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EDITORIAL: Kudos to Diaspora Conference


rhondathompson, [email protected]

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The recently held Inaugural Diaspora Conference also known as the Barbados Consultation Network must be considered as a major initiative in sensitising Barbadians abroad about the Government’s desire to ensure that Barbadians everywhere, and especially those outside the island know that they are important to this country’s development.From all accounts the conference was a success, and in the national interest it is absolutely important that there should be the most effective follow-up so that the development of this initiative does not become stillborn as so many other good ideas have become.Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxine McClean described the objective of the conference as “to embrace a comprehensive structure to embrace the Barbadian Diaspora as an integral part of the economic social and cultural development of Barbados”.We think that this is a laudable objective, because the history of this country is replete with instances of large swathes of our people leaving the island in search of better opportunities for themselves and their families, and achieving social and economic mobility of a kind which they could not have imagined, far less achieve, had they remained at home.Those Barbadians who went to Panama and to Guyana in times long past were of inestimable benefit to this country at the national level once they had settled in their new homes; but the major trek to Britain, Canada and the United States in modern times represented a major social development for thousands of young men and women whose exposure to higher educational and other training opportunities are well known.Many of these young ladies trained to be highly skilled and competent professional nurses, and many of them reached the highest echelons of that caring profession and have done this country’s name proud. A lot of them later moved on to the United States and Canada where some have become nursing practitioners and even medical doctors building on their initial training in Britain.Of the young men initially recruited to join the British Army or to work with the London Transport executive, many used the opportunity to study law and for other professions and some have returned home to achieve high standing.But for far too long we have taken for granted, the significant economic contribution of these Barbadians abroad. Even when many were students, they were able to remit financial contributions to assist members of their families, thereby adding to the island’s store of foreign exchange, and enhancing the ability of successive governments to advance development.Yet in this age of instant communication and speedy travel, we have still failed to extend a warm familial greeting to our returning brethren, and this conference will not be successful unless it puts this very serious wrong behind us. Apart from applauding the major contribution made in the form of remittances to the island, returning Barbadians must never again be made to feel as strangers in their native land.They constitute a very valuable economic and intellectual resource, and above all they are willing to continue to help in nation building whether they come home only for a visit or return permanently, and as a source of potential investors, they have for many years felt as if no one wanted to hear from them, and as if they mattered not.This recent conference invited cooperation between Barbadians at home and abroad, and we are pleased that the development of a  Barbados database housing information on all Barbadians living abroad listing their skills, interests and geographical location will be established.But none of these objectives will be successful unless and until our returning nationals are made to feel welcome here. There are already too many horror stories of diasporic Barbadians being made to feel less than welcome once they set foot on Barbadian soil. We must never forget that the navel strings of returning Barbadians or their immediate ancestors are buried here.

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