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Name: Jeannette Jean
Industry position: Private Banking administrator,
Societe Generale Private Banking
Education and training: Business Management (Associate of Arts degree). Presently pursuing an MBA in Chartered Banking at Bangor University,
What attracted you to the sector?
I enjoy working on assignments that will give me a challenge. Most jobs in the financial sector offer "pace": A high importance is generally placed on quick thinking, quick acting, and constant production of results. This can be trying for some people; for me and many others, however, it is exhilarating.
Globally, banking and the financial sector represent highly protected businesses and here in The Bahamas, banking is the second largest industry. Despite upturns, downturns, booms and busts, the finance sector continues to be one of the best choices for newly qualified graduates. Furthermore, the sector can provide a rewarding career and advancement. Compared to other industries, it has a tendency to place less weight on seniority in judging the readiness of employees for advancement. Once qualified, high performers can move ahead regardless of age.
How long have you been involved in financial services? What keeps you motivated?
I have been involved in the financial sector for the past four years. Motivation is the combination of fulfilling the employee's needs and expectations. Although employers may not be able to motivate employees per se, they can provide an environment at work that is conducive to and supportive of employees choosing to become motivated about issues related to work. In no particular order, below are a few things I am motivated by but not limited to: Job security/integrity, career development, fair compensation, good working conditions, upward mobility, mutual respect and effective leadership.
Why do you think you have been successful? Did mentoring play a part in your success?
Although I have not yet reached the level I would like to be at in the financial industry, I have set goals and it may seem slow but I can see where gradually I am achieving them. This in itself can be an example for other young persons. Mentoring did play a major part of my success. When I look at other persons I look up to in the industry it pushes me to want to achieve more.
What qualifications do you feel are the most useful in helping you perform in the sector?
Every employee has different qualities to offer. For me, the key ones are my passion for work/customer service and leadership skills. Also important for me have been leadership abilities, excellent communication and problem solving skills, perseverance and motivation, and the ability to work under pressure with little or no supervision. Being a great team player has been invaluable as well.
How do you view the financial services sector?
The stiff competition in the sector requires exceptional hard work, focus and commitment to stay afloat, coupled with dedication in order to succeed. The demands customers had 10 to 15 years ago are different from today. In order to stay competitive, the financial industry must change constantly. The financial sector is essential in order for a modern economy to work. Bankers/persons in the financial sector are the intermediaries between people with money to invest and people who need money to build their businesses, to buy a home or just planning a well deserved vacation. I take pleasure in coming to work each day knowing I am helping someone achieve his/her goals and ambitions, and most importantly helping them with investment decisions.
What advice would you give young people just starting out in the industry?
The advice I would give any young person includes: Remember that success is a journey not a destination, and that the greatest enemy of success is the achievements of today; learn a second language; invest in yourself, try to get as much education as you can to stay competitive; save and remember that your work is unto God and continue to work in the spirit of excellence.
Guardian Business: Can you briefly describe your experience in the tourism sector and what your role is today?
Sonia: I had the privilege of working for the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island from 2002-2005. It was a breakthrough opportunity for me after serving seven years at the Ministry of Works as a design engineer and project manager. In the role at Atlantis I drew on my project management skills, as I had responsibility for executing an annual multi-million dollar capital budget for all the senior vice presidents of the company who were at the time my internal customers. Unlike in the public sector I was given a lot of autonomy to run the projects department. I, of course, closely coordinated with the heads of the facilities division but felt empowered, and I was expected to succeed.
I currently own and operate a full service mechanical and electrical engineering consultancy and, as it turns out, my major project is the Baha Mar Development resort being undertaken on Cable Beach. Graphite Engineering Ltd. has been selected as the Mechanical and Electrical Engineers of Record for this project.
GB: Why did you choose to work in tourism as a career?
Sonia: I did not choose tourism specifically as a career, but as a consequence of what was available in the economy. An opportunity in tourism presented itself and I was pleased to embrace it. Bahamian engineers continue to be under represented in major tourism projects at the level of design and onwards. This will only change if we continue to build capacity and, when given an opportunity, we provide stellar service.
GB: What has been your most memorable moment?
Sonia: My team was given the opportunity to oversee the renovation of the Crown Ballroom. By dollar value it was the largest project given to our department. It was not a technically challenging assignment but we had a very short time frame to deliver the project, and we were able to get it done.
GB: Has the industry changed since you started your career? How?
