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My Glendon Hospital Stay: A Good Experience

My Glendon Hospital Stay: A Good Experience

By Gracelyn Cassell

About a month ago, April 10th to be exact, I ended up at Glendon Hospital for emergency surgery.  I left four days later and friends are astounded when I say that I actually enjoyed the experience.  I’ve had medical issues for years but kept hoping that the new hospital would be in place before things came to a head.  That was not to be.

Glendon Hospital

So there I was on Tuesday evening April 10th, listening to the Nurse on duty in Casualty telephoning the many persons needed for my surgery.  As each person arrived, I quickly apologised for ruining plans for the evening.  I felt particularly bad that Dr. Braimah Kassim, who, after a full day of surgery, would not have the pleasure of a break. Everyone, however, hastened to reassure me that it was okay, it was all part of the job.  Blood had to be drawn for testing, x-rays taken and other unmentionables done in preparation. I discovered that my recent manicure/pedicure would present a problem for monitoring during the operation, so the polish had to be removed.  I must admit that being surrounded by seasoned nurses like Sister Noleen Meade, Nurse Anaesthetist Brenda Daley, and others who prepared me for theatre, actually helped me to relax.    

It is funny how in life we take so much for granted. Sister Icilda Stanley, a former schoolmate, took charge of my personal belongings, and I realise now that I would not have had that level of comfort in an overseas facility.  In fact, immediately after I was back on the ward just before 2 am on Wednesday April 11th, I noticed my bag waiting for me near to what would be my bed for the next several days.  My cell-phone was registering the concern of relatives and friends who needed to know how the operation had gone.

Fortunately, my brother Joseph, the first person I recognised once the anaesthesia wore off, and who I had instructed not to wait around, answered all of the queries. It was really nice to wake up and see him! He explained to me later that I was complaining about being hungry and in pain but I only remember being very calm and collected.  So, it’s good that he was there as a witness to the true state of affairs.  I do remember being offered a cup of bush-tea and that was like music to my ears.  I also received a pain injection and that was it. 

I slept soundly until late afternoon when, my youngest brother, Norman, came and without my knowing, took a photo of me which was sent to the family ‘whatsapp’ group.  They found that photo most reassuring but now seeing Kate Middleton all bright and glowing after giving birth to a third child, I realised that I should have included a make-up kit in my hospital bag!

However, the team that came to check on me the next day didn’t seem worried by my lack of makeup.  They explained what had transpired the night before and seemed happy to see me awake and in good spirits.  I shared a vague recollection that I might have been protesting at some point and they laughingly told me that when I was returned to the ward and placed in bed on my back, I made several attempts to roll on to my side complaining that “I always sleep on my side!”

I was placed on a liquid diet which I actually enjoyed because there were interesting items on the menu like arrowroot porridge which I had not had in years. The plantain porridge reminded me of my student days in Jamaica when I first savoured banana porridge prepared with coconut milk.  In fact, once I was allowed to move to a more solid diet, I actually refused to leave the hospital when Dr. Kassim gave the all clear for me to be discharged on the Friday.  I told him that the menu on Saturday was far too interesting to be missed.  So I went home after supper the following evening.  Little did I know that a hot meal was waiting there for me!

My fears about the post-crisis, makeshift hospital which has no private ward were not realised.  I always felt that noise and light would prevent me from resting but I had the best sleep that I had enjoyed in years and many visitors kept saying that I didn’t look like someone who had undergone surgery.  Once I got home, however, I was thrown off schedule with both rest and medication because I’ve never really liked alarms!  I actually missed having the nurses wake me up when it was time for meds.  And of course, at home, you end up doing all kinds of things which get in the way of sleep or taking meds!

But I can hear you asking – How was this a good experience?  First of all, I am deeply appreciative of all that was done by doctors and staff to facilitate my surgery and make my stay comfortable. They work daily with many challenges. I am impressed that the team includes nutritionists who have incorporated local produce and traditional dishes on the menu.  This assures me that once there is cheaper electricity, if the geothermal project ever comes on stream, there are people who will ensure that the many many seasonal fruits and vegetables that now go to waste, will be put to good use.  I also feel strongly that the proposed hospital plan, developed with the input of this dedicated staff, will be the best for Montserrat. I sincerely hope that someone will dust it off and make the business case for its implementation.  Medical tourism could certainly provide an income stream since I am sure others would love to have my experience.

