Family matters

by Latoya Burnham

A playful swat at his sister ambassador was what greeted me when I drove into the St. John Parish Church early in the morning.

I checked my watch again. Yep, I was early for the interview yet the St. John Ambassadors, Tré Jackman and Rashida Belgrave, were already waiting. Punctuality, they would later tell me, was one of the essentials of the Ambassadors Programme for which they had both signed on. The laughter that followed introductions and handshakes reminded me of my early days with my own brothers — this duo just seemed to blend together perfectly.

But they would explain as well that it was because they “kinda” grew up as brother and sister.

“My dad help raise she,” Tré noted, before quickly switching from Bajan to standard English. “When we met I remembered her from coming to my house, but she still doesn’t remember me.”

“If you give me like an exact date it would jog my memory, but I don’t remember the time he keeps telling me about. I remember that our dads were really good friends, but I don’t remember him from then, that’s the truth,” Rashida quickly quipped.

It may be one of the reasons the two seem like brother and sister, and they would admit, sometimes have disagreements like siblings do. Their coming together was a chance encounter, again of siblings. Rashida’s brother was the first to be nominated as Ambassador, but due to illness, he had to withdraw, making way for her “second brother”, Tré.

The older of the two at 22, Rashida clearly takes a firm hand with Tré, “to keep him straight”, a fact that rather than resenting, her partner clearly appreciates and admitted as such.

“Yea, for real. She keeps me on track,” he said, adding that he joined the programme because he did not think he had enough responsibilities.

“I saw from the programme that it seemed to teach responsibility, plus I knew the former ambassador and he seemed to enjoy himself. All of that plus the fact that you get to interact with people made me want to get involved,” said the Barbados Youth Service student.

He said he had joined the Youth Service for similar reasons, in an attempt to better himself.

“I found that once I put my mind to do something that I never used to stick to it. So I thought this would change me and now I know I can continue with what I am doing.

“Rashida has been like a sister to me through this entire thing,” said a straight-forward Tré, sitting in the front pew of the St. John Parish Church.

Beside him, Rashida looked on, shaking her head in agreement now and then. She had heard all this before and was used to Tré telling everyone she is his sister.

She came into the programme because of her own sister, Isola Waithe, née Belgrave, who was 16 when she represented St. John in the competition.

“I saw the changes in her and how she was at the end. It really does teach you responsibility. It changed her and she seemed more mature, somehow, plus it looked like fun.”

The training sessions, particularly those in public speaking, have been the highlight so far for Rashida. In fact, for this physical education teacher at the Deighton Griffith School, it’s okay to be on stage in the various fitness competitions she loves to compete in, or among her students drilling them in phys-ed, but when she gets on stage to speak is when the butterflies set in. This programme, she believed, could help her overcome some of those anxieties, and so far, success.

The confidence both have derived from the experience, plus the emphasis in the programme on time management are elements they are thankful for, because the balance has not been easy.

For Tré, it has been a time of juggling his evening classes at The St. Michael School, with his duties. A former assistant at the Government Printery, it’s a job he hopes to return to, once his classes with the Youth Service and his Ambassador duties are through, because he absolutely loves graphic design.

Their project for this year, Progress Though Reflection — From Trainline to Bus Stop, has allowed them to find 10 outstanding residents between ages nine and 99 to honour — the oldest woman being a 99-year-old. But the process has also fulfilled another need in both of them — to interact and get to know more about the people in the parish.

With family and friends cheering them on, this duo is now heading for the Ambassadors of the Year title on November 17, and though Tré would have entered the programme late and therefore not been a part of every aspect, both speak highly of what they have learnt, even as their eyes are firmly set on taking the respective crowns.

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