Sonia: As it specifically refers to the engineering services in hotels, there have been a myriad of changes because the mechanical and electrical systems that support these buildings, keeping them lit and cool, continue to be more sophisticated.
GB: What should The Bahamas focus on to stay competitive?
Sonia: We are currently sitting on an opportunity to aggressively push sustainable tourism and make this a given for any property in The Bahamas. We should require that our hotels in the first instance be high performance buildings, with excellent carbon footprints. We should be reusing, recycling and cutting waste. If we can do this without hurting our cost competitiveness we would set ourselves apart from the pack and demonstrate that we really care about our country.
GB: What advice would you give to a young person who is considering a career in tourism?
Sonia: Do your homework, literally. There a lot of opportunities very high up in the food chain of these resorts that Bahamians can fill. We must accept the fact that a lot of the developers are multi-national companies and it means we may be competing with international persons for jobs at home. This means we need to get international exposure and experience, and be prepared to function at the top of our game.
Aliya Allen began her career in 2004 at the Attorney General's Office in civil litigation and chambers. She joined Graham, Thompson & Co. in 2007 as an associate and was quickly promoted to partner in the financial services practice of the firm in 2010. At the time, she was the youngest partner in the firm's 60 year history. Allen was recently appointed chief executive officer and executive director of the Bahamas Financial Services Board.
Guardian Business: What is the biggest challenge facing your sector? What measures need to be taken in The Bahamas to solve it?
Aliya: The intensified competitiveness of global and emerging financial centers has created a major but ultimately surmountable challenge for The Bahamas. An ongoing commitment to and investment in human capital, and raising the quality of our business environment and infrastructure will ensure that we remain well positioned to take advantage of the wealth of opportunities that exist. As a jurisdiction we have taken some important steps towards maintaining our own competitive advantage by passing no less than 15 financial services related bills at the end of last year. For instance, the Trustee Act, which was already a remarkable piece of legislation, is now after these most recent amendments, a beacon of clarity, robustness and flexibility. We have elevated our wealth management platform to the next level.
GB: How has your business or sector changed since the financial crisis?
Aliya: The financial crisis led financial centers around the world to reassess the need for regulation. The conventional theory that markets were ultimately self-correcting was challenged and after long periods of deregulation we all watched as a raft of regulation was implemented in an attempt to strengthen global financial stability.
The problem many would say is that smart regulation and a fair, consistent and balanced approach is what was required, and this is not always the approach that was taken by some jurisdictions. Thankfully, The Bahamas has always erred on the side of smart regulation.
GB: How would you describe or classify the ease of doing business in The Bahamas?
Aliya: We have seen steady improvements in this area but given the highly complex and ever-evolving nature of our competitive industry there is always room for improvement. Both the private and public sector are increasingly cognizant of the need to create advantages that are attractive to doing business in The Bahamas. We need to maintain an open mind and open dialogue on further changes that will enable us to be viewed as a jurisdiction that not only welcomes business but has a progressive attitude for facilitating the conduct of business here.
GB: What should young businesses keep in mind in this current economic climate to survive?
Aliya: That in difficult times marketing should be viewed as an investment, not simply as an expense. This is true for all businesses, not simply new ones and it is the same for financial centers. BFSB understands this paradigm all too well.
GB: What makes a great boss? What makes a bad boss?
Aliya: A great leader has vision and focus but is never hesitant to take advice. Inflexibility and dogged pursuit of your own aims, even in the face of competing viable theories is the surest way to fail.
GB: Can you describe a life experience that changed how you approach business today?
Aliya: can't speak about a single experience that has changed the way I approach business but I can speak about experiences that have shaped how I approach work. When I was a child my parents would make us stand on the dining room table every night and recite poetry and read short stories from the Royal Reader. At the time, it was a chore and we would inevitably groan, "this is boring!" However, it developed my confidence and language comprehension at an early age, and it engendered a love of language and reading that has stayed with me. Those Royal Reader nights taught me that there is no short cut for hard work and that often you have to do things you don't want to do. I've had many "Royal Reader type" of experiences since then; nights when I have stayed up till 3am thinking about a complex problem, or forced myself to go home on a Friday and power up the computer instead of winding down.
GB: What keeps you grounded?
Aliya: My family is quick to point out my failings (in a loving way) whether I want to hear them or not. I have always been encouraged to challenge conventional thought and my ideas are often challenged in the most humbling way. Recognizing my own fallibility has kept me grounded.
GB: What excites you about the sector?