I was really touched by the many persons near and far, friends and family, who went out of their way to demonstrate their love and caring during my hospital stay and after. I had all kinds of offers: to do my laundry, prepare meals for me, get me fruits, coconut water and jelly, do my shopping and more. This outpouring of support also contributed to my very positive experience.  To be honest, I am trying to resist the temptation to prolong the recovery period.  My sincere thanks to all and kudos to the staff at Glendon! 

Gracelyn Cassell
Head
The University of the West Indies
Open Campus Montserrat

Posted in Columns, Features, General, Health, Letters, Opinions0 Comments

De Ole Dawg – Part 6: 2018 -Hunting down some hitmen

De Ole Dawg – Part 6: 2018 -Hunting down some hitmen

Were recent ill-informed volcano hazard articles in the UK the result of deliberate hit jobs on Montserrat’s credibility?

BRADES, Montserrat, March 16, 2018 – Montserrat’s viability was recently seriously questioned in two UK newspapers, leading to much concern. Let’s pause to see what was said:

UK Guardian, March 6[1]:  “for the past eight years the volcano has been completely silent, and locals are impatient to return to their homes. So is it safe?  Prof Jurgen Neuberg, a volcanologist at the University of Leeds, is chairman of the scientific advisory committee to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, tasked with assessing the risk of the volcano . . .  Neuberg and his colleagues can see that around one cubic metre (35 cubic ft) of fresh magma is accumulating under the island every seven seconds. “Except for the gas plume there is nothing visible on the surface, but the instruments show us clearly that the deformation is ongoing and the entire island is still inflating,” says Neuberg. Sadly, [Guardian adds,] Montserratians must continue to wait.”

UK Express, March 7[2]:  “Montserrat’s Soufrière Hills volcano, the ‘Pompei of the Caribbean’, was rumbled by a “swarm” of five volcanic-tectonic earthquakes last week, sparking fears of eruption  . . .  volcanologists monitoring the volcano have noted increased volcanic stirring underneath Montserrat . . . . Professor Neuberg said: “Except for the gas plume there is nothing visible on the surface, but the instruments show us clearly that the deformation is ongoing and the entire island is still inflating.” Poisonous Sulphur Dioxide flux measurements last Monday February 26 have also revealed leaks amounting to hundreds of tonnes per day.”

These remarks that appear in two UK newspapers just a day apart are obviously potentially damaging, and the Montserrat Volcano Observatory therefore replied[3]:

“Monitoring data recorded and interpreted by Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) shows no changes that suggest that new activity is imminent. The newspaper articles are misleading and, in the case of The Express, alarmist. Since the end of the last phase of lava extrusion on 11 February 2010, MVO has observed a slow, steady movement of the ground surface across the whole of Montserrat . . . . research suggests that, since February 2010, the underground magma system that feeds the SHV has been slowly recharged by the influx of magma at depth. This causes the pressure inside the system to increase, which is then seen as upwards and outwards movement of the ground surface around the volcano. The news articles suggest that the research has produced new information. In the Express article this, when combined with a very small swarm of small-magnitude earthquakes on 25 February 2018, indicates that a new eruption may be imminent. This is not the case. Brief swarms of such earthquakes have occurred on more than one hundred occasions since 2007.”

Is such reporting just a case of poorly researched journalism on a scientific topic? Or, is it something a bit more sinister – a continuation of a string of media hit jobs on Montserrat’s credibility or even viability? For, deeply planted perceptions that are inaccurate can have damaging effects. That’s why The Reporter’s Editor noted in his introduction to the MVO response how in 1997 – 98: “UK Government authorities broadcasted and said that there might be a cataclysmic eruption that would cause Montserrat to completely evacuated . . . in spite of vehement denial of that situation from the Government and scientists on Montserrat, it was not until 2008 the UK relented on the misinformation.” Such needless doubts have likely contributed to delays in our rebuilding and redevelopment efforts.

Now, over the years we have had occasional articles in the well-respected UK Guardian on Montserrat’s challenges.  So, it would not be unusual for them to pick up something in the research news and comment on it; especially given the focus of their Terrawatch feature.

However, Terrawatch should have noted from the source they used[4]: “[d]espite the ongoing inflation, the magma volume in the reservoir that existed before the eruption started has not yet been reached.”  COMET illustrates this with a graph (shown) and goes on to say: “[h]owever, in the past, the volcano did not wait until the reservoir was refilled, but started the next eruptive phase sooner . . . the ash venting in the beginning of 2012 might have been a ‘failed eruption’ and the next eruptive phase is overdue.”  They are also quite explicit that: “the eruption is far from over and that fresh magma is accumulating in a reservoir below the island .”

