to school. To get the milk for our breakfast. That was the only milk we had then. We didn’t have any can milk or powder milk, or all of this kind of stuff. We had to go for it every morning.” I ask if she ever felt like saying, forget this, get your own milk. “Forget?! You forget and your mom and dad knock your head off!” She bursts into a laugh, then adds “You couldn’t say no in those days.”

Still, it does sound like fun, and in truth she admits that much of it really was. She recalls making banana and fish dumplings, and long days at the sea. “In those days you’d never even feel the sun, either. You’d be on the beach all day, all day sitting in that sun waiting til people finish the cooking, and then you go back in the sea again.”

I spoke with Carmette in Solana’s, the shop in Port Elizabeth she runs with her daughter. Sitting there, it feels like being in the thick of things, and perhaps you are. Spend long enough and perhaps the whole island will drop in. “My mother’s the kind of person, everybody knows her,” says Solana. “Everybody feels comfortable coming in and telling her their problems. They know her and they can relate to her, and she will sit down and talk with them.”

“She could get carried away sometimes,” says Solana. “If she could help everybody, she would. She doesn’t like to tell people ‘no.’ She likes working with people who are just as passionate as her about taking care of things that need to be taken care of.” She’s got lots of opinions, as well as a brilliant way of expressing them. When I once asked her about the value of volunteerism, she said “the more you pay, the less work you get.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that, borne of her decades of experience on various committees and initiatives.

Apart from work in the shop, Carmette is the FedEx agent for the island, and sells real estate. Since the 1990s she’s been treasurer for the Bequia Mission, a role she continues today with the Grenadines Initiative. It’s been years of raffles, and repairing homes, delivering food and supplies, selling books at the book sales beneath the almond tree. “I always enjoy meeting people,” she says. “And why not? I love doing that kind of work.” I ask if she’s game to oversee the book sale tables on Hero’s Day again this year. “Why not?! Of course.” And she means it. She’ll be there.

The sargassum crisis

An initiative taken jointly with Action Bequia may be one of the first steps in addressing the problem. It certainly won’t be the last.

By Glen Herbert for The Grenadines Initiative

“This may be the worst algal bloom in the history of mankind on earth that we’ve ever seen,” says George Buckley, a professor of the Harvard University Extinction School. (Buckley has created an excellent backgrounder on the problem, which can be viewed here.) That algae, sargassum, is a weed, though the potential for it to affect lifestyles and livelihoods is substantial. When researchers use the word “crisis” in reference to the bloom, they are thinking specifically of its ability to impact to the economies throughout the Caribbean.

To date, nearly nothing has been done to counteract the effects in a way that answers the sheer size of the bloom. Some hotels in Mexico have been using sargassum as a medium in which to grow mushrooms. Other communities, including that of Mustique, rake the beaches every day at dawn. Those things are a starting point, to be sure, though they will soon be overcome by the scale of it all. Says Buckley, “the treatment that’s being done so far is at best reactive. We really need to look quickly beyond that in terms of controls,” including harvesting it in greater quantities, and establishing recycling facilities where it can be prepared for industrial use.

20150810a7seaweed.75502.jpg950x534__filtersquality80We’ve partnered with Action Bequia and to submit an application for a major grant to the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA), a World Bank organization, targeting the problem. As noted in that grant application, this isn’t a one that can be solved easily, nor is it one that can be addressed without significant partnership across the island and throughout the region. We believe that education is an important first step, both on island and beyond. If you have any ideas for student programs, we’d like to hear them. As happens so often, it’s the work and the voices of children that can gain a unique purchase in the international commons.

The fact that SVG has been elected to the UN Security Council puts the country, its communities, and its organizations in a unique position. This could be an opportunity to play a significant leadership role. That might begin with raising awareness at the UN, using the issue as a means of lobbying for a greater engagement with climate change initiatives. David Leonhardt of the New York Times wrote this week about a Yale University study that found that, since 2011, the number of Americans who say they are concerned about climate change has risen substantially. He reports that the primary reason cited by respondents was that they were “directly experiencing climate change impacts.” The second was, “hearing about climate change impacts.” That’s a story that Vincentians can tell. Bequia, to be sure, has had a longer period of direct experience than the majority of the world population, first with the rising sea levels—there used to be beach off the Belmont Walkway not all that long ago—and now this.