Aliya: The depth of talent and experience in our sector make it an incredibly invigorating space for creative ideas and thought. BFSB has been remarkably successful in providing a forum for some of those ideas to be fleshed out and eventually turned into action. I think the ease of and ability to generate client driven solutions will be the key to our competitiveness as a financial centre and I look forward to facilitating that process going forward.
GB: What are you currently reading, or what is something you've read recently that has been influential?
Aliya: "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman. It is a well-researched and comprehensive examination of behavioral decision-making. Kahneman posits that there are two mental systems, one that is fast and the other slow, that shape our decision-making. The "fast" system is unconscious, prone to snap judgments and easily swayed by emotion and most people are hard-wired to think this way. The "slow" system, is meticulous, conscious, fact-checking and rational and difficult to engage. Sometimes you are called on to make decisions quickly and with limited information and that is unavoidable, but this book has caused me to look more skeptically at decisions I've made in those circumstances and has changed the way I approach decision-making today. Unfortunately, the pull of "fast" system decision-making is that it often "feels" right, but it is more likely to be wrong than you think.
The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) came into existence on September 1, 2009. URCA replaced the Public Utilities Commission and the Television Regulatory Authority. URCA is supposed to act as an independent body and its main purpose is to regulate the telecommunications industry.
On its website, when clicking on the consumer section, there are five main points that URCA is supposed to ensure that competitors in the telecommunications industry execute to protect consumers. These are listed below:
o Ensuring that the quality of your utility services are satisfactory
o Ensuring that prices for utility services are reasonable
o Promoting and protecting your interest
o Promoting competition in the utility sectors
o Publishing reports on the utility sectors.
I ask the question then: What is URCA doing to ensure that the consumers of cellular services receive satisfactory service? BTC's announcement that it is upgrading its network and that there are going to be outages is not good enough. Certainly, URCA has a much bigger role to play, but as it is supposed to be an independent body, why isn't it publicly coming to the defense of the consumer?
Friday, June 15, 2012 was another day in which many businesses lost thousands of dollars because cellular services were disrupted. This in my view is unacceptable. Where is the redundancy in BTC's network? Shouldn't capabilities exist so that when the primary system is down, that the secondary system is booted up to handle all the network traffic?
If these capabilities do not exist now, I hope URCA has demanded that BTC put these systems in place for future upgrades. We have had a horrific experience with the New Providence Road Improvement Project (NPRIP) and now the upgrades at BTC are proving to be moving along the same trend. These examples are certainly not the best way to execute projects.
Maybe BTC and the decision makers of the NPRIP can look at the execution of the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD). They are rebuilding Lynden Pindling Airport, but the airport has remained open and is still providing its core service which is to ensure that consumers depart and return to the airport safely.
Bahamians now know better and these companies who take the unpopular approach to projects without carefully considering the negative effects to its consumers had better get on with it and rethink their strategies. I say to URCA that BTC's outages are planned and the question to ask is why these planned outages can't be completed between 12 a.m. - 6 a.m.
I say to URCA, that "independent body", to please regulate and protect the consumers.
- Dehavilland Moss
Bahamian companies and the government have been urged not to take a "passive approach" to efforts to tap into private Chinese wealth, with one top local realtor suggesting that even as the appetite and capacity to invest abroad grows within the Asian giant, the Chinese know little about this country.
Fresh from helping to coordinate Mario Carey Realty's (MCR) participation in a luxury property showcase for high-net-worth Chinese, Danny Lowe, a Beijing-based consultant for MCR, noted that many countries are far ahead of The Bahamas in channelling Chinese investments abroad.
Speaking with Guardian Business after returning from the Shanghai Luxury Property Show, where 5,000 high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) who were "hand-picked" to attend the event were invited to view a presentation he conducted on The Bahamas, Mario Carey said his experience in the country taught him that The Bahamas is "not well known there".
"They want to know where The Bahamas is, so we use reference points like New York City, Toronto, places they would know, because they have no idea," said the realtor, who has concluded over 100 sales transactions in Ocean Club Estates on Paradise Island.
His comments come as recent surveys suggest that Bahamian sectors such as real estate, tourism and financial services stand to benefit from becoming better known in China.
In 2013, a comprehensive survey revealed that the number of HNWIs in China has more than doubled in the past four years to 700,000.
One in three wealthy Chinese have investments abroad, and of those, 60 percent would like to increase their overseas holdings, according to the survey from China Merchants Bank and Bain & Company released in mid-2013.