“Overdue” and “far from over” or the like might indeed be of concern. However, a check with MVO by telephone or email would also have instantly shown that for many years the North has been regarded as quite safe, and that access restrictions for zones nearer to the volcano have been longstanding. 

On balance, the Express article clearly merits MVO’s comment: “alarmist.” That poor tone suggests that it is possible that more than mere failure to do proper journalistic cross-checks was at work. For, a reasonable person would note that – though it has fairly frequent articles on volcanoes – Montserrat is not usually on the UK Express’ beat. So, for cause s/he would pause while waiting at the Clapham bus stop, and would wonder if someone deliberately prompted the misleading report.

In both cases, a correction is due (but don’t hold your breath).

Moreover, these articles follow on a string of rather negative reports in various UK media since 2015 that have questioned aid to Montserrat, have challenged spending £5 millions to bring back fibre optic cable access[5] (vital for our development), have suggested widespread corruption and have generally left the ill-founded impression[6] that aid to Montserrat is in the main, a dodgy business and a huge waste of the British taxpayer’s money.  In short, too many of these pieces have come across as hit jobs, likely based on “leaks” from seemingly credible sources, but all aiming to foster an unjustifiably hostile climate of opinion in the UK public and among UK decision-makers. Hit jobs, of course, would be carried out by hitmen, who in turn would be sent by hostile Godfathers.  (Where, too, if you believe that hit jobs, hit men, Godfathers, irresponsible journalists and outright propagandists are only found in and around the UK tabloid press, please think again.[7])

All of this is always hard to prove, but something just does not smell right.

It is therefore time for our Government and our friends in the UK to take a closer look and to make a sustained effort to clear the air through a balanced, sound communication, public education and outreach strategy.  For, where credible, regular, balanced, substantial, clearly accurate information is lacking [especially on doing a Google search], that invites misinformation, spin games, irresponsible “tabloid” sensationalism, hit jobs and outright propagandistic manipulation. In an Internet age, failure to adequately communicate on a regular, sound basis has damaging consequences.

[1]               See: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/06/terrawatch-montserrats-volcano-remains-a-risk?CMP=share_btn_fb

[2]           See: https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/928274/montserrat-volcano-update-eruption-risk-will-it-erupt-soufriere-hills

[3]           See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/mvo-director-stewart-fixes-uk-guardian-express-newspapers-misrepresentation/

[4]               COMET: http://comet.nerc.ac.uk/montserrat-continues-inflate/

[5]           TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-12017-dissecting-a-smear-fibre-optics-facts-vs-uk-tabloids/

[6]           See: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3084557/400m-foreign-aid-fiasco-paradise-Bribery-kickbacks-tax-money-siphoned-pet-projects-tiny-Carribean-island-British-worker-blew-whistle-paid-devastating-price.html

[7]               TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-12-2016-how-can-we-break-through-the-divide-and-rule-spiral-of-silencing/

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Christopher Cushing

United States partners with region in support of youth development and crime prevention

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, May 10, CMC The United States, through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative is partnering with regional governments in an effort to stem crime and violence by focusing on at risk youths and vulnerable populations.

This is according to Christopher Cushing, the Mission Director for the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, who was   delivering remarks on Thursday on behalf of Linda Taglialatela,the US Ambassador to Barbados, Eastern Caribbean, and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), during the opening ceremony for the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative 8th Meeting of the Technical Working Group on Crime Prevention .

Christopher Cushing
Christopher Cushing

He said the partnership will be done through programmes that will empower young people to lead better and more positive lives, which will redound to the benefit of the region in improving citizen security and creating more stable democracies.

“Since 2010, the U.S. Government, through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), has invested US$437 million, towards improving citizen security in the Caribbean and addressing the root causes of crime and violence. To date, more than 30,000 youth, across the region, have participated in CBSI education and work-force development programmes, with more than $50 million allocated to support these programmes, he said.

“The CBSI embodies our mutual commitment to greater shared security throughout the Caribbean. It is an initiative that works towards building the health, resiliency and safety of Caribbean countries, all important elements for sustained growth, prosperity and strong democracies in the Caribbean and the United States.”

Cushing noted the importance of the conference to the future development of youth and citizen security and said that the Technical Working Group is critical to advancing the said goal.

“Your discussions will continue to help shape the broader framework for action and bring sharper focus to the needs of the region’s youth,” added the mission director. “Over the next three days, I expect you will have robust exchanges in which you, as Caribbean leaders, learn from each other and international experts, and take the time to pause, reflect, generate new ideas, and identify concrete priorities to address challenges posed by transnational crime.”