It goes without saying that most people in the world don’t know what sargassum is, how it can affect them, or how they contribute to its growth. The irony is that they are one of the causes—the runoff from farms in North America is one of the main contributors to the crisis. Buckley notes that “help is needed from all fronts, particularly [from] those that are not on the islands. The victims can only clean up so much.” It’s a global problem, not a regional one, and it requires a global response. How the world responds will provide an analogue for how it will respond to later examples of the effects of climate change. Ultimately, this isn’t a story about how we treat the environment, it’s a story about how we treat each other.

We don’t have any answers, but Action Bequia and the Grenadines Initiative are keen to work with local projects and initiatives. We’re also able to accept dedicated resources from benefactors in Canada, the US, and Britain to support those activities. An important and simple first step is to join the Bequia Sargassum Action Group, either online, via their facebook group, or in person. Please do that.

Sometimes it’s not the big things that change the world: the treaties, the work of presidents and prime ministers. Maybe this will be one of those cases. Perhaps it begins with raising our voices, both within the community and beyond. Bending the ear of local politicians, certainly, is indicated. Delivering messages by and on behalf of the local student population is too. Given that Vincentians may have easier access to the halls of the United Nations puts us in a position not only of opportunity, but responsibility. SVG is the only Caribbean nation to have that pulpit. In many ways, the next two years may prove to be a very interesting time.

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Do island students need STEM?

STEM is about engaging collaboratively, thinking creatively, across disciplines. And, in education and business, its fast becoming the way of the world.

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STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. And, at its simplest, that’s what STEM programs provide: an intensive focus on the hard sciences.

In practice, however, it’s much more than that. The best STEM programs are ones that not only stress the academic areas, but do so in an interdisciplinary way; they are programs where the sciences aren’t siloed—learning math in one classroom and chemistry in another—but integrated so that students not only perceive the connections between them, but also apprehend their mutual application.

STEM programs achieve that, largely, through problem-based learning, with each of the elements providing tools for discovery, creative problem solving, and communication:

  • Science: questioning, observing, predicting
  • Technology: applying analytic tools, putting ideas into practice, being inventive
  • Engineering: building, understanding material properties, designing effective solutions
  • Math: identifying patterns, making connections, communicating results

That’s what distinguishes STEM programs from the science classes that we knew when we were in grade school and high school. Physics, for example, was the class that we took, and little if any effort was made to relate it to the other science disciplines or, all too often, practical application. STEM programs, in contrast, are curiosity driven, applied to real world problems, ranging across disciplines, and conducted in collaboration with others. Physics isn’t so much a thing unto itself, but rather a set of ideas, principles and tools that can be used to help answer questions and solve problems. Yes, there are still bricks and inclined planes, but they’re a starting point, rather than an end point of study.

STEM in schools

The goal of STEM programs is to get beyond the prejudices that we might have about the sciences, including, say, the difficulty of physics or the nerdiness of computer coding. Those things are less in evidence today than they once were, but STEM programs take that even further and work to make the sciences inviting, approachable, and inspiring.

If there is a dark side to STEM, it’s the awareness that women continue to be underrepresented in industry, something that can be a catalyst for the adoption of a STEM approach. “Now more than ever it’s important to see strong female leadership in the tech industry,” says Reshma Saujani, CEO & Founder of Girls Who Code, one of the most visible STEM programs out there today. She’s right of course, and in all kinds of ways. Girls want to be involved in tech, but often there remain hurdles to involvement. That’s coupled with an awareness that industry benefits from a proliferation of voices, perspectives, and approaches. It’s about parity in the workplace, as well as making sure that talent is encouraged and applied to the best advantage for all.

The introduction of STEM-specific programming is a bit of a rising tide in the private school market across the country. St. Margaret’s School in Victoria, BC, was an early adopter. There, and elsewhere, the adoption of STEM is aligned with gender parity. In 2016 the Coalition of Single Sex Schools of Toronto (COSSOT) devoted its annual conference to the intersection of gender and the sciences, and was titled STEMinism (a neologism of STEM and feminism). Keynote speakers included Dr. Shohini Ghose, director of physics and computer science at Wilfrid Laurier University, and Dr. Renee Hlozek, professor of astrophysics at the University of Toronto.

