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News Article
Problems at the new LPIA

Dear Editor,

Your editorial "Welcome to chaos" only touches the problems at the new Lynden Pindling International Airport. You give attention to the arrival of baggage and the customs procedure. But you do not mention the very long walk (it seems like a mile) from the gate to the immigration hall, with no travelators? Hardly a welcome to visitors or returning residents, who carry heavy bags as carry-ons.
On reaching the arrival hall a band such as Blind Blake's sometimes plays to keep the tourists and others in a good mood. The immigration officers do their best to process arrivals with a big smile. The delay is sometimes slow when three or four planes arrive at once. Sometimes the baggage never arrives on the same plane, a fact you discover only after waiting hours to locate it. Yet technology is supposed to record every bag on the plane. Cannot this same technology advise passengers when their bag is left to come on a later flight and that the airline will arrange delivery to their hotel?
My experience in the customs area has been that tourist arrivals are given preference, and are processed with only minor inspection. If a long wait is experienced it may be caused by the lack of operating conveyer belts. There should be better signs to direct tourists to tourist only customs officer lines, and better management of Bahamas residents only lines, where one person with excess baggage can hold up the line for half an hour.
If The Bahamas is serious about welcoming our visitors and sending them home with happy memories, there is need for an improved system for both arrival and departure for all travelers. We have a new airport, but unless thought is given to the problems of large numbers arriving at the same time, or leaving at the same time, there will be nothing but complaints. What will happen when the 2500 extra rooms on Cable Beach bring more and more travelers at the same time?

Word soon gets around the traveling public. As the retired population increases and enjoys more vacations, the quick trip to The Bahamas will be off their short list when word gets around of the long waits in arrival and departure halls. Senior citizens won't put up with this and may stay at home or choose other destinations. All the money spent on advertising The Bahamas is soon counteracted by such negative publicity and word of mouth.

There must be a better way to process all travelers including the sick, the elderly, the lame and young children. No preference or consideration is given to those travelers, except that airlines offer wheel chairs and preferential boarding. No preference is given to senior citizens proud enough to join the rest of the public. No seats are made available in the customs hall while you wait to be processed or wait for your luggage. Even the lowly auto parts shops have a ticket system so you know how many people are in front of you, so that if there are many you can return to your car, or spend time looking at other merchandise. As for the lame or elderly, if they all took advantage of the complementary wheel chair services even more chaos would result. And why is there not better information on plane arrivals and departures and delays? Surely this should also be posted in the U.S. customs hall. Once in the U.S. customs hall you are a trapped. There is no way out, no way to get to a toilet, nowhere to sit down, and the wait can be over 90 minutes.
The commercial banks give preference to senior citizens, and big commercial customers, and make no profit from doing so. All LPIA travelers are paying good money to travel, and much of that money goes to the government and the Airport Authority and the U.S. government. You cannot blame the airlines.
If The Bahamas has negotiated for U.S. customs and immigration to pre-clear passengers at a cost paid by the traveler of $20.00 or more per person, they should be required to provide a better service. They know the flight schedules. They know the number of persons to process each hour. Yet they limit the number of officers allocated at peak hours, resulting in waits of two hours from the time the electronic ticket is processed by the airlines, to the time you clear U.S. immigration and customs. If the planes decide to wait for passengers delayed in this queue, this is a cost and a disruption to the airline and the various agencies handling passengers, not to mention the delays in the next flights later in the day.
Much is made of new technology. The requirements of the U.S. to have all travelers listed 24 hours before departure so that they can be pre-processed means they have no excuse. There should be a system to weed out suspected persons needing more scrutiny, so that the honest travelers can avoid these long queues.
Don't blame the system of pre-screening passenger luggage and body searches. This works in a reasonable time, and cannot be accelerated when the U.S. immigration and customs line is already starting well behind the entry to their hall. The patient passengers think they will soon be processed, and then find another hour or more in another queue inside the U.S. hall. It is worse than Disney World at peak times. At least they tell you if the wait is half an hour or two hours and you can choose to go or not on the ride.
Why do travelers need to be at the airport 3 hours before departure, then find that the flight is another 2 hours delayed? Five hours wasted before you get on your flight to the U.S.A., sometimes only 25 minutes in the air before arrival in Miami, for example. Again the technology exists to keep passengers advised. We pay $350.00 for a return trip to Miami, 180 miles. yet only $1200 for a return trip to London of at least 9 hours each way.