He commented on the theme adopted for this year’s conference, which is: “Changing Social Norms Through Youth Engagement”.

“This is a timely theme and an important reminder to all of us that the change we seek cannot be achieved without the support and full participation of young people. Around the world, youth are making their voices heard and spearheading powerful initiatives to address poverty, health concerns, environmental challenges, school violence and more. Here in the Caribbean, it’s no different,” noted Cushing, adding that “the U.S. Government firmly believes in the power of youth, and has partnered with regional Governments for many years to support youth development.”

The Conference, which runs from May 10-11, will culminate with a youth rally on Saturday.

Representatives are drawn from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and host country St. Kitts and Nevis.

The Community Family and Youth Resilience Programme, OECS Commission and USAID are also represented.

Posted in General, International, Local, News, Police, Regional, Youth0 Comments

Indonesia

CARICOM and Indonesia strengthen links

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, May 3, CMC – Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ambassador Irwin LaRocque described the presentation of credentials by Indonesia’s Ambassador as “a hallmark in relations” between the Community and Indonesia.

Indonesia's first Amb. To CARICOM 2018Drs. Dominicus Supratikto, who is based in Suriname, became the first Ambassador of Indonesia to CARICOM when he presented his letters of credence to the Secretary-General on Wednesday at the CARICOM Secretariat Headquarters here.

LaRocque said that with this accreditation, relations between Indonesia and CARICOM would only go from strength to strength. Both the Secretary-General and Ambassador Supratikto agreed that climate change was one area that lent itself to co-operation.

The Ambassador noted that the forming of official links allowed for more engagement between the two parties and this latest initiative was in keeping with Indonesia’s thrust to extend relations with non-traditional partners.

 

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DSC_3849

Nerissa Golden Launches Return to Love Book Series

BRADES – Author and entrepreneur Nerissa Golden launched her Return to Love book series February 21, 2018, in the presence of colleagues and friends at the Montserrat Public Library.

There are currently two books in the series, with Golden aiming to add two more. Love’s Sweet Joy is book one and tells the story of Monique Sinclair, a single mother who returns to Montserrat after she inherits a small pastry shop and is struggling to get her business together. Callen Saunders has Montserrat roots and is hired to coach a local basketball team after he is injured but he is extremely bitter.

Local business consultant and teacher, Angela Greenaway said she enjoyed the first novel and has been anxiously awaiting the second book.

Hon. Minister of Education Delmaude Ryan who was read both novels, congratulated Golden on the series.

Golden said she took a different path with book two, In Plain Sight. It is a romantic suspense and centres around a Dutch police officer who is hired to train the local police team. However, his job becomes more difficult as trouble washes up on local beaches.

The author said her vision was to create stories which showed possibilities for love and job creation on Montserrat.  “I’ve had women tell me they recognize their story in the book or it feels like therapy. That makes me feel good as sometimes we just need a bit of encouragement and hope to keep going. Montserrat is a character in the book as well because there are so many beautiful locations to feature and stories waiting to be told.

Both books are available online and locally from the author.

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De Ole Dawg – Part 4: 2018 -Montserrat’s project governance challenge

De Ole Dawg – Part 4: 2018 -Montserrat’s project governance challenge

Why has DfID pointed to “gaps in GoM’s project management capacity”?

BRADES, Montserrat, Mar 1, 2018 – When DfID reviewed[1] the Montserrat Hospital and Health Care Improvement Project the first time, in January 2014 it indicated that it was nine months behind and held a “medium” risk rating. Where, eight months of that delay were due to how long it took for its DfID-prepared business case to be approved.  They also spoke of several failed tenders for equipment and rated goals to date as partially achieved.  In the same review, DfID was already challenging the construction concept: “A property appraisal, conducted in September 2011, found that many of the facilities are not fit for purpose and space standards are generally inadequate[2].”   By the second review in November 2014,  risk was rated as “high,”  the project was seen as “poorly performing . . . failing DFID’s value for money test” and there was an understandable shift in construction concept from upgrading on the present site to going to a site next door.  (This would have then opened the door to requiring an evaluation of alternative sites thus the eventual choice of Hill Top after a study of site-options.) 

It is no surprise, then, to see that it is in the November 2014 evaluation report that DfID spoke of “gaps in GoM’s project management capacity.”

