Of passion and commitment – St George
by Emmanuel Joseph
St George may not boast of “having a sea”, but it is certainly awash with a sea of community-minded residents.
Their commitment to a better parish – and country – is abundant and their passion is so overflowing, there’s enough to share with the rest of the island. And pride and industry is definitely not in short supply across St George.
The young, the middle-aged and the retired seem to reflect the spirit of community that drives them – at great personal sacrifice sometimes – to freely give time, expertise, guidance and even money so as to empower, uplift, inspire and educate those most in need.
This is the parish that is home to Gun Hill, one of the few remaining signal stations dating back to 1818; this is the parish that borders six of the 11 parishes in Barbados, the most any one parish borders; and this is the parish which is home to Corey “Beenie Man” Barrow, who appears to have risen above the political fray.
Barrow is everything to everybody in St George South. As a much sought-after volunteer football coach and community leader, his home has become a combination of doctor’s office, pharmacy, feeding and counselling centre and a place to hang out.
This 38-year-old gives freely of himself, having lost his mother, Lolita Barrow, to breast cancer. A community leader and church worker herself, she was the inspiration for Barrow to pursue “my destiny” as a football coach and community leader.
It is from her, too, that this former Lodge School pupil has derived his passion and selflessness. “I am actually a volunteer coach at Lodge. This is three years I have been there. I am a die-hard Lodge boy. Football coaching is my life.
The love of it . . . is something I actually adopted from my mother. She passed away three and a half years ago from cancer and she was actually involved in community work and it is something that just come natural to me,” said Barrow, who is the public relations officer for the Ellerton Sports and Social Academy, the umbrella body for the Ellerton FC, Malvern Cricket Club, Ellerton Strivers Netball Team and the Ellerton Youth Academy. He also learned his generosity from his mother.
“I am not a rich man financially. I just am in a position that I can help out people in nuff different ways. Through my connections and the associations I have met and ‘ting. But naturally I like to see the community and Barbados on a whole uplifted, because my real passion is youth, though,” he added.
As a football coach and community leader, Barrow interacts with scores of children each day. They confide in him because they feel comfortable with him, therefore he knows which ones need help, which ones are keeping the wrong company and which ones lack love at home. “I could tell you stories that would lick water out your eyes that these children got to go through,” related the youth leader.
“Even by my house, they actually come and lime by my house . . . if they get into trouble or if there is a complaint, the people in the village would come and complain to me about the children rather than complain to their parents,” according to Barrow.
The youth leader does not want to be a hero but helping these young people, some of whom don’t get proper meals at home or shown much love, suffer verbal, and sometimes, sexual abuse.
He was adamant that he would rather have them at his home relaxing and “breezing” and playing some type of board game “cause I know dem there . . . keep them outta trouble. “My joy is to see the development of the children,” he told Barbados TODAY.
Barrow said he intended to improve his coaching skills and overall personal development, therefore, he has completed numerous courses of study. “That is how my destiny [is] ordained. I don’t only want to develop their football skills, but their social skills. I am not one of those coaches who only just study the sport, I look at your social aspect.” Barrow also wants to see a national forum on youth, but cautioned against talk and no action. He believed programmes with incentives for young people would get their attention.
“I have a policy, you have to behave good in your school work and your behaviour, or you can’t play football.” As one of the founding members of the football club, he said it was formed while he was a teenager “because we felt we were being ‘unfaired’ by the older fellows”. Since the club was formed back in August 1996, it has won more than half dozen out-of-season matches because there was a great family atmosphere. “If we had one biscuit, we would break it in pieces [and share it],” he declared.
As he reflected on the impact which his late mother had on his life as a community worker, Barrow was overtaken by his emotions and struggled to fight back the tears at various times. He will never forget the young men from the community who rallied around him during his mom’s illness, he said.
Turning his attention to crime and violence, Barrow noted that while Ellerton was reputed as a “bad boy” district, the club had not experienced any violence at its competitions in its four year history.
“The football brings out people of all walks of society,” he added. And what is his wish for St George and Barbados as a whole? “I would like to see a more family-oriented mentality. We don’t unite as we should. We have the crab-in-de-bucket mentality.
The Indians and Hispanics support each other; if we as Black people unite, a lot more positive things can happen. While Barrow leads the way for the upliftment of many of the men in St George, a retired school teacher and several relatives and friends have taken up the mantle for the women. Megan Sealy, 66, is the co-founder of Sisters Impacting Sisters (SIS). The mother of five told Barbados TODAY she and her partners recognized that a lot of women were experiencing problems such as domestic abuse, low standards and low self esteem.
“We will try to address some of these problems. We will be working with a community development officer initially in Mount Hill and Ellerton,” Sealy said. According to her, once the fledging organization gets stronger, the services, with the help of corporate Barbados and other sources, will be expanded to include assistance financially, morally, educationally, such as offering of scholarships. “These scholarships will be particularly targeting single parent mothers,” disclosed the co-founder of SIS.
Her wish for Barbados is to see more women raise their standards in terms of managing their households and looking after their children. “We really want to empower women; empower women to fulfill their task as mothers. We will seek to educate them. A lot of young mothers don’t know how to deal with their children,” Sealy informed Barbados TODAY. Even though SIS is a women’s organization, there are plans to reach out to the men on the “blocks” who don’t know what to do with themselves,” she added.
SIS officials are now working on plans to fully launch early next year, having been formed in October this year. The women will also be calling on various professional groups such as SAVE Foundation and the National Organization of Women to render assistance in dealing with domestic violence. The overarching theme of SIS is “transforming lives, pointing women to God”. The entity has been permitted to use the Ellerton Community Centre on Wednesday nights for its meetings.
Away from Ellerton, the long and winding road leads to Woodland and the tiny village of Holligan Road. Sandwiched between Drax Hall and Woodland and comprising all of 15 households with virtually everyone related, Holliganism is rife here.
According to Marva Holligan, a retiree who lived there all her life, there are only about three of the 15 families who are not Holligans. Marva’s house, which is near the end of the cul-de-sac, is next to one of her sisters, who lives next door to another sister and whose neighbour is a nephew. It was at this point, she appeared to have lost track of the other relatives. However, Marva Holligan remembered at least the Griffiths and Johnsons who are not connected to the Holligans clan in this peaceful and quiet village. There was no need to point out her brother. He was sitting in another sister’s veranda relaxing.
He introduced that sister who did not give her name but corroberated Marva’s story regarding the history of Holligan’s Road, St George.