- Concerned Bahamian resident and traveler

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News Article
Welcome to chaos

Arriving to Nassau's Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) at midday is a journey into chaos. What should be at worst organized chaos is just plain chaos. With too few customs officers, Bahamians and our money-laden tourists descend into mayhem when they expect to be welcomed by the easygoing flow of island life.
It is a frustrating ordeal for all involved. Customs agents meet ill-equipped residents with no receipts, Bahamians rush to reach the customs agent to avoid the lines and tourists stand dazed and confused. Of course, this is after waiting 45 minutes to find your bag on what appears to be the only working conveyor belt with at least three plane loads of people also waiting to find their bags.
Our tourists, predominately from the United States, often have never experienced a customs declaration where an individual may or may not search your bag. It is a nerve-racking experience for first-time travelers at LPIA to wonder what Bahamian officials are looking for in their bags.
While we can breathe a sigh of relief that the new arrivals terminal at LPIA may at least be cleaner and gives the appearance of the 21st century, will customs be improved for both residents and tourists?
Improvement not only comes with infrastructure changes, but also requires an improvement of service. Will customs become part of the e-commerce community? What if Bahamians could prepay customs prior to arrival and show an itemized invoiced receipt with duty payment?
The Bahamas must welcome our tourists and our residents. A first impression is a lasting impression, and the first impression arriving at LPIA is not a good one yet despite the upgrades.

Gun control
It is with absolute horror that we watched the assault on innocent moviegoers unfold at the theater complex in Aurora, Colorado on Friday morning. But what is most frightful is the thought that this could happen anywhere.
The Bahamas has strict gun control measures, but clearly our borders are porous and our enforcement is weak. The Nassau Guardian reported July 17, that the Royal Bahamas Police Force has removed 319 firearms thus far in 2012, a 24 percent increase over 2011. Ammunition recovery is also higher than 2011 with 5,083 rounds seized.
While we can applaud the recovery and confiscation efforts, the volume of weapons confiscated indicates a worrying trend. There are just simply more weapons out there. Police are not just collecting handguns or shotguns, there are high-powered assault weapons on our streets like the one used at the movie theater.
The night club shooting at East Bay Street and Mackey Street on May 29 that left eight shot with two dead warns of increasingly violent incidents in public places, especially in New Providence. Even more so, these incidents occur in areas deemed safe for tourists, lest we forget the daytime robbery at John Bull.
Even before the Colorado incident, Bahamians went out with increasing trepidation of becoming victims as an innocent bystanders caught between a gang quarrel or domestic dispute. The innocent are arming themselves against the violence. However, it is hard for the guns law-abiding citizens have to match up to high-powered weapons.
The innocent are tired of empty rhetoric on gun control. We must find the remedy in order to significantly reduce the flow of weapons into our country, enforce stiff penalties for those carrying illegal weapons, and teach our children and adults that guns do not solve disputes.

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News Article
Welcome to chaos

Arriving to Nassau's Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) at midday is a journey into chaos. What should be at worst organized chaos is just plain chaos. With too few customs officers, Bahamians and our money-laden tourists descend into mayhem when they expect to be welcomed by the easygoing flow of island life.
It is a frustrating ordeal for all involved. Customs agents meet ill-equipped residents with no receipts, Bahamians rush to reach the customs agent to avoid the lines and tourists stand dazed and confused. Of course, this is after waiting 45 minutes to find your bag on what appears to be the only working conveyor belt with at least three plane loads of people also waiting to find their bags.
Our tourists, predominately from the United States, often have never experienced a customs declaration where an individual may or may not search your bag. It is a nerve-racking experience for first-time travelers at LPIA to wonder what Bahamian officials are looking for in their bags.
While we can breathe a sigh of relief that the new arrivals terminal at LPIA may at least be cleaner and gives the appearance of the 21st century, will customs be improved for both residents and tourists?
Improvement not only comes with infrastructure changes, but also requires an improvement of service. Will customs become part of the e-commerce community? What if Bahamians could prepay customs prior to arrival and show an itemized invoiced receipt with duty payment?
The Bahamas must welcome our tourists and our residents. A first impression is a lasting impression, and the first impression arriving at LPIA is not a good one yet despite the upgrades.