That's roughly double the number of HNWIs who reported making similar investments in 2011.
Meanwhile, in 2013, around 60 percent of HNWIs reported some interest in moving abroad.
Some commentators have noted that this interest is increasing as China seeks to shift its economic model away from that which made many of its super wealthy rich, to one that seeks to even out some of its inequality. This could lead to higher taxes for the wealthy, along with other changes that could threaten their wealth.
Other surveys have revealed significant "anxiety" among Chinese entrepreneurs about the security of their investments, based on concerns about the rule of law and lack of regulated business norms.
In the China Merchants Bank and Bain & Company report, the most prominent issues concerning Chinese who are considering moving or investing abroad are environmental issues like air pollution and the low quality of drinking water and food safety.
Many people are also worried about the education of their children as well as their own retirement plans.
Lowe, who speaks fluent Mandarin and specializes in Chinese and Asian consumer behavior, said that there is a lot of competition for private Chinese investment.
While the relationship between the Export-Import Bank of China, the China State Construction and Engineering Corporation and Baha Mar has played a role in informing mainland Chinese residents about The Bahamas, there is more that could be done by both the public and private sectors to raise this country's profile in the Asian giant, said Lowe.
"The Bahamas is thinking that once Baha Mar comes they will come; that's a passive approach, why not move ahead instead of waiting for Baha Mar?
"There are a lot of competitors for the Chinese dollar. We definitely need to get a foot out there in getting ourselves known so that the Chinese know there is a paradise on this side of the world," said Lowe.
"At the trade show there were so many other countries there promoting themselves and they are way ahead of the curve in attracting the Chinese consumer."
Carey agreed, adding that a promotional campaign in China would be money well spent for this country.
"I think The Bahamas, the government, the ministries of tourism and finance, need to think about increasing the presence of this country there through a marketing campaign in that market. If there is anywhere we could be spending the money, I think we would benefit from it there," said Carey.
The promotion does not necessarily have to sell something new to Chinese, but elaborate on and illuminate what The Bahamas already has to offer, said the realtor.
"What we already have works. We just need to let them know what differentiates us. We are English-speaking, the dollar is on par with the U.S. dollar, and you can become a permanent resident if you invest over a certain amount."
"Bahamians have this misconception that the Chinese will come and buy up everything but the government has policies in place for that."
On the plus side, the mutual visa exemption agreement between The Bahamas and China, signed last month, is a major step forward for encouraging tourism, and potentially investment, said Lowe.
"The Chinese usually find it very attractive that they can enter into another country without a visa; it shows on a political level that the country's ties are stable and furthermore they want to do these things on the fly.
"Although the Bahamian embassy in Beijing, China does facilitate visas it's much more convenient that they wouldn't need to be processed and can come directly," said Lowe.
Carey said he has received some very positive responses from potential investors following MCR's presentation and meetings in China.
"Based on what I've done, I'm already getting some tremendous feedback from it. I think it will pay off.
"I've been nurturing this for a while. We have our website in Mandarin, we have Danny in China as our Chinese consultant; it's a determined strategy and it's starting to pay off, so the next step now is to create business opportunities, form partnerships."
Down the line, the realtor anticipates one day having an office in the Asia-Pacific region.
"It's safe to say we could have an office in the Asia-Pacific region; that's one of the goals we have. Why wouldn't MCR take advantage of having Bahamians (students) there? The culture and etiquette are very important when dealing with clients on a global level, so its important that they can see Bahamian people taking time out to reach out to them," he added.
Attorney at Law / Chairman of the Bahamas branch - Charted Institute of Arbitrators/London
What attracted you to the sector?
I became interested in pursuing a career in diplomacy while studying French at La Sorbonne, Paris, France. My deceased brother, Richard Cooper, himself a lawyer, encouraged me to read law after I had finished my tertiary education in France. I studied for the LLB in London, while simultaneously working as a full-time officer at The Bahamas Maritime Office. My primary duties were in the areas of registration of mortgages, an area of ship finance, which firmly established my interest in the financial sector.
How long have you been involved in financial services?
Following my call to the Bar in 1993, I practiced over a broad range of areas in the law, but my primary interest was in corporate and commercial laws. I became actively interested in financial services about one decade ago, and have been involved in the sector since then.
What keeps you motivated?