The association of STEM and gender is absolutely valuable, and the benefits are readily apparent. That said, it’s important to note that, at its core, STEM isn’t about gender specifically but rather about how schools approach the delivery of science and technology curricula. It’s about how we frame questions, as well as growing awareness of the how questions are best asked and the tools available for answering them.

A new relationship to science

STEM programs seek to reorient students’ relationship to science, namely through working collaboratively. Especially in the past, scientists were thought of as lone geniuses. Einstein, for example, devising the theory of relativity while riding a bicycle through the countryside, Newton sitting beneath a tree, Pythagoras cogitating in his cave, or Darwin scribbling away in his berth on the Beagle.

There is some truth to those ideas, and in the past many people did actually work in isolation. Einstein very famously did. So did Gregor Mendel and Marie Curie. Many, however, didn’t, and Thomas Edison is a great example of that. The oft-repeated idea that he invented the lightbulb, for example, reflects a desire to see inspiration and lone genius at the core of scientific discovery and technological advancement. But Edison would better be celebrated as one of the first in the world of technology who saw what the tech fields would in time become, i.e., collaborative. Menlo Park was perhaps his greatest invention, a facility bringing hundreds of people together, along with their talents, and applying them to solving real-world problems. For the light bulb Edison built a team of people to help find the right filament, and they experimented with hundreds of materials, from carbonized banana peels and beard hair, to, ultimately, tungsten. (Robert Friedel and Paul Israel in their book Edison’s Electric Light: A Biography of an Invention note 22 inventors who created incandescent lamps prior to Edison—he wasn’t the inventor so much as the director of the lab that was first to produce a commercially viable prototype.)

STEM programs adopt and promote that idea, namely that science and technology isn’t a field dominated by lone geniuses squirreled away ruminating on problems. Rather, it’s a celebration of the community of people around the world that, working together, will solve the problems that we face and, together, make the greatest advances.

Profile: Sister Cherrylyn Glynn

For nearly three decades, Sister Glynn has been providing essential services to the youth of Bequia

By Glen Herbert

“I love my work because I get to meet people directly,” says Sister Cherrylyn Glynn. “It’s one-to-one. I do counselling, I get to meet the families.” For the bulk of her career Glynn’s been in the role of nurse practitioner, working out of the hospital in Port Elizabeth. Her office there is organized, clean, if a bit spartan. The one photo on the wall, wedged behind the electrical intake, shows her when she was a nursing student. “That’s when I was in the clinic as a staff nurse,” she says when I point it out. “I had a breast-feeding support group for the mothers. We used to go all over St. Vincent, our group. We went to all the clinics to show them what we do and how they can initiate their own groups.”

Glynn first arrived on Bequia in 1990 and has provided a broad range of care ever since. Today, when she’s not called by her nickname, Cheps, she’s known as Sister Glynn. “It’s the rank of our nursing profession. I don’t know why the ‘sister,’” she says, aware that some might think it means that she’s a nun. “We have males but they are referred to as charge nurses, not brothers. But once you reach the level of ward manager, then you earn the handle of ‘sister,’” something she’s rightly proud of.

Glynn was educated on St. Vincent, and she has developed in her profession and educated others ever since, including as a preceptor at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. In her current role she runs health clinics as well as the school health program, an aspect of her work that she particularly enjoys. “I love to see that parents adhere to my dietary instructions, my dental instructions, and so forth. And that by the time I see the children again in Grade 6, I can see real improvement.” Children have a complete health assessment when they enter primary school, and then again when they are preparing to move to secondary school. In some cases she’s seen the children of those she first saw when they entered school.

Having an effect

In her work and her demeanour, Glynn is an example that the most important aspect of health care isn’t the stuff or the buildings, as important as those things are. It’s the relationships and the expression of care—the knowledge that you have someone by your side who knows you and recognizes what you’re going through—that can form the most abiding, and often most effective, aspect of primary medical practice.

In the course of her career Glynn has done conceivably tens of thousands of in-office exams. She’s also advocated outside of that, oftentimes in ways that many don’t see, or don’t feel directly. “I pick up conditions that would have gone unnoticed, things that would have been missed,” she says, “I like to see that they’ve gotten the necessary referrals and help that they need,” especially in cases of cardiac pathology, which present with some regularity. But it’s the small stuff, too. “A few years ago, when I see children and I ask ‘do you eat your vegetables?’ they say ‘no.’ But now I’m hearing children say ‘I love tomatoes, I love cabbage,’ so I know that it’s” having an effect.