Gun control
It is with absolute horror that we watched the assault on innocent moviegoers unfold at the theater complex in Aurora, Colorado recently. But what is most frightful is the thought that this could happen anywhere.
The Bahamas has strict gun control measures, but clearly our borders are porous and our enforcement is weak. The Nassau Guardian reported July 17, that the Royal Bahamas Police Force removed 319 firearms thus far in 2012, a 24 percent increase over 2011. Ammunition recovery is also higher than 2011 with 5,083 rounds seized.
While we can applaud the recovery and confiscation efforts, the volume of weapons confiscated indicates a worrying trend. There are just simply more weapons out there. Police are not just collecting handguns or shotguns, there are high-powered assault weapons on our streets like the one used at the movie theater.
The night club shooting at East Bay Street and Mackey Street on May 29 that left eight shot with two dead warns of increasingly violent incidents in public places, especially in New Providence. Even more so, these incidents occur in areas deemed safe for tourists, lest we forget the daytime robbery at John Bull.
Even before the Colorado incident, Bahamians went out with increasing trepidation of becoming victims as an innocent bystanders caught between a gang quarrel or domestic dispute. The innocent are arming themselves against the violence. However, it is hard for the guns law-abiding citizens have to match up to high-powered weapons.
The innocent are tired of empty rhetoric on gun control. We must find the remedy in order to significantly reduce the flow of weapons into our country, enforce stiff penalties for those carrying illegal weapons, and teach our children and adults that guns do not solve disputes.

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News Article
Johnson: GDS is on the horizon

Tourism officials are in the midst of active negotiations on a new flight sharing system set to revolutionize the way travelers book flights to The Bahamas.
Director General of Tourism, David Johnson, said "solid progress" has been made on tying Bahamian airlines into the Global Distribution System (GDS).
"I suspect that we will be in a position to reach an agreement within a fortnight or so," he told Guardian Business.  "This is something that's critical.
"We are having very active dialogue to facilitate carriers in The Bahamas to begin the transition from what they have to the Global Distribution System."
Guardian Business understands that while industry sources are excited about the move, they remain wary on how the deal will be structured.  The cautious attitude is based around concerns the arrangement will link many of the airlines to the world through Bahamasair, with bookings made only after the incumbent has been sold out.
Ministry of Tourism officials had expected to have all airlines in the country signed up for the GDS by the second quarter of 2011.
The change is expected to give local airlines better access to international travelers and subsequently replace a limited internal system that hinders their visibility.
For passengers, it means being able to buy a ticket with one airline and possibly being able to travel on to a destination with another airline if complications arise -- without any extra fees incurred.
The airlines -- consisting of the national carrier and several of the major domestic carriers -- have been in negotiations for the past several months trying to negotiate the details on the interline agreement.
The latter agreement is something that is commonly practiced in most of North America and Europe, given the convenience it lends in conducting business. If created in the form used around the world, the interline agreement would also provide for connecting flights throughout The Bahamas, without passengers having to recheck in bags at the other airline and guarantee passengers a flight if there were delays along the first leg of the trip.
While all the local details of the agreement have not been finalized, having a GDS could mean some of the other airlines would be able to book flights going into international destinations where they currently don't travel.
It's unclear at this point if Hurricane Irene will affect these strides towards a SGDS.
Tourism and Aviation Minister Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace has announced, however, that the country's tourism industry was open for business from this week.