We all know that life is full of challenges. I meet these challenges, and bring stability to my professional and personal like by drawing inspiration, strength and hope from God. My conviction of The Bahamas' potential to be a premier international arbitration center in the Americas with capacity to complement other arbitral seats around the globe particularly motivates me. Ensuring that there are successors in the industry in 2030 and beyond is also an important motivating factor for me.
Why do you think you have been successful?
I attribute my success to the favor of God and the kindness of persons that have touched my life. My parents, especially my father the Late Rev. Dr. R. E. Cooper Sr. made huge sacrifices for my education and instilled in me a determination and appreciation for life and the opportunities it brings. Along the way, persons have sowed into my success. For example, my benefactor the late Frank Lloyd was instrumental to my completing my studies in France and England after my father's death. Of course, it was left to me to embrace the opportunities afforded to me, and as with others, hard work, dedication and a fearless determination to re-start from ground zero all contributed to where I am today.
Did mentoring play a part in your success?
Yes, I consider mentoring critical. Friends, family and associates have mentored me over the years in areas as wide as business etiquette, diplomacy, and in the legal and financial sectors. I do believe, however, that mentoring should start at home; my parents were my first mentors. I have also found that mentorship is not hinged on age, but rather experience and a willingness to share.
What qualifications do you feel are the most useful in helping you perform in the sector?
Fluent knowledge of the French language has enabled me to provide professional services to the francophone community. Additionally, obtaining my Series 7 has given me the investment knowledge and exposure to respond effectively to a dynamic and evolving marketplace and particularly to the business needs of my clients.
Training with The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in London has allowed me to provide the option of Arbitration/Alternative Dispute Resolution to clients who are keen to conduct business in The Bahamas, and want a commercially viable option to settle disputes.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career? How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge in my career has been staying innovative and seeking new opportunities within the global community. This is a continuing challenge. In order to meet the challenge, I regularly attend legal and financial conferences all over the world, to remain on the cutting edge of what is happening internationally, and to be familiar with what others globally perceive as the future of the financial industry. Also, I research market developments and remain abreast of the global financial regulatory climate.
What advice would you give young people just starting out in the industry?
I would say to young people that they should learn how the financial markets operate. I strongly advise them to read and research to understand national, regional and international economies. Exposure by means of travel or internships whether in The Bahamas, regionally or worldwide would prove to be very strategic for future networking, and the establishment of a competitive curriculum vitae. I advise young people that becoming fluent in a foreign language in which business is conducted is more pertinent today than it was when I was studying.
I also encourage young people to pursue their vision with laser focus and not to be afraid of dismantling "the box" and embracing the global market.
Many Bahamian businesses are holding on by a thread and seeking answers on how to survive this seemingly never-ending recession.
Many are complaining and feeling the pressures brought on by a sluggish economy, but I ask you, how many of us are really willing to do what it takes to not only survive, but to thrive? In this new arena several factors have become crystal clear:
o Business as usual is a thing of the past, get over it!
o Self-perseverance is the name of the game, the strong survive, the weak will be swallowed up!
o Survival depends on making the tough decisions that will enable you to adapt to the ever-changing landscape and remain competitive.
o New visions will have to be outlined and current strategies redefined, while still remaining open to new and emerging opportunities, for example, the demand for new products and services or just the ability to cheaply acquire the assets of a distressed competitor.
o Organizations will need agility, the ability to quickly spot and snatch opportunities before the competitors do.
And I can hear some of you crying right now, Stacia I hate change. Trust me I know you do. The reality is, the more successful you become in your career or business, the harder it is to change, since all of the learning that has led to your success thus far, has been implicitly coded in your brain and works against your ability to unlearn. So believe me, I understand why change is difficult, but consider this, the new normal and #1 rule for business survival in this new arena is simple, adapt or die! And in the words of former U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki, "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less." If you don't learn how to embrace change my friend you run the risk of your products and services becoming obsolete!
Tough times call for tough measures. Here are a few of my suggestions for your business survival:
o As business owners and executives, you need to ensure that everyone drinks the Kool-Aid, that you and your employees are on the same page. Your strategy is not a military secret, your employees need to understand it as clearly as you do! So even If you've said it before, you need you to say again. Tom, Sue, Maryjoe, Shaquita, this is where we are, this is where we are going, and here is what we need you to do to help make his happen. And when we are successful in achieving our goals, here is what the benefits will look like.
