Foundation of hope

by Neville Clarke

For a quarter of a century the Israel Lovell Foundation has been keeping families together and enhancing lives in and around My Lord’s Hill, St Michael. For many years the area had been seen as part of the “wretched of the earth”, plagued by extreme poverty, sub-standard education and lack of marketable skills.

Then in 1990 the foundation was established to cater to the needs of the marginalized in those communities.

Named after the Pan Africanist Israel Lovell who, although he was born in Workmans, St George around 1881, later moved to My Lords Hill, the foundation has transformed the community into a hub of Afro-centric cultural expression, accordinig to Programme Coordinator Cheryl Hunte. “Over the years we have won quite a number of medals at NIFCA [National Independence Festival of Creative Arts]. We have won gold in music; we won gold in drumming and steel pan and we have won gold in dance.

Our signature piece, Maafa, depicts the trans-Atlantic crossing of Africans to the Caribbean. Maafa is the piece that most people request here in Barbados and abroad because we did it for many years in Trinidad and Tobago for their emancipation festival.

It was requested in Guyana and also in Toronto, Canada,” Hunte told Barbados TODAY. The 25-year-old organization which introduces children from as young as four years old to African dancing, also works with adults, with programmes for men and women.

Cheryl HunteHunte, who has been involved in the work of the foundation from its inception, has lived through the days when the senior group travelled abroad annually to when the local economy was experiencing robust growth. But with the Barbados economy not doing as well anymore, she lamented the fact that it has affected their ability to go overseas. However, the foundation has devised other ways to engage the seniors so they do not feel marginalised in their golden years.

They meet every Monday to knit, do basketry, socialize, reminisce and discuss current issues. The foundation also organizes local tours to historic sites, visits shut-ins, and with Christmas approaching, the seniors are rehearsing for their carol singing in the community. “We also visit districts in and out of our community and we visit senior citizens homes where former residents of our communities are housed to entertain them at Christmas,” Hunte explained.

The objectives of the Israel Lovell Foundation are to uplift the quality of life of people in the immediate community and the surrounding areas, through educational, cultural, entrepreneurial, physical and self-development programmes.

Feeding the poor is also part of what it does through a meals on wheels programme that reaches 100 people daily. Hunte, who resides in the community, said she was aware of the plight of several families who benefit from this programme.

“The number of persons who benefit from our meals on wheels programme varies. At present many people are coming forward for assistance. Financial resources remain a challenge to the programme, hence we cannot accommodate everyone who seeks assistance. We have many people on the waiting list, but once funding can be accessed we would be able to service at least 100 persons easily.” While the organization is based in St Michael, Hunte said its membership stretches as far afield as St Lucy, St Peter, St John, St Joseph and St Andrew.

And there are plans to develop a national programme. “Our programme is not restricted to the performing arts. We have academic programmes as well.

We have a tutor who is in charge of the adult programme, while former primary school teacher Ladepoo Salankey is in charge of the children programme. He prepares them for the Common Entrance Examination and the results are encouraging.

We have had children come to us who could not read and write and Salankey and the team would work with them and they would pass for schools that you would not expect them to pass for.

The results are unbelievable.” Asked about the continuity of the foundation and its programmes, Hunte said: “ We are 25 years now and we look forward to another 25 years. What is encouraging is that there is evidence of continuity in the foundation.

We have members who came when they were quite young and are now young men and women and they work in the foundation with the programmes. There are some whose children now come to the foundation.

We of the management saw our community falling apart and we sought to arrest the slide with the establishment of the Israel Lovell Foundation.

At the time we did not feel we should have left it to government agencies alone. During our 25 years we have saved many young people from a life of crime by engaging them in creative and positive pursuits such as dance, drama and educational programmes.

”The foundation has planned a family fun day at Blenheim Playing field in observance of this year’s independence celebrations, while more elaborate plans are on the drawing board for next year, the 50th anniversary of independence.

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