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News Article
Stop and pick up the trash

My wife and I swim six mornings a week, year round, winter or summer, hot or cold, on a lovely beach. We swim in spite of the temperature or condition of the sea. It is invigorating, refreshing and it stimulates the immune system. Unfortunately, the beach is not always free of trash. We have made it our civic duty, as loyal citizens of The Bahamas, to pick up the trash each morning before we swim. We pick up everything from condom wrappers, to food containers, clothing, towels, toys, tissue paper, shoes, beer bottles and soda cans. Sometimes we find money, cell phones, and wallets.
Why can't these people pick up their trash and place it in the nearby receptacles or take the trash home? Is it that they have no care for their surroundings? It has been four years since my wife and I have been picking up trash on the beach. When we first started picking up trash, the amount of trash we picked up each morning was equivalent to the size of one to two 33-gallon trash bags. Today, the amount is about two small plastic grocery bags. Yes, we have seen improvement, but there is room for improvement. We have noticed that many beach-goers are placing their trash in the receptacles. However, far too many just enjoy the beach but drop their trash. What a shame!
ATM trash cleaner
Why is it difficult for people to avoid leaving trash around? Why is it difficult for people to pick up trash when they see it, even if they did not put it there? I also call myself a bank trash-picker-upper. Most times when I go to an ATM machine there is trash on the floor in front of the machine. I really cannot understand how people can stand on a floor filled with simple slips of paper and not pick them up and place them in the receptacle provided. In fact, if each one picked up his/her own slip of paper, we would have no trash on the floor. So with my intolerable attitude toward trash at the entrance of banks, I first turn to the trash and pick it up while others pass by and do nothing. They just stand and watch me. I do this because it is my view that if I am at the bank with trash on the floor it is a refection of me. I feel uncomfortable standing on a bank line when papers are under my feet or at the entrance to the bank or a store as I just walked through.
Cultivated nastiness
The messages I am getting from people who refuse to pick up trash in their surroundings are: I am too good to bend down to pick up trash; it is not my job; it is the job of the cleaners or lower class people; I did not put that there, so why should I pick it up?
It is my view that people dressed in sophisticated clothing and who live in middle to upper class communities but who refuse to pick up trash at entrances of banks or on floors as they walk around, are just as bad as the people they look down upon in poor communities who leave mounds of trash in front of their properties. The only difference is the size of the mound. They are both nasty. In other words we have cultivated nastiness and uncultivated nastiness. They are both nasty.
Several years ago, my family traveled to Toronto, Canada, for vacation. We were amazed to see the attitude of people walking the streets when they saw a piece of paper on the ground. We noticed that if someone saw a person in front accidently drop a chewing gum paper, paper bag, or anything, the one behind, stopped, picked it up and deposited it into the nearest trash bin. You saw no trash on the ground in the city. It was clean. Everyone takes responsibility for keeping the city clean. Why can't we have the same kind of mindset and behavior in our country?
Let's begin today
Dear readers, join my wife and I as loyal citizens of this country who are neither afraid nor embarrassed to pick up trash and do not drop trash anywhere. We encourage you to stop littering yourself. The reason there is so much trash around is because many other people thought the same way. Just be on the lookout for trash bins, and be willing to hold on to your trash for a little while. When on the road, make sure items in the back of your truck are secured and nothing can blow out. Keep your truck bed clean and free of loose litter. If you own a business, keep your parking lot and the area around your dumpsters clean. Have trash containers available for customers. Keep them emptied so trash will not blow out of the containers.
Spread the word to friends and relatives about why littering is so bad. Don't hand out fliers because those could become litter themselves. Create awareness by writing letters to the editors of newspapers. Talk trash and emphasize how litter mars the beauty of the cities and countryside. Encourage citizens to work together to clean up the environment.
Start cleaning up. This can be done solo, with friends or in an organized group. Once you get started, you will not want to quit. Getting started is the hardest part. Don't be embarrassed to do it alone. Believe me, it will make you feel really good about yourself. Pick up litter while getting your walking exercise. A lot of people think picking up litter is disgusting and degrading. Litter is what is disgusting and degrading. If everyone would do a little to keep the environment clean, it would make a world of difference. Bring a plastic bag with you on trips, outings and walks.
You can pick up litter on the way to work or school if you don't drive. You may feel embarrassed if this is uncommon in your area, but you will eventually inspire others. You could occasionally take different routes for variety and to see if your actions have taken root with others. Start a community project for picking up trash.
Before you take a swim at the beach this holiday weekend, pick up the trash you meet, and do not leave any trash on the beach. Do not just stuff your trash into an already overfilled bin and leave thinking you have done your part. Take it with you and dump it at home or in another bin. When we become proud in picking up trash, we will soon become proud that we do not have trash to pick up anymore.