How many times do you have to tell them? As many times as it takes because execution is crucial to your survival. Without a doubt it is imperative for your employees to understand your highest priorities, and know what they are supposed to do to achieve them.
o I said it before I'll say it again, the success of your organization lies in the hands of the people you hire. So don't compromise, hire right the first time and make sure that you have the right people involved in the recruitment process. Outsource this function if you must because here is what I need you to always remember:
A level employees hire other A level employees.
B level employees hire C level employees.
C level employees, well they just hire losers so with a bunch of losers running around your company's survival is slim to zero.
o My people, my people, we've got to raise the standards, as a people our brand is too low, our work ethic is almost non-existent, we've grown too comfortable, entitled and lazy. Comfort leads to stagnation and I just don't know when we will realize that not doing more than average is what keeps the average person down. We really need a paradigm shift! We have to change our work ethic. Clients with choices will refuse to put up with crap and you know exactly what crap I'm talking about: Showing up late, missing deadlines, inferior work, "ducking clients", over promising, fluff with out substance, etc. It's time to stop this nonsense! We must learn to stamp everything that we do with excellence. We must absolutely improve the quality of our goods and services. We must improve our level of professionalism.
o Hold people accountable for their performance. Reward those who execute, especially your superstars (since they are not equal to your average worker), coach those who don't, and if they still don't get it my friend it's time to separate. Employees must come to the place where they realize that everyday they must earn the right to be employed. They must bring value or their services are not required! Don't be afraid to make the tough decisions, understanding that your employees either add to or detract from your success.
Finally, I want to leave you with the words of Jack Welch, former CEO of GE.
"The winners will be those who search out and participate in the real growth industries and insist on being number 1 or number 2 in every business that they are in, the number one or number two leanest, lowest-cost worldwide producers of quality goods and services, or those who have a clear technological edge, a clear advantage in the market niche.
"Where we are not number one or number two and don't have, or can't see a route to technological edge, we've got to ask ourselves Peter Drucker's very tough question: If you were not already in this business, would you enter it today?
And if your answer is no, face that second difficult question: what are you going to do about it?"
Stacia Williams offers keynotes, workshops and personal coaching on a wide range of personal branding, image management, customer service, leadership, business etiquette and international protocol topics.
You can contact Stacia Williams at 325-5992 or email Stacia@totalimagemanagement.com or visit staciawilliamsblog.com.
Intervention by Fred Mitchell MP Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration Mid-Year Budget statement
House of Assembly Nassau 11th March 2013 CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
I wish to thank the leaders of my constituency branch for their support. I looked at them on Saturday as they worked the souse out on the Fox Hill Park and admired them all for their hard work and dedication: Charlene Marshall, Altamese Isaacs, Deidre Rolle, Hazon Pinder, Sherene Glinton Armbrister, and Ellamae Collie. Took time out from their leisure Saturday to make sure the branch is funded. We must do something for them. I wish to extend condolences to the Member for Golden Gates on the passing of his mother. I wish to recognize the passing of T Baswell Donaldson, the former Central Bank Governor whose funeral I attended on Saturday.
I write this letter with deep consternation after reading this Komen blog (http://blog.komen.org/?p=1339) and the press reports on the Susan G. Komen and Ministry of Health announcement of a $100,000 gift to launch a breast cancer program yesterday, September 12.
It also strikes me as so ironic that, exactly one month away from Christopher Columbus' "Discovery" date we, who are supposedly an "independent" nation, are still looking to a "savior" from outside the country to "discover and rescue us". See what you lookin' at, Bahamas - wake up, and stop perpetuating this nonsense.
The Cancer Society of The Bahamas (CSB) was formed in 1976 by a small but fiercely dedicated group who worked relentlessly to form an organization dedicated to educate the public about cancer so that it may be prevented, diagnosed and treated in its early stages, to be of service to cancer patients and their families, and to raise funds to support these programs; and after close to 40 years of sacrifice, hard work and struggles in the original trenches of the cancer fight, they have built an organization that assists the local population all over The Bahamas with all forms of cancer, breast cancer being one of their primary targets.
I know the story intimately because I helped to write it as a 30-year breast cancer survivor and a past president and board member of the society. Although I have long retired from the society I still keep in contact with all of the many entities that deal with cancer care in this country.
Here is my story: When I was only 31 years old, it was the late Dr. Poad who accurately diagnosed my cancer as soon as he saw it, and referred me to the outstanding Bahamian surgeon, Dr. Earle Farrington who performed my biopsy and mastectomy at Princess Margaret Hospital with the late Dr. Wavell Thompson as the anesthetist, after the specimen was correctly diagnosed as stage one Piaget's Disease by Bahamian lab technicians and pathologists, and I recuperated in PMH with Bahamian nurses, the late Lillian Thompson and Susie Mae Lockhart, taking excellent care of me.