Volunteering with the Bequia Mission

“I was intrigued by what they were doing, and because of that I volunteered,” Glynn says of her first involvement with the Bequia Mission. At first, she packed food hampers and helped ensure that those who could benefit from them received them. For the past decade, she’s worked closely with Linda Harrier, providing lists of supplies needed on island, from an EKG to cotton balls. “I like the stickers. You know, when the children come in and you give them at sticker, they feel so good. And I give a pencil to the kindergarten kids … ” Her voice trails off, though the smile remains. She doesn’t say it, and perhaps would demure, but the stickers and the pencils are emblematic of the care that she offers to the children of the island, the personal interaction and the relationship that builds from it.

It’s an interesting thought experiment to wonder about the net effect that Glynn has had on the health of the island population. True, she’s not working alone, something that she’d hasten to point out. But for so much of the program of care during her career, she’s been the front line. She manages her clinics and is the go-to person round the clock. When I toured the hospital with her, she was on a day off, but was stopped regularly by the nurses for advice on how to handle this and that, or what she felt about a patient’s progress. You’d think that kind of constant attention might wear thin, though Glynn smiles through it all, and clearly enjoys and appreciates the role that she fills. She admits that it feels good to be needed, and to know that her work helps others. For three decades she’s been a quiet example of the impact one person can have, while also providing an example to others, especially young girls, of what they can do, too.

Off to school

by Glen Herbert

Screen Shot 2019-02-04 at 1.23.32 PMLauriel Stowe wants to be a volcanologist. “We had a geography class,” she says, recalling some years ago, “and [the teacher] was talking about plate tectonics, and I really found the topic interesting.” She did some of her own research and, among other things, learned that there is only one working volcanologist in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. “I was thinking about what would happen if this person was to get old and can’t do the work anymore? And I thought that’s what I’d like to do.”

The volcanologist monitors La Soufrière, an active volcano that is also the highest point on St. Vincent. It dominates much of the skyline. The history of its eruptions is as good an example of the value of volcanology as you could hope to find: in 1902 it erupted killing 1680 people. When it erupted in 1979 there were no casualties, thanks entirely to the advanced warning offered by those tasked with monitoring it.

Lauriel’s desire to learn about her world, to ask questions, and to think locally with a mind to ongoing service is why she was such a good candidate for the scholarship program. In addition to ferry costs, the scholarships provide school uniforms, shoes and books, lunches, and ground transportation on the mainland. Little things, perhaps, though they make a world of difference in the lives of the students. The scholarships remove the barriers between them and their academic aspirations. While there are two secondary schools on Bequia, there are more course options and more academic resources in schools on St. Vincent. For some students those options—including physics, chemistry, and better-equipped biology labs—are essential to successful applications to post-secondary programs.

Such is the case for Lauriel, who attends St. Joseph Convent, known as one of the best schools in the country. “It’s a good school,” she says. Each day she meets the ferry in Port Elizabeth. The hour-long passage takes her past schools of dolphin, terns, and, at certain times of year, schools of flying fish. “This one time we saw a whale, and it was really up close,” she says. I ask if we’ll see flying fish. “We’d have to be really lucky. I don’t know if it’s because of climate change, but we rarely see them anymore.” (We were lucky that day, actually, seeing schools of fish taking flight in the wake around the boat to flee the birds diving from above.) As the boat lists, I ask if this is a rough day. “It’s not that rough because you can still walk around pretty easily.” When it’s rough, you can’t.

St. Joseph is in Kingstown, the nation’s capital. As such, Lauriel’s journey each day takes her seemingly the entire length and breadth of the country. While Bequia can feel at a remove, once in Kingstown she walks past all of the key institutions in the nation, including parliament, the prime minister’s office, the national banks, the supreme court, even a sizeable prison, its perimeter girded with concertina wire. The city has a population more than three times that of Bequia and is home to the largest customs port in the country, its main commercial centre. There’s a lot of bustle, and the colonial history is evident, too, in historic stone buildings blackening beneath a patina of lichen. (Also nearby is the botanical garden. Founded in the 18th century, it includes a breadfruit tree that is a direct descendant of the one William Bligh planted there in 1793.)

