Over 25 Vincentian expatriates participated in diaspora leadership workshops at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn on Feb. 22, the first in a series hosted by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, first in a series whose objectives are:
(1) To provide an opportunity for Vincentians in the diaspora to build their capacity for providing high quality leadership to the Vincentian diaspora in the 21st century;
(2) To learn about the latest global approaches or methods of diaspora affairs;
(3) To build the leadership and human resources base of the Vincentian diaspora in relation to acquiring knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to take the Vincentian diaspora to a higher level of existence in terms of action and benefits; and
(4) To learn about concepts and ideas vital for conducting effective Diaspora affairs.
In his opening statement, Committee Chairman Maxwell Haywood said the group had “done a lot as a diaspora community in the USA,” adding that: “When you look a what is to be done and the unfinished business in our diaspora affairs, when you look at what could be done, when you look at what needs to be done — it is very obvious that we need a clearer vision … a clearer view of the road ahead.”
“On this road … on this highway, we need to know beforehand the route we will take, the challenges we will face while navigating our Diaspora community on this broad highway of diaspora affairs. This workshop is destined to help to make the foggy road clearer.”
The group heard remarks from Rhonda King, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ambassador to the United Nations, who declared that: “This is a topic near and dear to me. We are a people on the move and capacity-building is an imperative within such a people. We need to locate ourselves in the universe.”
Amb. King stressed that, “locating ourselves in the universe is an enormous task – vast, complex and never-ending. It is the task of all of us, as we struggle to understand our individual lives and the world around us, but it is a task well worth the effort.”
Consul General Selmon Walters outlined his views on the qualities of leadership and urged the participants to ensure strong community leadership and organization.
Facilitator of the Diaspora Leadership Workshop, Sherrill-Ann Mason-Haywood, general secretary of the Diaspora Committee and an academic Coordinator at City University of New York’s SEEK Program, delivered a one-hour power-point presentation that was informative and inspiring.
She addressed four main areas: (1) key terminologies and characteristics of: Migration, Diaspora and Development and their linkage; (2) perspectives on Migration and development; (3) approaches of International agencies, Governments and Diaspora organizations to Migration, Diaspora and Development; (3) positioning St Vincent and the Grenadines on the landscape of Migration and Development; and (4) issues, challenges and possibilities confronting the Vincentian Diaspora.
Lennox Daniel, Vice-Chairperson of the Diaspora Committee and former SVG Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations, thanked participants for attending the workshop. He highlighted the activities of the Diaspora Committee such as the scholarship initiative been conceptualized now to assist the many Vincentians who are in need of acquiring higher education.
After the presentation by Mason-Haywood, the participants were engaged in a discussion of the question: Do you believe the Vincentian Diaspora is living up to its potential? The consensus in the meeting was that we are not living up to our potential.
The following ideas emerged from the participants:
1.The diaspora should be engaged in more strategic planning for development purposes. In order to realize our full potential, we must move from our limited project level to the policy level;
2.We must look beyond self and more toward the community. Changing the mindset of Vincentians in the Diaspora and at home is crucial. Issues linked to volunteering must be addressed. It is also urgent that organizations recruit new members to ensure sustainability;
3.There is an urgent need for a database that will serve as a central information network for Vincentian activities, professionals, businesses, projects, etc;
4.We need to improve our outreach to attract donor funds, which means that we should improve the way we market the work of the Diaspora organizations;
5.Barriers to developing strong leadership and a united community should be identified and addressed. The crab in a barrel mentality must cease if we are to appreciate and act more on a level where we could see our progress as a community. Diaspora organizations should also do more work together and create more synergies. It is necessary to identify a niche for each organization and promote greater collaboration;
6.The business sector must become more engaged in Diaspora affairs; more support is needed for eto Vincentian businesses in the USA;
7.Focus should be placed on culture (indigenous) as a means of economic development;
8.The Diaspora should explore establishment of cooperatives (e.g. financial) in the Diaspora; and
9.It is crucial to address climate change
Participants found the workshop to be rewarding and important.
Here is a sample of the comments from the participants:
•It was great…I learned a lot…I am in this 100%.
•It was great…I’m looking forward to attend more workshops. I did learn a lot.
•The session was very informative and thought provoking as to how I can assist.