COLUMN – People person Fabian

Today's-FutureName: Fabian Sargeant

Age: 31

Education: University of the West Indies,
Cave Hill Campus;

Barbados Community College; Christ Church Foundation.

Qualifications: Master’s in public health ((to be completed July 2015); Bachelor of Science in social work; Associate degree in environmental science and geography.

Occupation: Social worker and youth commissioner.

Fabian Sargeant
Fabian Sargeant

If you had the opportunity to announce yourself to the world, what would you say?

Fabian Sargeant is a selfless, family-oriented person who loves people; all types of people, regardless of colour, class, religion or sexual orientation; and would travel through any fire for my personal beliefs.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about parenting and being a great parent to my son and an equally great husband to my wife. I believe that a strong family structure should be the foundation of our existence. Additionally, I am passionate about community work, especially working with all types of young people by enabling them to optimize their potential and skills, while being or aspiring to be positive pillars of this society.

What initiated your love for social work and people development?

My love for social work, I believe, came from my mother; it was always part of my world growing up with both parents. My mother would take strangers into her home and give them somewhere to stay temporarily, feed people who were hungry, go out of her way to help anyone regardless of who they were –– and the list goes on.

World AIDS Day Outreach.
World AIDS Day Outreach.

I would always tell her that she was too nice not realizing that being in that environment groomed who I am today,
to the extent my wife would always call me “Mr Yes Man”, because she thinks I cannot say “No”. But I beg to differ.

You pursued an Associate degree in environmental science and geography at BCC. Why this area of study?

At that time, I was young and had so many interests, but did not know what to do. All I knew was that I did not want to be home doing nothing or liming on a block getting into mischief. I completed a Certificate In Health Sciences at the Barbados Community College, and then, with my love for the environment, I decided to pursue studies in environmental sciences and geography.

I wanted to continue my studies in environmental science, but there was very little interest in that area in Barbados, and I thought it would be difficult finding a career; so I was back to the planning table trying to figure out what to do with my life.

Completing undergraduate studies in social work would have expanded your knowledge of social issues, understanding people, and would have introduced you to new techniques, theories and methodologies used in this field. What topics stood out most for you and have aided you greatly in your day-to-day work?

The social work programme consisted of courses and a final paper, which required serious introspection, and that was one of the most important aspects of my study. I believe that lecturers can give all the information and a person can get straight A’s, but if you are not grounded, have a strong sense of self and know your boundaries as a worker, you will fail at being a professional social worker.

Group work skills and tools and techniques used in community organization, which I learnt while doing the course, play a critical role in my daily job as a youth officer, in addition to understanding that a person’s environment influences
their behaviour.

You were a social work intern at the Barbados Youth Service and the Psychiatric Hospital. What were your roles during these internships and what did the experience reveal to you?

The BYS was very interesting. My role there was that of counsellor and it reinforced in me that young people are not the ones in crisis; it is their parents and guardians. Many young people are victims of dysfunctional families, sexual, physical and verbal abuse, who seek refuge in the wrong places resulting in drug use in many instances, coupled with the lack of necessary support needed to overcome their physical, biological and emotional phases of adolescence.

To be honest, I had no interest in fulfilling my internship at the Psychiatric Hospital, but my perception quickly changed. My experience at the institution was phenomenal and it exposed me to a different type of social work from what I knew at the time. It is unfortunate that the excellent work being done at the Psychiatric Hospital is not given the recognition it rightfully deserves.

The most interesting observation was the number of children attending the Child Guidance Clinic For Attention Deficit Disorder And Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. Most of the children I witnessed attending the Child Guidance Clinic did so due to an ADD or ADHD diagnosis.

This phenomenon drove me to do some personal research and I found that some secondary schools and agencies that facilitated counselling had a large percentage of children with ADD or ADHD. This phenomenon worries me and is an area
I would like to research on completion of my Master’s.

If you had the opportunity to live your life over again starting from the time you entered secondary school. What is one thing you would do different and why?

I would pay more attention to my studies and try not to be distracted by friends and girls. When I first left school, I experienced extreme difficulty in getting a job and furthering my education. Therefore, I had to start all over and pay for all seven CXCs I have today.

If you were to be marooned on an island, what three things would you hope to have with you?

My wife, son and The Bible.

If you were given $1 million, what five things would you use it for?

With $1 million my focus would be on one thing; a multipurpose youth centre in the Nelson Street area where young people can access academic and personal development training, counselling, a library, various sporting disciplines and a garden where they could develop skills for growing their own food.

What inspired you to get involved in HIV/AIDS awareness and advocacy?

I never spoke about this, but I had an experience in my teenage years with a lady who was suspected to be HIV positive. That experience sparked my curiosity about HIV and AIDS, and when offered the opportunity to represent BCC on the National HIV Committee, I was more than interested.

Donation to HIV-AIDS Food Bank.
Donation to HIV-AIDS Food Bank.

Over the past 12 plus years, you have been actively involved in Barbados’ National HIV and AIDS programme. How have you contributed to the programme and what roles have you played?