But it is also quite clear that such a remark was doubtless informed by concerns over the Montserrat Development Corporation (MDC) and  the pattern of delays with the building projects for Agriculture, for Customs & Revenue and for Radio Montserrat (ZJB). DfID would also have been aware of significant problems with the road improvement project.

Even more tellingly, by January 2014, questions were already being asked about how health care in Montserrat was to be financed going forward (which eventually led to the now infamous Mott-MacDonald study). 

The termination of the project was predictable. The task of doing a fresh business case for a new hospital project was put on the table. (Which, of course, would re-open all the underlying issues and points of debate.)

Now, too, many people in Montserrat are unaware that by 2012 DfID said that MDC “ha[d] not performed to date as expected,” speaking of “this failure.” In the business case to improve MDC’s performance, DfID requested over EC$ 5 millions and proposed:

“. . . to reconstruct MDC with improved governance arrangements, staffing, technical assistance and resources. It will have a direct project management function as well as a facilitation role. It is a semi-autonomous agency, reporting to a Board and in turn to the GoM. It will employ strong commercial skills and technical support   within   a   framework   of   strong   governance   and   accountability.   It   is   the   key   part   of   the institutional framework for economic development and without it the island lacks the leadership and project management capacity required to put the foundations in place for strategic and catalytic public investments.”

However, by 2014, we saw whistleblowers, audits, investigations and questions over procurement as well as management of money. In 2015, there was a scandal in the UK tabloid press.  A DfID-sponsored 2016 Business Environment Reform Facility consultancy study[3] then summed up: “the  MDC  was  terminated following  poor performance  and concerns over management of money, as evidenced by the findings and recommendations of a Task Force review of the MDC in March 2015.”

It is therefore fair comment to conclude that Montserrat has a significant, longstanding challenge with project governance (and with linked capacity and credibility).

The Programme Management Office (PMO) that was introduced last year was clearly an effort to address this challenge. It sought to do so in key part through consultancies and the introduction of PRINCE2 and other Axelos project, programme and portfolio management frameworks, training and certification.  However, our governance problem then exploded into crisis, through the firing of the first Head of the PMO by frog-marching him out of Government Headquarters. And that, on a “no cause clause” dismissal.  Since then, the PMO has obviously stalled, to the detriment of ready small and major projects.

How can we restore credibility, build capacity and reform project governance?

(For sure, that will be necessary to help us move forward with the key, “catalytic” infrastructure and related projects that will lay a foundation for self-sustaining growth.)

A good place to start is obviously the PMO and the Axelos system for project, programme and portfolio management.  A new head is needed and the dropped strands of work with Axelos and International Project Management bodies have to be picked up. Since the Axelos framework is designed to be tailored to circumstances, it needs to be explicitly integrated with EU-style Programme-based Project Cycle Management.

We will obviously need to develop a robust system for expediting – as opposed to delaying and obstructing – work on the key priority projects.

Procurement and financial management reforms need to be tailored to fit with the needed expediting also.

The question is, are we willing to expedite these changes? If we don’t, Montserrat will continue to pay a stiff price. END

[1]           See DfID’s Dev’t Tracker: https://devtracker.dfid.gov.uk/projects/GB-1-114508/documents

[2]               Glendon Hospital Montserrat Property Appraisal, Planning for Health Ltd, September 2011

[3]           See: http://www.businessenvironmentreform.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/BERF-Montserrat-BE-Capacity-Building_FINAL_31Jan2017.pdf

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DSC_3221

Looking back at the 2017 Literary Festival – “Telling Our Stories”

By Cathy Buffonge

For the past nine years the University of the West Indies Open Campus here in Montserrat has been organizing an inspiring Literary Festival. Led by Campus Head Gracelyn Cassell, the Festival is dubbed Alliouagana Festival of the Word after Montserrat’s original Amerindian name, and takes place in November each year. Last November’s Festival was entitled “Telling our Stories” and as the name suggests focused on all aspects of storytelling.

For the first time the Festival teamed up with the Ministry of Education’s Reading Week, and this featured an impressive Book Parade in which children from each school wore costumes depicting storybook characters. The parade started in Carr’s Bay area and ended at the Basketball Complex in Little Bay, with a host of imaginative costumes. In addition some of the visiting storytellers from the “Lit Fest” visited the schools and met with school children for stories and interactive discussions.

The big event on the Thursday afternoon was the Memorial Symposium, continuing the annual lecture series held in recognition of Montserrat’s hero and international singing star, the late Alphonsus “Arrow” Cassell. For the first time the symposium started at 2pm, in order to facilitate school children’s attendance, and this did attract a good number from three schools, some of whom participated well in discussions.