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News Article
Students from C.H. Reeves Junior and a Delaware school plant flowers in a show of peace

Students at C.H. Reeves Junior School have a tangible reminder of peace. Sixteen students and six teachers from East Side Charter School & Learning Center in Wilmington, Delaware, recently visited the school in Montell Heights where they planted hibiscus and Impatien flowers in the school's peace garden.
The goal of their visit was to expose the Delaware students to a different culture.
"We wanted them to give them a unique experience prior to them moving on to high school," said East Side Charter School & Learning Center principal, Dr. Lamont Browne.
Jacinda Fields, an eighth grade student from Eastside said that she was happy to be in The Bahamas and that within seconds of their arrival on the C.H. Reeves School campus she made many friends.
"It seems like yesterday that we found out we were coming to The Bahamas. I was so excited about coming to The Bahamas since I never travelled outside of The United States," said Fields.
She said she was impressed by the friendliness of the students who asked her questions and wanted to learn about her.
Giovanni Thompson, an eighth grade C.H. Reeves student was excited about having the visitors at his school and that he enjoyed working with them in the peace garden.
After the planting, some of the C. H. Reeves students engaged the East Side students in a spontaneous dance session and later the guests were treated to coconut tart and Goombay Punch. The two schools did have their basketball shoot-out which resulted in a one-game victory for each side. During their visit the students also visited the Straw Market.
According to Dr. Browne, the staff and students of the school decided last year to visit another school in a different country to interact with other students. And that school vice-principal Letisha Laws suggested The Bahamas.
School officials contacted the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in September 2012 to seek permission to establish a relationship with a local school. Eulease Beneby, superintendent for the southeastern district referred them to C.H. Reeves Junior School. The two schools arranged the visit.
After nine months of planning, the visitors arrived in Nassau onboard a Disney Cruise ship. They were greeted by the school's principal Greta Brown, Beneby and other faculty members of the school and transported by bus to the school where they were greeted by the student body.
Immediately after the introductions, some of the students from C.H. Reeves challenged their counterparts from East Side to a basketball shoot-out, but the school's principal refocused their energies on the planting project. Holes were dug, old roots pulled, plants placed in the ground, covered with soil and mulch and watered.
The group paused for a moment for the presentation of tokens by the principal, district superintendent and some students. Each of the bags contained a C. H. Reeves' Raptors t-shirt, a poster and other trinkets.
The two groups discussed C.H. Reeves students traveling to Wilmington next year.

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News Article
Christmas Street Party at Old Fort Bay Town Centre

NASSAU, Bahamas, (December 18th, 2012)... Christmas carols, rustling shopping bags and good cheer greeted arrivals at the busy Old Fort Bay Town Centre during the late night shopping and Christmas street party last Friday evening.

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News Article
More than just the man in the pulpit