This was 30 years ago when we did not have all of the experts, equipment, nor amazing technology that we have today and I am still alive. So don't you think Bahamians knew what they were doing then and are doing now?
I joined the society when they were in the process of purchasing the first ever mammogram machine for The Bahamas which was donated to Princess Margaret Hospital. We knew then that "early detection was the best protection". That was our motto 30 years ago when Komen was just being formed and we were working closely with the American Cancer Society, who embraced the CSB with open arms, asked us what we needed and then shared their services, expertise and resources freely with us so that we could adapt it in whatever way we thought necessary to appeal to the Bahamian public.
We knew 30 years ago that Bahamian women's breast cancer developed at an earlier age than the U.S. statistics showed and that it was more aggressive. We might not have had the scientific data to show it, but our doctors had the empirical knowledge to advise us it was needed, so the CSB was advocating monthly breast self-examination and mammogram screenings at an earlier age decades ago.
In contrast, the Komen organization is only 30 years old and entered the Bahamian cancer scene a mere four years ago. The correct story is that they were introduced to The Bahamas through the auspices of the Bahamas Breast Cancer Initiative (BBCI) that was formed by the wife of the then U.S. Ambassador to The Bahamas, Stephanie Siegel, herself a breast cancer survivor.
Members from the Sister, Sister Breast Cancer Support Group, the Cancer Society of The Bahamas, me, and a group of extremely qualified Bahamian cancer specialists - Dr. John Lunn, Dr. Theodore Turnquest, Dr. Larry Carroll, Dr. Corrine Sinquee and Dr. Devaughn Curling - were invited by Siegel to work along with the BBCI to advance cancer care in the country. We, the Bahamians, were their respected consultants and were asked for our advice on how to achieve this.
We are the ones who have been in the trenches and on the ground from the outset; we are the ones who know our people and our country; we are the ones who patients turn to for assistance; we are the ones who have the right to set the policies and procedures because we know the story. This is our country and we must demand the respect that we deserve. Visitors to our country should have the decency to ask our permission to participate, not barge in and try to take over. But as in all such cases, if the donkey lets you get on his back, in so doing it gives you the right to ride him.
It was the BBCI who invited the Komen organization to partner with it to assist in the fight against breast cancer here in The Bahamas. It was the BBCI who informed Komen about the genetic study which was developed by most of the same brilliant Bahamian cancer specialists listed above who worked along with their colleague, Dr. Judith Hurley out of the United States, and this study was also assisted financially by the highly successful and locally organized annual cancer fundraiser Ride for Hope. I trust that these persons and organizations will also write in to elaborate on "how the story go" since many of them were not mentioned in the press reports.
I resigned from the BBCI because I was not prepared to bow to Komen's control. I refused to be told by them how and what to do to develop educational programs for women in The Bahamas based on the standards and statistics of a group who "just reach". It appears that too many people are not aware that slavery and colonialism are dead and I, for one, refuse to dance to the beat of someone else's drum especially since I was involved in writing the music "in the first beginning".
In these days and times, no person or organization should be allowed to come into the country purporting to be our "savior" with the presumption that they have the right to impose their standards unequivocally upon us, telling us how and what we must do in order to conform to their guidelines. Allowing persons to dictate their terms of engagement just because they can write a fat check is no better than prostitution and I cry shame on those who perpetuate this pathetic behavior.
I am a Bahamian first and foremost and I believe in the Bahamian people. I have respect for the successes of the Bahamian people who work hard and I have no hesitation in speaking out in their defense - so should we all.
I am therefore outraged that the Ministry of Health would deny and ignore the cancer achievements of our historical past and "diss" our own organizations and professionals by saying they want to partner with a entity from outside the country to do the very things which these organizations have already developed and have been doing for years.
This is ridiculous and a total waste of time and energy. Furthermore, just how many digital mammogram machines do we need in the country anyway, especially if we do not intend to also invest in properly training the personnel to operate and maintain them? We also refuse to enact legislation that will guarantee quality and consistency in standards of diagnosis or even enforce existing legislation that is already on the books that will protect our women from poor quality diagnosis and care.
Before independence in 1973, many of us might have been poor in the material sense, but we were richer in spirit and creativity. We were more self-sufficient and proud because we relied on our own selves and our community to sustain our existence.