She typically doesn’t get back to Bequia until 7pm, so it makes for a long day. Still, Lauriel knows that it’s the right thing for her, and is thankful for the opportunity. Recipients of the scholarships give back by providing academic support to students of the Learning Center. As such, the scholarships have a significant and lasting effect on the development of educational opportunities on the island through improving delivery of the curriculum, encouraging mentorship, and promoting the value of academic achievement. Lauriel, nearly 50 other students, and the culture as a whole all benefit from the program. “It helps everyone to bring out themselves,” she says of the school she attends and, by inference, the scholarship that helps get her there. “It’s important.” She’s right. It is.

 

Gabby’s story

For the Grenadines Initiative

Gabby Ollivierre’s first real experience of snow came with a freak storm that hit Calgary on October 2. It was notable by anyone’s standards–the storm made national news in Canada–though especially for someone from the islands who had yet to get a proper pair of boots. When I met her at the campus of the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) two days prior, she was wearing flip flips. Why? “I just didn’t feel like wearing shoes,” she said. Fair enough.

Gabby grew up on the island, just as island kids do. It’s home, and when she completes her two-year degree in Calgary, she’ll go back, taking with her everything she’s learned. For the most part, that will be what she’s learned about cooking. This year–thanks to a foundation in partnership with the Grenadines Initiative–she enrolled in a professional cooking program, one that, in many ways, is one of a kind. I met with Richard Horbachewski, director of development for the college, in the Highwood, a full-service restaurant staffed entirely by students of program. “You’re sitting in a classroom,” he said. It’s one of four spaces–two on campus and two downtown–that many people visit without ever knowing that they’re in a teaching facility. The downtown culinary arts campus is housed within Calgary’s signature shopping mall, The Core, where students prepare and sell pastries, lunches, and prepared meals. And added last year, at the corner of 7th and 4th, is the Tastemarket, an urban eatery for downtown foodies which doubles as an innovative learning environment for budding entrepreneurs. All the spaces–the main and satellite facilities–are alike in that they don’t divide cooking from the business of cooking: nothing is made that isn’t intended for presentation and sale within one of these professional spaces.

It’s a unique environment, and one that Gabby is quickly integrating into. Though she’s only been in the program for a few weeks, when she walks me through the kitchens she interacts amiably with students and teachers, all wearing chefs hats and crisp white jackets. There’s a lovely collegiality, to be sure, but the program is all business. Gabby shows me her marks so far, all of which are delivered to her via an app on her phone. She’s been marked on everything from food prep, to making a hollandaise sauce, to knife skills. “I don’t like that one,” she says skipping past a mark for a pop quiz. The rest, though, are all As.

She’s proud, and she should be. Considered the best in Canada, the Professional Cooking program at SAIT is delivered by chefs who provide expert, hands-on training. In the next two years Gabby will train and interact with dozens of leading culinary professionals and hundreds of like-minded peers. It’s an amazing experience for anyone passionate about the culinary arts. “I don’t mean to brag, but, really, we are in the top 40 programs in the world,” says Horbachewski, “that said, we’re planning to be in the top 10 within the next decade.” Given the program development, and the creation of the new spaces, and the development of the faculty, they’re clearly very firmly on that path.

For Gabby, it’s a step along the way, taking something she loves, cooking, into a professional role through which she’ll share that love. In time, all going well, she’ll be working in a kitchen of her own one day, on Bequia. She’ll be serving great food, of course, but as the chefs she’s learning from tell her, it’s about more than that. It’s about sharing an experience. So, she’ll share her experiences, too. They’ll include those of moving to Canada for a time, working with others from around the world, and learning from some of the best. In there, too, will be the experience of a snowstorm, the one in early October not long after she arrived, the one that convinced her to get out, sooner rather than later, to buy some boots.

 

 

Kadeen’s story

For the Grenadines Initiative 

Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 12.56.41 PM“On Bequia, if you tell someone that you are going to be a pilot, they don’t believe,” says Kadeen Hazell. “They think it’s just talk.” He feels that’s true for most people on the island: they don’t have a sense of real possibility.