The symposium featured seven resource persons from the Caribbean and further afield, all touching on storytelling from different angles. The keynote speaker was Dr Amina Blackwood- Meeks from the Edna Manley College in Jamaica. In her presentation “Forgetting we-self”, she pointed out that here in the Caribbean we are still singing about “dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh” instead of focusing on themes more relevant to the Caribbean.

Jamaican storyteller and dramatist A-dZiko Simba Gegele, well known locally, told an entertaining story, while Antiguan bookshop owner and reading promoter Barbara Arrindell, a long time supporter of the Festival, spoke on “Presenting our history”, and also played a part in other sections of the Festival.

Other speakers included Nicole Plummer from UWI, Jamaica, who spoke on “Constructing knowledge through storytelling”, Wendy MacBurnie from Howard University on “Filmic folklore and storytelling in Slumdog Millionaire”, and Gracelyn Cassell herself, the main organizer of the Festival,  whose topic was “Hot Hot Hot: Arrow’s story revisited”. Akini Gill from the University of Trinidad and Tobago talked about his personal experience growing up as an unrecognized dyslexic, and how he now teaches children with learning disabilities through music.

Friday saw the official opening of the Festival, starting with a reception hosted by Montserrat’s then Governor, HE Elizabeth Carriere. Welcome remarks at the opening were given by Minister of Health Hon Delmaude Ryan, the official Patron of the Festival, and there was enjoyable entertainment from Montserrat’s traditional Masquerades and from three of our veteran calypsonians, Cupid, Tabu and Belonger.

A highlight of the opening was the launch of two books. Claytene Nisbett presented her book “Life as Josephine”, depicting the life of a young black girl as she grows up in the US and later in the UK. Sarah Dickinson presented her new book “Plenty Mango”, illustrated by her husband, John Renton. In the book she takes a sardonic and light hearted but sympathetic look at many aspects of Montserrat life, with several well known characters being mentioned.

The weekend was as usual full of interesting activities and presentations. A new feature of the Festival was an imaginative dramatization of the children’s book “Who’s in Rabbit’s House?” This was organized and coordinated by Pat “Belonger” Ryan with support from parents, especially Mr and Mrs Rolando Kassie. Children took the parts of the various animals in the story, which was narrated by Hayley-Shai Kassie in front of creative scenery made by parents and the “house” built by Kirk Brade.

Another new and quite challenging event was a spelling and reading competition for children, entitled “Spell-like a champion”. This was sponsored by book publishers Harper Collins, whose first time involvement in the Festival was greatly appreciated, and who generously donated books for the prize winners and other children. The event was coordinated by Barbara Arrindell and librarian Sonja Smith.  

There was also a dramatic event put on by Brandelle Knight and a group of secondary students and these all received books donated by CODE (Canadian Organization for Development through Education) who have been another sterling supporter of the Lit Fest.

An annual feature of the Festival is the prize giving ceremony for the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) creative writing competition. This year the children, and some adults, competed to write poems on the theme “Restless Earth”. There were over 170 entries, many of them illustrated, so the judges had an extremely hard job, as there was a high standard throughout. Prize winners read their poems to an appreciative audience. The competition was ably coordinated by MVO information/ outreach officer Natalie Edgecombe.

There were several other interesting sessions during the weekend conducted by Sarah Dickinson, Barbara Arrindell, A-dZiko Simba and Nigerian born author/ story teller Atinuke Akinyemi, who kept the audience spellbound. Well known Trinidadian comedian Paul Keens-Douglas wrapped up the Festival with his lively performance “Let’s tell stories”.

As usual a host of interesting books for children and adults, many of them with Caribbean themes, were on sale at the UWI bookstall, and also from Barbara Arrindell’s Antigua bookshop, Best of Books. There was a lovely display of crafts by Juliana Meade, and as always Claude Browne’s bouncy castle was there for the children’s enjoyment.

“Word up”, now an annual event (originally coordinated by Coretta Ryan and her sister, former Festival Queen Sharissa Ryan), was held at the Community College and was reported to be a well attended and lively event, with young people reading and performing their writing creations

I would like to encourage as many people as possible, especially teachers and their students, to attend the Alliougana Festival every year. Most of the presenters come down for just a few days and this is a unique opportunity to listen to what they have to say and interact with them. It was good to have more participation from school children this time. Well done to Miss Cassell and her hard-working staff and volunteers.

