SEEN UP NORTH: Taking NABO to next level
The Book of Ecclesiastes reminds Christians everywhere there is a time for everything – a time to weep, a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.
Set aside the weeping and the mourning, but add careful consideration of national issues involving Barbados and the United States, and a picture emerges of what occurred when almost 100 Bajans came together in New Jersey for the 20th annual Summer Conference of the National Association of Barbados Organizations (NABO).
Reaching into the well of support from Bajans in New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Florida, Washington, California, Massachusetts, New York and other parts of the United States, Barbados’ Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite said NABO proved English novelist Charles Dickens right when he wrote “charity begins at home”.
And that bit of reality characterizes the umbrella organization’s mission.
“Over the past 12 years the contributions of NABO have not gone unnoticed,” Brathwaite said while delivering the feature address at the conference’s awards banquet at the Double Tree Hilton just outside Newark/Liberty Airport in New Jersey.
Educational scholarships, books for children attending local summer camps, awards that recognize the work of Barbadians in America, donated dialysis machines, respirators and other medical equipment for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, monetary contributions to the Barbados Cancer Society and other charitable institutions, and the preparation of disaster response guidelines for the Barbados Government in 2008 to boost the country’s ability to act swiftly in times of emergency, were cited by Brathwaite as examples of an active organization.
“These contributions continue to be of great assistance to our nation’s children,” said Brathwaite, who was in New York a few weeks earlier for the 50th anniversary of the Barbados Ex-Police Association.
NABO, which was founded more than 15 years ago by Ken Knight, currently chairman of the Barbados Child Care Board, and a group of other Bajans, is an umbrella body that brings together at least a dozen associations in different parts of the United States.
Its chairperson is Janice Bispham, who has led the organization for the past three years and is due to step down next January. She spearheaded the restructuring of the body and told guests at the banquet it was “time to move this mature entity called NABO to the next level”. But she didn’t stop there.
“As Barbadians we seem to have issues with maintaining stability in our organizations and many times that stability appears to be grounded in mistrust,” Bispham said.“I will not argue that in some cases that mistrust might be rightly deserved, but all cannot and should not be judged by the mistakes or wilful acts of others.”
In a message read by Simone Rudder, a career diplomat in Barbados’ Embassy in Washington, Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator Maxine McClean praised NABO “for its hard work in support of all Barbadians, be they resident in the United States or in Barbados”.
She also expressed hope that NABO would participate in next year’s diaspora conference in Barbados, just like it did in last year’s network consultation.
During the four-day meeting that ended with a religious service at the hotel last Sunday, there were presentations on health by the Barbados Nurses Association of America; the City of Bridgetown Credit Union and Barbados Public Workers’ Co-operative Credit Union Ltd on finances; THE NATION newspaper on its reach across the United States and its community involvement. The credit unions and THE NATION were among the corporate sponsors of the conference.
At the urging of the Barbados-American Charitable Organization of New Jersey led by Miguel Edgehill, NABO made a large presentation of books to the New Covenant Christian Academy, a private school in Plainfield that emphasizes religious values and a sound basic education.
“The students receive a solid education and go on to some of the elite academies,” said Stephanie DeGeneste, a co-founder and principal of the school.
“We are indebted to both NABO and the Barbados-American Charitable Organization of New Jersey.”
Awards were presented to Esther Greaves Estwick, the Barbadian Ex-Police Association, Heather Brathwaite, Christopher Crawford, John Ellis and Marcia Smith.