Kadeen, from early days, clearly wasn’t most people. Growing up in Paget Farm, a small community on a dot of an island in the Caribbean, he dreamed of being a pilot, something he was open about. And, yes, he was met with dismissive chuckles. But he meant it. He was always a strong student. “I don’t mean to brag,” he said recently, “but I’m good at math and physics. I always did well, the best in my class.” He excelled in academics, perhaps knowing that they were his ticket to a career in aviation. And so, for the last seven years of his academic career—including secondary and some post-secondary studies—he travelled to St. Vincent via ferry every school day, an hour there, and an hour back.

In that, and in much else, he demonstrated his personal determination, though he’s also quick to place credit where credit is due. “You do better when people believe you can do better,” he says. His father is a carpenter on Bequia, and he, perhaps more than anyone, was careful not to dismiss his son’s ambitions, but rather to quietly recognize and encourage them.

It’s telling that those are the things he mentions when he talks about where he is today: belief in yourself, recognition of your talents, and acknowledgement of support. When Kadeen came to the attention of the Anderson Family Foundation, he had all of the key pieces in place: a strong academic record, a clear apprehension of the challenges ahead, and a plan for success. Today, through the Foundation, he’s attending flight school at Canadore College in North Bay, Ontario. There, he’s living, working, and learning with peers of a like mind and interest every day. He’s also learning about the culture of aviation through people who have lived it—the school has regular visitors from industry to meet and speak with students, including regular visits from Chris Hadfield. Kadeen will learn about the job, but also the values and the pride that are an essential part of it.

When I visited him just prior to the start of classes I took him shopping for some essentials. Picking up some groceries he said, “I think the biggest challenge will be cooking.” When I said that, actually, handling an aircraft might be a challenge of a somewhat different order, he said, “But I want to do that. I don’t want to cook.” Point taken.

While some on Bequia might still not believe it, Kadeen is learning to fly. As such—and this is something he’s absolutely aware of—his experience serves as an important model to others, both in Paget Farm and beyond. He knows that the biggest obstacle to achieving anything (perhaps cooking included) is thinking that you can’t. More than anything, he wants to show that, actually, you can. That he can. Kadeen’s program takes two years to complete. In 2020, he’ll be a pilot.

Students praise Lakefield College School for Outdoor Ed program

“I thought, ‘this is the place where I could be the best version of myself.’”

for Ourkids.net

One of Betsy Macdonnell’s first glimpses of life at Lakefield College School was a grade 9 outdoor education class, one of the stops on her first tour of the campus. “I remember seeing how supportive they were with each other,” she says of the students, particularly in the case of one who was struggling with a fear of heights on the climbing wall. “Everyone was helping her to get to the top.”

What Macdonnell noticed most was what it said about the student population, and what it said about the values of the school. “I thought, ‘this is the place where I could be the best version of myself.’” She’s currently completing grade 12. Looking back over her years at LCS, she says “it was 100% the right choice.”

“ … we do it all right here … ”

LCS has long been a leader in outdoor education, in large part due to the physical assets of the campus. They include a sizeable lakefront and a vast property with trails, fields, and access to a range of green spaces. “A lot of other schools have what they call outdoor education,” says Peter Andras, Outdoor Education Coordinator and OE instructor for the past 16 years. “They are bussed up to a camp, they spend two or three days, and it’s only done in one instance, or a couple instances, throughout the year. Whereas, at Lakefield, we can integrate it into everything that we do. We have all the canoes, all the climbing stuff. We do it all right here, right on site.”

First-hand learning

That said, the reason they do it—and ultimately why outdoor education has become such a core element of the culture of the school—is because of the skills, behaviours, and values that it imparts. “We’re in the business of educating the whole person,” says Andras. “It’s not just sitting in a classroom and memorizing material. … We value relationships, and we value all of those cross-curricular ties. And everything can be integrated into outdoor ed.”

Certainly, the school does a great job of using outdoor experience—getting beyond the walls of the school—across the full breadth of the curricular offerings. Trips are taken into Algonquin park, for example, for sketching and painting the landscape, just as Tom Thomson did to create some of his most celebrated work. Like Thomson, they travel in by canoe, and stay within the landscape they are describing in their artwork.