Continued funding assistance from the Montserrat Arts Council and the Montserrat Foundation was a great help, as was fundraising in Toronto and Montreal by Mary Glavassevich and Evans Lewis respectively. Thanks too to Radio Montserrat for helping promote the Festival, and to those who provided accommodation free of charge to the visiting presenters. Committee Chair, Gracelyn Cassell extends sincere thanks to the hard-working members of the Steering Committee and to the Sponsors and Partners, old and new for making the 9thAlliouagana Festival of the Word possible.

Posted in Entertainment, Features, General, Opinions1 Comment

Blue Halo

PRESS RELEASE – Blue Halo Initiative

Monday, February 12, 2018 – Stage one of a two-pilot experimental fish trap project, a partnership between the Government of Montserrat and the WAITT Institute which aims to protect the island’s fisheries resources commenced last week.

The project which was carded to begin on February 1st got on the way with the arrival of the material with the exception of a bio-degradable wire on Thursday, February 8th. The materials needed in the construction of the traps are currently in the procession of the lead trap maker for the project Mr Ethan Bonteen, work on the trap has also commenced.

The four apprentices conducting the project have met on several occasions with the Hon. Parliamentary Secretary and project coordinator Gregory Willock. They held discussions regarding the execution of the project while ensuring the final details are put together to ensure a smooth running of the project over the next 12months.

Hon Willock upon the arrival of the trap materials expressed his delight in seeing the project finally getting on its way, “Well I think this is really an exciting moment for all of us. I am just so overwhelmed that the materials to make these fish traps are finally here.”

 

After the completion of the traps, they will be laid and data will be collected to determining if the project is sustainable on Montserrat.

As the weeks and months roll-on, the general public will be further informed on the happenings of the projects. The traps are expected to be laid by May of 2018.

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Is Ministry putting interests before children’s interests, acting irresponsibly, detrimental to school children?

Is Ministry putting interests before children’s interests, acting irresponsibly, detrimental to school children?

12th February 2018

By Email & Hand

Mrs. Delmaude Ryan
Minister of Education
Ministry of Education
Little Bay Montserrat

Dear Minister

I am writing to complain about the closure of all schools in Montserrat from 14th to 16th February 2018 so that teachers can attend. a workshop being held by the Ministry of Education. Unfortunately, this practice has now become an annual event. By disrupting children’s schooling in this way, the Ministry of Education is acting irresponsibly and in a manner that is detrimental to school children. One senses that the Ministry is putting its interests and those of teachers ahead of the interests of the children.

I would be very interested to know whether ministers of education abroad are guilty of the same practice. In the 15 years or so of my education, non  of the academic institutions I attended closed for a single day so that teachers could attend a workshop. That was because teacher training was done either outside of school hours or during the long holidays that teachers enjoy.

I call on you as the Minister of Education to discontinue this practice and hold these workshops outside of school hours. I am confident that in doing so I have the support of a majority of parents in Montserrat. I suggest that you address my complaint publicly and advise that in view of its importance I am placing this letter in the public domain.

Yours sincerely

Jean Kelsick

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Winston Churchill

De Ole Dawg – Part 3: 2018 – We need good leaders for the upcoming storms

Moving beyond “business as usual,” “resilience” and “growth” to needed reformation

BRADES, Montserrat, February 14, 2018 – Today, Montserrat needs not just “resilience” and “self-sustaining growth” but reformation. For, “business as usual” and “go along for peace sake” etc. have not worked. Indeed, business as [nearly] usual in the face of the volcano crisis clearly contributed to our losses twenty-plus years ago.

And no, it was not just “de British” and “DfID.” We, too were implicated and we continue to be part of the problem right down to today. 

But, a reforming leader as a rule has to be “the good man in a storm” – often, a disaster triggered by marches of folly undertaken in the teeth of his earlier unwelcome advice.  On much history, such a leader will be turned to only as a last resort, and will therefore face the challenge of having been right when more favoured figures were wrong. Wrong, at awful cost. And, being newly at the helm when further disaster strikes is always a big challenge.

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill

That is what confronted Sir Winston Churchill[1] on May 10, 1940. The Neville Chamberlain Government actually won the Norway fiasco Parliamentary Debate on the Adjournment, but was fatally weakened. So, Churchill was – reluctantly – resorted to. (For many years, he had been seen as little more than a proved failure and annoying dinosaur past his stale date. He would prove to be the greatest Prime Minister for centuries, at Britain’s “finest hour.” And yes, the phrase is his. Insightful, sound, visionary eloquence was a key part of his leadership.)

