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SEEN UP NORTH: Canadian bid for closer Bajan links

Tony Best

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Barbadians in Canada are struggling with a major challenge.
It is to establish a firm link between the children of Barbadians in Canada and the country of their parents’ birth.
Bajan adults are becoming increasingly concerned that far too many of their children or grandchildren who were born or raised or both in Canada don’t know enough about Barbados’ culture and history.
Yes, the youth visit the island, get to know their relatives and tour the physical landmarks. But like many other immigrants in Ottawa, British Columbia, Quebec and other parts of Canada, Bajans recognize that getting the “kids to feel the feeling about the home country” isn’t like a walk in the park.
How then do you solve it?
Steve Kirton, Juan “Pecky” Clarke, Peggy Murray, Barbara Trieloff-Dean and Grant Morris, Bajans who have lived and worked in Toronto and its suburbs for decades, believe they may be well on their way to bridging the knowledge gap between Canada and Barbados while raising money for a worthy cause in Barbados.
“We simply wanted to bring people together in Toronto in a Bajan atmosphere fashioned that’s fun, cultural and educational at the same time,” Kirton said. “It was something for adults and their children so they can enjoy many of things we used to do back home. It was a family affair.”
So, on a recent Saturday evening, a group of members of the Barbados Charity Ball Committee held Snowball, a cultural event at the Thornhill Community Centre in a middle class suburban  section of Toronto.
It was priced at a modest CAN$40 for each person attending, except for young children who were admitted free.
“We are aware of the economic climate and we didn’t want to put a financial strain on people’s pocketbooks,” said Kirton. “The goal was to reach another segment of the Barbadian community in Toronto, people who normally don’t come out to the events which cost much more than Snowball. We believe we have succeeded and are planning for next year.”
For at least six hours, almost 300 Bajans danced, ate a meal, played bingo, dominoes and draughts and engaged in a Bajan joke-telling contest with Clarke, a long time Toronto resident, as the master of ceremonies.
On the menu were peas and rice, beef stew, baked chicken, pudding, coconut bread, ginger beer, turn-overs, sorrel, tea, coffee and wine.
Also on the agenda were old-time Bajan jokes, interspersed with references to “rock-stones”, “cocoa-tea” and “snowballs”.
But there was a sub-text to the evening, a prelude to the Barbados Charity Ball, an annual upscale social occasion, being held this year at the Toronto Congress Centre on June 9.
It attracts between 500 and 600 guests.
Trieloff-Dean said its goals include bringing Barbadian nationals together at a formal black tie function, raising funds to help boost the country’s health care system and give the country an opportunity to promote itself as a premiere destination for tourists and investors.
“For the past two years we assisted the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and we plan to do so this year,” explained Trieloff-Dean, the driving force behind the Charity Ball.
“We have been working with the QEH which has identified the renal unit as an area in need of help.”
Already the ball committee has:
• donated dialysis equipment to the QEH and plans to provide another machine this year;
• awarded CAN$60 000 (BDS$117 680) to provide for undergraduate scholarships at Canadian colleges and universities;
• established an endowment fund at York University to finance the Canada-Barbados Friendship Scholarship. The fund has CAN$175 000 (BDS$343 235) to do its work; and
• given CAN$20 000 (BDS$39 230)to three organizations that provide service to HIV/AIDS victims.