The new Grenada Ambassador to the United States and the Organization of American States (OAS), says the Dr. Keith Mitchell administration in Grenada is taking the lead, forging ahead, and creating a path for the sustainable development of her country.
“It does so by promoting resilience building as a major priority area,” said Ambassador Yolande Y. Smith in addressing the group, Grenadians United in Virginia, Inc., at its 24th annual fundraising gala, on Saturday, April 27, at the Sheraton Hotel, Virginia Beach.
“The focus of the government is to build resilience across all sectors in an effort to transform our economy: agricultural sector, tourism sector, education, health, services, even fiscal resilience — getting our financial house in order, so that we can save for the proverbial rainy day; infrastructural resilience (bridge repair, building sea defenses, managing our sewer (waste water management plants), so that, when a disaster strikes, the damage is minimal,” she added.
“Because we have no control over when a natural disaster might strike and the fury with which it will strike, we have to be prepared to deal with the effects of these disasters,” Smith continued. “Grenada is, therefore, taking a proactive stance on climate change with assistance from the IMF (International Monetary Fund), World Bank, Green Climate Fund and the Global Environmental Facility, just to name a few of our IFI (international financial institutions) partners and donors.”
The envoy disclosed that Grenada has just secured additional funding at the IMF/World Bank Group Spring Meeting held in April in Washington, DC.
She said Grenada was one of the countries featured as a best practice, and one of the very few with climate smart legislation. Dominica was the other Caribbean country highlighted at the meetings, Smith said.
On education, she told patrons that much is being done on reform “to make sure that there is a technical and vocational component in our curriculum.
“We have realized that we can no longer focus only on the academics, as we have traditionally done,” Smith said. “If we continue to do so, we end up marginalizing a large number of our young people – those who are passionate about textiles, mechanics, ICT (Information and Communications Technologies), industrial arts, technical drawing and so on.”
Even in acknowledging the value of a sound academic education, “we must also acknowledge that not all our boys and girls have the aptitude or passion for the pure academics,” she added. “So apart from building in this component into the curriculum, work is currently being done to retrofit a facility in St. Patrick’s for this specific purpose,” she continued.
Apart from the Grenada Embassy’s mandate as the office accredited to the United States — the White House — which deals with bilateral issues — and the Organization of American States (OAS), which deals with multilateral issues — Smith said her office has “an obligation to our nationals in the Diaspora community.”
She said she takes that obligation “very seriously,” stating that organizations like Grenadians United in Virginia, Inc., “play a pivotal role in bringing members together under common themes, goals and missions, and guiding them to the Embassy in the process.
“Let the Embassy be the glue that connects what you are doing here in the US with the needs back home,” Smith urged.
“Obviously, you here have found your niche, have struck that balance, and have been able to service the community in Grenada very well over the years.
“Other organizations are struggling to find that smooth landing and the right fit,” she added.
Smith recently presented her credentials to United States President Donald J. Trump.
In discussion with Trump, she said that “Grenada continues to enjoy steady progress in human and economic development,” according to a statement from the Embassy of Grenada in Washington, D.C.
Citing the “long, friendly and harmonious ties” between Grenada and the United States as the platform for mutually-beneficial bilateral relations, Smith expressed optimism for expanded engagement between the two countries.”
Smith is also no stranger to multilateral relations and the international community, with more than 25 years in the diplomatic service.
Her first posting was at the Consulate General in Toronto from 1995-1999.
From 1999-2008 she was stationed at the Embassy in Washington, D.C.
In March 2009, she joined the staff of the Procurement and Strategic Budget Management Division of the IMF, where she received both Divisional and Fund-wide Outstanding Achievement Awards as part of a team responsible for the IMF Headquarters II becoming LEED Gold Certified.
She returns to Washington fresh off the heels of a three-and a-half-year assignment as the Deputy Consul General in Miami, Florida.
Ambassador Smith was educated at the Happy Hill Secondary School in Grenada and obtained a diploma in Youth and Social Work from the Commonwealth Youth Program and a certificate in Information Systems Training from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.
She holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and Master of Business Administration, with emphasis on International Marketing, from Strayer University in Washington, D.C.
According to her biography, among her interests, Ambassador Smith is “passionate about the environment, the empowerment of women and young people.”
She enjoys volunteering to conduct personal development programs for young women and administrative professionals.
Smith was the first female president of the Grenada National Youth Council, co-host of a one-hour radio program, and was crowned Miss Grenada in 1989.