He's one of the most vocal religious leaders out there, and he does not shy away from any issue he considers important, but after decades in the pulpit, Bishop Simeon Hall, head pastor at New Covenant Baptist Church is heading into retirement. He officially retires at the end of November.
Although he is looking forward to this new chapter in his life after 30 years of pastoral work, Bishop Hall still intends to be active in evangelistic work and promises to make himself available to his church as a consultant and guide. His retirement will free him up to do more outreach work and go into communities to preach and teach.
"I will not be involved in everyday aspects of the running of the chuch anymore, but I will be here to be of any assistance that I can be. My evangelistic mission, which I took up 45 years ago, will still continue. I will not stop preaching. My retirement will allow me to do more evangelistic work and mission trips. This will be a marvelous thing," said Bishop Hall.
For the 64-year-old Hall, unlike many ministers who may have had an early calling to the pastoral field or were raised in an environment that guided them into an easy transition to becoming religious leaders, his path to the pulpit was one of trial and error.
"It was not a straight-shot road I took. Many people may not know that I was once a construction worker for many years before I became a minister. I had left school since the sixth grade so I could get a job and make money. It wasn't to help support the family as it was to be like the other guys who hung out in my neighborhood. So for five years or so I went from job to job - doing construction, being a gas station attendant and once even being a night watchman."
That kind of life wasn't what he had expected. He said he eventually got restless with everything. And that it was by the grace of God and the right guidance that five years after he began pursuit of material wealth that Hall was led to realize his purpose in life.
The road to being the vocal minister Bahamians are familiar with he said started when he was 16 years old and his mother, Nola Musgrove, all but forced her eldest son to attend an evening service at Central Gospel Chapel on Dowdeswell Street. He attended the service unwillingly, but that night, there was something about what he heard and felt that spoke to his heart. That night, he made a confession of faith that changed his life forever.
"I just made a turnaround in my life like never before. I knew I had to get myself together because what I was going through wasn't fulfilling me. I started doing night classes at Aquinas College to catch up with the schooling I had given up. There was a Catholic nun who took interest in me and also made it her mission to push me to do better. I did that for two years and in the meantime, I started to surround myself with positive individuals who really inspired me to be who I am today."
Some of his mentors included the late Pastor A.S. Colebrooke of St. Paul's Baptist Church Bias Street; Pastor R.E. Cooper of Mission Baptist on Hay Street and the late Pastor H.W. Brown of Bethel Baptist Church.
He says he enjoyed spending time with the ministers so-much-so that he was willing to carry their bags, clean their shoes and just accompany them whenever he could because he appreciated what they were about. Although he spent a lot of time with them, he said it wasn't until he was invited on a trip to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil to attend a Baptist conference with Pastor Colebrooke that he fully understood that the pulpit was the path for him.
"It was around this time that I really realized that association truly did breed assimilation and it did wonders for me. I remember I was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in South America with [Pastor] Colebrooke who had invited me to attend a conference with him. It was an unforgettable time. While we were on the trip he said something to me that changed my life. He said that the Lord called me to be a preacher. I never heard that said to me before. And it seemed as soon as he said that everything that would lead me to be a pastor fell into place. I guess you can say he spoke it into existence."
The following year after this declaration, the then 21-year-old Hall was accepted to do theological training at American Baptist (College) Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, where he obtained his Bachelors degree in Theology. He said he knew from then, that he truly had a gift of speech and persuasion because he performed exceptionally in his speech and articulation classes. Skills he learned then, he said, have aided him throughout the years to be the well-known outspoken minister people know today.
"I just had an insatiable thirst for knowledge and I was so eager to keep on going. Even when I graduated in 1973 I still had dreams to continue my education. I went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee for a short while but decided to come home. Then in 1979, I went to Southern Baptist College in Louisville, Kentucky for some summer classes, but I ended my studies there and decided to really dedicate myself to pastoral work and evangelism, which is my passion."
Upon his return from college, Hall found a home at St. Paul's Baptist Church as co-minister under Pastor Colebrooke. The feeling he got in this new area of life he said was exactly what he had been looking for. But he said he was so passionate about God's work that he always felt a little restrained. That resulted in him preaching and attending every Baptist Church in The Bahamas and venturing to even non-Baptist congregations. He said he felt such a fire for his work, he knew no limits to sharing what God placed on his heart. His insatiable appetite eventually led to what he described as one of his greatest personal accomplishments - the formation of his own church.
Bishop Hall started New Covenant Baptist Church in 1982.
"It was a wonderful thing to be able to lead a people in the way God intended for it to be done. I have been blessed to be able to accomplish what I have been allowed to these last few decades. I have touched lives and done God's work as a pastor. It has been great," he said.
Over his decades in ministry, another of his proudest achievements included being able to preach at the annual Baptist crusade for 20 consecutive years. Although he has his own congregations, he said he still always aims to reach more people whenever the opportunity arises.
With evangelism and mission work as his root passion, borne out of his first trip with Pastor Colebrooke, Bishop Hall jumps at opportunities to also travel for that reason as well. He has traveled to places in Africa, Asia, Europe and across the United States. He actually said the only inhabited continent he has not been to is Australia, and that one of his most memorable trips was to South Africa, where he visited for 23 days and preached in 17 churches. He remembers the South African trip as a rush which left him tired for a week at the end, but wonderful all the same.
His tenure as head pastor at New Covenant Baptist Church is coming to an end, but Bishop Hall said riding off quietly into the sunset, sitting on a rocker on his porch isn't the scene he's looking forward to. He still intends to be active in evangelistic work and will always make himself available to his church as a consultant and guide.
"My retirement will allow me to do more evangelistic work and mission trips. I will not be involved in everyday aspects of the running of the chuch anymore but I will be here to be of any assistance that I can be," he said.
Candidates for the next head pastor's position at New Covenant Baptist Church include Pastor Kelvin Briggs, Pastor Trajean Jadorette and Pastor Stephen Wells.
A number of celebratory events in honor of Bishop Hall commence on Sunday, March 3 with an ecumenical thanksgiving service to be held at 6 p.m. at New Covenant, with guest ministers, Elgarnet Rahming, overseer of Church of God of Prophecy; Pastor Tom Roberts of East Street Gospel Chapel; Father Sebastian Campbell of St. Gregory's Anglican Church; Rev. Timothy Stewart of Bethel Baptist Church; Rev. Anthony Carroll, president of the Baptist Convention; Bishop Ros Davis of Golden Gates Assemblies; Bishop Albert Hepburn of United Christian Cathedral and Father Harry Ward from the Anglican Diocese.
Bishop Hall is married to Linda Farrington-Hall since 1970. Together they have three children.