“In physics,” says Andras, “they’re learning about estimating distances, or working through architectural problems, or trail maintenance. …. There are so many different things that you can tie together through outdoor education if you have the space to do it, and can get kids out of the classroom to do it.” Geography classes make use of the various ecosystems and landforms within the property; Phys ed classes include time on the high ropes course, and, in winter, Nordic skiing on the campus trails; biology classes make use of the various biomes on site. “It’s common to see us going outside in the trigonometry unit,” says instructor Tim Rollwagen, “with the students all focused on the ratios in triangles, finding the height of buildings and the heights of trees.”

Life lessons

Rollwagen is the Director of Global Learning, something which extends the outdoor focus of the school effectively around the world. “All of our international trips do have an extensive outdoor program,” he says. This year’s trip to Peru includes a wellness and spirituality piece, and research into Incan culture. A trip to Ecuador includes a first-hand experience of the biological diversity within the Galapagos. “Our whole school is rooted in outdoor education,” says Macdonnell, “our entire school program is based around the connection with the land.”

The feel on campus is perhaps akin to summer camp. “When they go to camp it’s almost like a second family,” says Rollwagen. “And the atmosphere at Lakefield, and the freedom that it allows, including the variety of opportunities that it has … it’s much like that. Maybe it’s even just going for a walk in the woods at the end of the day … it allows you to have this feeling of a second home.”

Decidedly, it’s a way of being that is unique to the school. “You see students coming from around the world, all different backgrounds, and suddenly they’re thrown into the middle of the woods in Canada. And its minus 20 degrees and they’re learning to use a compass, and finding their way back,” says Macdonnell, chuckling a bit as she does. She and the faculty truly appreciate how those kinds of experiences can bring students together around a new, and ultimately more positive, set of priorities.

“Kids need to get outside, and to learn to enjoy being outside,” says Andras. “In life, you have to be resilient, and to be able to rely on each other.” Those are the kinds of lessons that the environment at LCS, and the outdoor education program in particular, has been developed to provide.

 

Mile Twelve’s “Onwards”

 

Sam Bush once said that Bill Monroe was the ultimate feel player. It’s a backhanded compliment in a way, despite Bush’s clear reverence, because what he was saying was that Monroe lacked melodic precision, playing more to rhythm. He was the father of bluegrass, true, but he was no Mike Marshall or Chris Thile. They are precise, play long runs of clear notes, and have timing like a clock. It’s fun to wonder what Monroe might think of them or, even better, bands like Mile Twelve who, well, are precise. Onwards is their second release, though feels a bit like the first, given that it’s the first full length, fully formed album. The players are young, and whippersnappers all. They met at Berklee and the New England Conservatory. It’s fun to wonder what Monroe might think of that as well, with bluegrass taking a place within musical academia alongside classical music and jazz.

But there is a delight in precision—in clear tones, rather than ancient ones—crafted with care and, dare we say it, elegance. I don’t think the band members here would use that word, but I think it’s apt. The joy within the music that these players are making derives less from the drive—though there are flashes of that—than from the beauty of the tonality and the sublime craftsmanship. Which is why, perhaps, the best moments on the album are the instrumental tracks. There are only two—“Wickwire” and “Old Tom”—but I wish there were more. The vocals aren’t yet at the level of the instrumentation, though no doubt that will come in time. Likewise, some of the narrative material jars with what we know of the musicians. The voice in “In the Shade” (“I was so much younger then/I couldn’t comprehend/the means to a brighter end/so I cast it to the side”) is unconvincing, perhaps given the delivery, but also just in the fact that we know that, with a voice sounding so young, the time frame isn’t possible, nor the wisdom supposedly gained.

Like any young band, there is a phase of playing to the influences, and I think there’s some of that here. As you might expect, they clearly have learned at the feet of the third and fourth generation players more than the first and second. “Old Tom” recalls Nickel Creek’s “Ode to a Butterfly, “In the Shade” recalls the Punch Brothers, with the shifts in rhythm and vocal register. There are flashes of earlier influences, and there’s a bit of Del McCoury’s in “The Sunny Side of Town.”

They do it so well, but, perhaps again like any young band, it feels like they haven’t yet found their own voice and are casting about a bit.  The unit is so strong, so studied, so clearly aware of all aspects of the genre. In addition to the instrumental pieces, standouts include “Call My Soul” and “You Don’t Even Know It Yet.” This album is a true debut for the band, and given where they’re starting from, it will be very interesting to see where they go and what they get up to. Certainly, this is a band to keep an eye on.