Do we wish to continue to be like Oliver Twist? When we are hungry, do we want to continue to cower and plead, "Please, sir, may I have some more?" Or do we want to ask our neighbor to help us plant a seed to grow a tree that we can eventually stand next to and lift up our heads to pick the fruit to feed ourselves for generations to come? Bear in mind that this process takes time and serious nurturing with plenty of hard work and patience, but such is the long and winding road to success.
How in the world are we ever going to regain our self-respect and dignity if we continue to put out our hand in supplication instead of in collaboration? Collaboration embodies mutual respect - supplication perpetuates dependence. Ask yourself: What position and condition would you wish to encourage?
- Pam Burnside
The prospect of receiving an award for being academically exceptional was never at the forefront of Ricara Skippings' mind as she matriculated through her bachelor of business administration (accounting) program at The College of The Bahamas (COB). She said she was simply following the sage advice of her mother.
On Wednesday, May 28, when scores of high achievers of the college's 2014 commencement class were honored during a special awards ceremony, Ricara was leading the pack. She completed her program with distinction, earning the School of Business' top awards as well as the college's two primary honors.
"I really did not expect this because I actually was working to make my term grades and get a sense of self accomplishment and do my best in every course. I never thought about awards. That was never at the forefront of my mind," she said.
"My mum would always say, you are not competing with the person sitting next to you in the classroom, you are competing against the person sitting in China, Germany, Africa, New Zealand. This is a global environment and if all you think you have to focus on is the person sitting in front of you, then you have big problems."
Ricara humbly accepted the School of Business award, donated by Fidelity Bank and Trust, and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce Award for Academic Excellence. Many other graduands were honored in various schools - from mathematics, physics and technology to English, education and communication and creative arts - for being high achievers.
Acting President of COB Dr. Earla Carey-Baines commended them for their perseverance.
"In the academic arena, they had set themselves apart as scholars and leaders worthy of accolades and emulation. We salute all of our award recipients, as these past years have not been easy ones. The achievement of a college degree is fraught with many tests and challenges. To succeed in college requires commitment, perseverance and sacrifice. You sit before us, not only because you have succeeded, but because you have excelled."
Randol Dorsett is a partner at law firm Graham Thompson and chairman of the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority. In 2001 when he graduated from COB he was recognized for his scholastic aptitude. He returned to his alma mater to deliver the keynote address to the honorees, urging the males among them to be leaders in every facet of society.
"We need more men of excellence now more than ever. We need role models for our sons. Our young Bahamian sons must look up to you for guidance. They must emulate your quest for excellence and model themselves accordingly," he said. "When they are faced with the decision to follow the man who leads the gang on the corner and the student who attends COB, they must come to the realization that to be a man is to know responsibility, to take care of one's self and to take care of one's home. To be a man is to be faithful to one's family, to be a man is to be a leader with a burning desire always to better one's self."
He also challenged the college to be the leading voice in The Bahamas and to help solve the issues this country faces.
"The college and its academics must be the voice of reason in the midst of all the idle talk. When we consider national development plans, issues of taxation, the rights of citizens, issues relating to the environment, these are all issues [in which] the college must have a leading voice. The college must undertake and produce the research which must underpin the public debate," he added.
In all, almost 70 graduating students were honored for their academic excellence and leadership. Among them was Ashley Knowles, who earned an associate of arts degree in music and is a member of The College of The Bahamas Concert Choir. He has travelled the world performing under the leadership of his mentor and choir director Audrey Dean-Wright. Most recently, the college's choir performed at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. He enthusiastically expressed his appreciation for her musical guidance.
"I have been prepared so well, it is like you are almost indebted because you cannot repay [Mrs. Dean-Wright], or the music department, or the college for all I have learned in such a short time. When I travel internationally, people are surprised that I am only a second-year student completing an associate degree. They are so pleased to see that this type of training is happening here in The Bahamas," he said.
At the awards ceremony, Dr. Eslyn Jones, vice -president of student affairs, presented a special award to Dean-Wright, an associate professor at the college, for her longstanding commitment to music and education at the institution.
"For over 18 years, this young lady has been training our students and giving us beautiful music at all our ceremonies and services. We thought it fitting to honor her today. This plaque is a small token of our appreciation for the hard work that she has done over the years," she said.
The college's 2014 commencement activities happened under the theme: "A legacy of leadership: Forty years of educating the nation".