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The power and benefit of philantropy

It was the vision of the late Prime Minister David Thompson that can be credited for helping to create greater awareness and appreciation of the enormous contribution philanthropy can make towards the development of Barbados.

This applies particularly to the social sector where vulnerable groups have many needs to be met. However, as generally happens to be the case, public resources set aside for this purpose can only go so far, leaving many needs unmet. Mr Thompson therefore saw philanthropy as playing a special role in helping to bridge the gap.

On assuming office in 2008, Mr Thompson immediately identified encouraging philanthropy, especially by wealthy expatriates who either reside or are regular visitors to Barbados, as a major priority for his administration. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, he did not live to see the fulfilment of his vision.

The vision, however, continues to live on. Evidence in recent years clearly suggests that philanthropy has taken off in a pretty big way, as seen in the outstanding work being done by a number of charitable organizations. The Maria Holder Memorial Trust stands out, in particular, for the scale of its contribution, especially to the development of education.

Maria Holder was a Swiss woman who fell in love with Barbados and made this island her home from 1978 until her death in 2004. A former resident of Holetown, Ms Holder, whose late daughter Marina was married to a Barbadian, was known for her quiet support of many Barbadians in their pursuit of better lives through higher education.

Established in 2007 by her son and son-in-law to honour her memory, the Maria Holder Memorial Trust also supports worthy projects on a smaller scale in a number of other countries of the Eastern Caribbean. Its mission is “to contribute to the alleviation of poverty and to improve the quality of life of vulnerable people, particularly in Barbados”.

In 2010, Ms Holder’s son-in-law established what can be described as a sister charity, the Brewster Trust, which is dedicated to working with young men on the island, considered by some to be an at-risk group, to promote, develop and improve football. Underscoring their commitment to supporting the island’s development, the two charities signed a memorandum of understanding
with the Government of Barbados back in 2014.

The Maria Holder Memorial Trust has developed such high visibility in a relatively short period that it seems hardly a month goes by without mention being made of a project with which it is associated. The trust has so far contributed more than $25 million to support various initiatives on the island, including the construction of six state-of-the-art nursery schools. The first two –– one at Gall Hill, Christ Church, and the other at Oldbury, St Philip –– will open their doors later this year.

“Barbados is very grateful for this kind of intervention, because we are known across the Western Hemisphere for the quality of our education,” remarked Prime Minister Freundel Stuart at the signing of the MOU two years ago. “. . . The earlier we begin, the more solid will be the foundation and the more secure will be the reputation of Barbados for the foreseeable future.”

With Barbados having acquired the unenviable reputation as the amputation capital of the Caribbean, owing to the ravages of diabetes on the population, Maria Holder’s name also adorns a new state-of-the-art medical facility at Warrens. Being operated by the Barbados Diabetes Foundation, it will play a frontline role in wrestling and bringing this killer chronic disease to the ground.

The Sandy Lane Charitable Trust is another foundation through which expats are making a valuable contribution to the development of Barbados. Its mission is to help and support underprivileged Barbadian children whether that assistance is financial, educational or medical. A write-up on the trust says that it “endeavours to make a long-term difference to Barbadian society, through the improvement of facilities, training and welfare support for both children and their families”.

We have mentioned the few which happen to be better known. However, there are obviously several other organizations and individuals who, in a quiet but effective way, are also making a meaningful difference in the lives of Barbadians. For their contribution, Barbadian society, especially the direct beneficiaries, are just as grateful.

Philanthropy is indeed proving to a winning partnership bringing together the expat and Barbadian communities. This certainly augurs well for the future. We salute those expats, along with born and bred Barbadians, whose charitable acts are contributing towards making life on this little rock better. We look forward, at the same time, to many others getting involved.

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