Let us therefore again draw on key lessons of history.  It starts on May 10, 1940, Churchill’s first day in office. For, that very morning, Hitler’s Panzers began to roll westwards. France was soon out-smarted and shattered. By June, the British army was only saved by a miracle of evacuation under fire at Dunkirk.  Over the next three months, the Spitfires and Hurricanes of the Royal Air Force backed by a primitive radar system were the slender margin between defeat and survival as Hitlers bombers and fighters came over in daily waves from their new bases in France.

The UK then had to stand alone and take a further pounding until the Japanese attacked at Pearl Harbour, in the Philippines and at Hong Kong in December 1941.  Many more terrible disasters followed. But Churchill stood firm, and with American help multiplied by Hitler’s folly of invading Russia, the tide began to turn across 1942.  Churchill would go on to win the war, but was defeated by Labour’s Clement Attlee in the 1945 election.  It is only in 1951 that Churchill would actually win a UK General Election outright. And yet (despite many flaws and failings), he is rightly regarded as one of the greatest leaders in not only UK but world history.

Clearly, unpopular leadership by one who the “natural” leadership classes despise is a difficult task. For, someone like that has already suffered defeat after defeat in council and will be widely disregarded or even mocked.   That kind of leadership is a delicate, difficult job at best.

To succeed at this time, we have to now acquire a taste for Churchillian reformation leadership, much as we had to learn to eat our veggies. So, to understand it at a deeper level, let us turn to our region’s most common history book for a case study. As, soundly presented real world cases have a subtle richness of detail due to forces in play that a generic model such as SWOT simply cannot communicate on its own. (That is part of why we need to study history.)

Paul, in Acts 27, was the most eminent leader of a controversial Jewish sect. One, that was admitting Gentiles without circumcising them and bringing them under the full force of Hebraic customs and law. He had been pounced on as a turn-coat and was being mobbed in the Temple in Jerusalem in 57 AD, but was rescued by Roman soldiers. He was then held in gaol for two years while undergoing trials and fending off assassination plots. He finally appealed against the Jerusalem leaders to trial as a Roman citizen before Caesar’s seat. Soon, he was on a grain ship full of wheat heading from Egypt to Rome. Adverse winds forced them to stop in Fair Havens, Crete. It was late in the season and the port and town were less than desirable. (Sounds familiar?)

So, there was a ship’s council on whether they could slip 40 miles down the coast to a better wintering port, Phoenix. Paul, already a survivor of three shipwrecks, intervened:

“Ac 27:10 . . .  “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion [Julius, a warrant-grade officer in the Imperial Messenger Regiment] paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.” [ESV]

Clearly, money, bought- and- paid- for technical henchmen and clever words can often manipulate officials and the crowd alike. Paul warned against the folly, but lost the vote.  And soon enough, a gentle south wind came up, so they set out on the 40-mile dash to Phoenix. They didn’t make it, a hurricane-force early winter storm caught them. For two weeks they drifted in increasing despair.  Hope was given up when Paul intervened with a prophetic insight. Shipwreck on an island, and they needed to eat to have strength. On the 14th night, at midnight, they heard breakers at a point near what is now St Paul’s Bay, North side of Malta. Soundings were made, 120 feet, 90 feet as they come in from the East. Danger, in the dark!

Four anchors were dropped from the stern, and they prayed for daylight. On a ruse of anchoring from the bow, the sailors plotted to abandon the passengers. Paul again intervened, and Julius now had learned who is a good man in a storm. Soldiers cut away the boat, and the plot failed. As daylight came, they cut the anchor lines, hoisted foresail and aimed for a beach, running aground on a sandbar. Then, the soldiers wished to kill the prisoners (to prevent escape) but Julius refused.  All 276 souls made it to the beach, as the apostle predicted.

Obviously, we see very different balances of influence at Fair Havens and at St Paul’s Bay. But to get there, Paul had to take an unpopular stance at Fair Havens and lose the vote. For, sometimes, the majority is unsound, and to strike a compromise with popular folly defeats wisdom. Worse, we must ever ponder Jesus’ warning to a nation: because I tell the truth, you do not believe me . . .”

Hard words, yes. But necessary ones as our nation stands at a cross-road. And it is the particular duty of those who stand in a watch-tower to sound the alarm, even at the most inconvenient time.

[1]           See: https://www.gov.uk/government/history/past-prime-ministers/winston-churchill

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