Throughout the years my role has mainly been targeted at HIV education and counselling. I was one of the founding members of the National HIV And AIDS Committee and was the chairman before I left. The committee was a consultative body to the National HIV/AIDS Commissions on youth projects and programmes.

As a way of expanding my knowledge about sexual and reproductive health I became a member of the Youth Advocacy Movement where I was trained as a peer educator and worked on numerous outreach projects. My work within the Ministry of Youth also entails working on and with HIV education projects and programmes.

One of my most significant contributions to the ministry was assisting with drafting the HIV Education Strategic Framework. I have also worked very closely with the Ministry of Health with its HIV counselling and testing programmes where we visited many locations across Barbados to educate the populace about HIV-related phenomena and facilitate HIV testing.

My work also entails working with many organizations and agencies. Most of my work entails working on HIV projects
and facilitating workshops across Barbados for the Ministry of Youth.

Tell us about MARPS and your involvement.

MARPS stand for Most At Risk Populations and the population I worked closely with, along with some colleagues, was the young homosexual community. My colleagues and I facilitated projects where support group sessions were done, along with individual counselling for those who needed it.

The purpose of the group was to provide a forum where participants felt comfortable to share their experience and through a number of activities get empowered. Additionally, research was done with the groups and I hope to further my research in this population on completion of my Master’s.

What is the Global Youth Coalition On HIV And AIDS and what were your responsibilities as the National Focal Point?

GYCA was a youth-led global network of over 8,500 young leaders and adult associates working with youth and HIV/AIDS projects and programmes in over 170 countries worldwide. GYCA’s mission was to empower young leaders with the skills, knowledge, resources and opportunities they needed to scale up HIV/AIDS interventions among peers.

My responsibilities included organizing meetings with groups to get a sense of the groundwork being executed with young people, facilitate new HIV groups and report to the Regional Focal Point who was stationed in Guyana.

Based on your experience working with the National HIV/AIDS Commission and its youth arm, would you encourage other young people to get involved in the commission?

Of course! I would encourage other young people to get involved with the NHAYC. The committee has provided a platform for me to build my capacity as an individual; not only in aspects of HIV and AIDS education, but general personal development. Most of the training I received was during the time I was affiliated with the National HIV and AIDS Youth Committee.

You are about to complete you Master’s in public health. Why this area and not a Master’s in social work?

My rationale was that in an evolving sociocultural and academic environment where health phenomena are taking precedence, I wanted to diversify my skill in an area that would make me more marketable in a professional environment. Therefore, I capitalized on the opportunity to marry my social work skills and the Master’s in public health.

You are a certified phlebotomist, which probably means nothing to quite a few people. Can you share with us what that is and what it involves?

Phlebotomists are trained persons who draw blood from a patient for clinical or medical testing; collection of blood is primarily performed by venipunctures (collecting of minute quantities of blood, fingersticks).

You are a senior HIV educator, former part-time HIV and AIDS instructor at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic, served as chairman of both the National HIV And AIDS Youth Committee and UWI HIV/AIDS Response Programme Educational Affairs Committee. What is next for Fabian Sergeant when it comes to HIV/AIDS advocacy?

On completion of my Master’s in public health, my focus will be on research with youth and minority populations in areas of health. Additionally, my focus will be on advocating healthy living and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health awareness among young people.

You currently work in the Ministry of Youth as a youth commissioner. What exactly do you do?      

My job as a youth commissioner entails working with youth-related governmental and non-governmental organizations.
I also facilitate the realization of the creative potential of young people by mobilizing, guiding and channelling their access
to wide range of services.

Who has contributed to your success?

I must thank the Almighty for giving me the health and strength to be where I am today; my family, especially my late grandmother; my wife Tracia Sargeant, and people who possess qualities most worthy of emulating and whom I view as unsung heroes of this society, including Colin Clarke, Mark Evelyn and Corey Lane, to name a few.

I must put emphasis on my mother who told me once: “Boy, you does dream too big!”

And I lived to prove to her that no dream is too big for this world . . . . Love you, Mother.

Many have been crippled in their quest to succeed by stigmatization. Having grown up in the heart of Nelson Street most of your life, how were you able to overcome this stigmatization and achieve your goals?

Growing up in Nelson Street groomed who I am today, and I am extremely proud when I say I am from the Nelson Street area. I do agree that in some instances stigma exists, but it has never made me think any less of myself or where I was from.

Growing up in the ghetto prepared me for the world as it stands today; with street sense I know how to handle any situation that may come my way. The experience of living in the Nelson Street area gave me the skills of being able to relate to anyone regardless of socioeconomic status or profession.

Many people may see me in a professional setting but become very surprise after we, as the fellas would say, “sit down and reason”. Young people prefer to have a discussion where their opinions are respected and acknowledged and a response given in such a way they can relate to. So I know I am blessed with the package to fulfil my work here on this Earth.

Finish this statement: It is my desire to . . . .

Contribute to the positive change in the Barbadian sociocultural environment where young people will view themselves as assets to this beautiful country and not targets, as implied in many aspects of the media and general society.

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