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News Article
Tour to attract local and foreign riders

It's that time of year again when cyclists will check their brakes and tires to ensure that they have a smooth ride through the streets of New Providence, during the Tour of The Bahamas.
The eighth annual event has attracted local and international cyclists who will be looking to pedal their way to victory, in the next two weeks. The tour is a two-day event, with races starting on Saturday, January 28 and continuing on Sunday. The routes for the two days are mapped out and organizers from JAR Cycling are ready to go. The event's major sponsor is Mahogany House.
"The event has grown by leaps and bounds. We are now able to have more of an international presence," said Jeff Major, race organizer. "We have some 80 persons who have registered so far, that includes local and international riders coming in to join us. The exciting part is seeing the registration move from 30 to more than 80 over the years. Last year we had about 105 riders and this year, I think we are going to top that."
Even though Major brags about the participation and the growth seen, he revealed that it was hard peaking the interest of international cyclists.
He said: "Yes it is hard to attract international persons to the event. Bringing the bikes into Nassau, via the commercial airlines is hard and that has always been a challenge. It has gotten worse now, because of the cost that is associated with the traveler and the bike which has to be counted as a part of their bags.
"The cost has been tremendously high and that is our main concern. Bahamasair has been so gracious to allow our participants to have free bike travel. We wish we can get that generosity extended from some of the international airlines which comes to The Bahamas."
The organizers will welcome several pro groups and development teams inclusive of Garmin, Hincapie, No Tubes AXA, Jamis Sutter, FloridaVelo Elite and Masters, ASV and Texas Road House.
Before taking to the streets, cyclists will unwind at a cocktail reception scheduled for Friday, January 27 at the Wyndham Nassau Resort. The action will start on Saturday with an individual timed trial. Cyclists are allowed to use road bikes only on the three mile race.
At 10:30 a.m., a six mile circuit race will get underway. The length in course is based on the age of the competitor. Participants in the 10-14 years and 15-16 years divisions must complete 18 miles or three laps. The open women, men and masters 40-50 plus, will do 30 miles which is equivalent to five laps around the course. Professional riders will have a 42 mile ride, or seven laps.
The third and final race will be held on Sunday. The junior competitors will ride for 24 miles. The 15-16 year old cyclists will be first up on that day, starting at 8 a.m. Five minutes later, the 10-14 year olds will hit the road. The first race in the adult series will get underway 9:30 a.m., 76 miles for those registered in the professional one-three divisions. The masters 40-50 plus will ride 57 miles, but will start at 9:35 a.m. The open men and women will also have 57 miles to complete. Their start time is 9:40 a.m. Even though there will be different courses, the start point is Clifton Heritage Park.
The Tour of The Bahamas has a prize purse of $6,000. Junior riders will be awarded trophies. The cash prizes are only for men and women's divisional winners.

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News Article
Haiti's oasis city

It is easy to fall prey to bad news coming from Haiti. Its citizens at home and abroad practice the perverse exercise of magnifying for the rest of the world the latest incident coming from that island nation.
Haiti is not the only country in this hemisphere caught in the spiral of random violence and chaos. It seems there is a shooting every week in the United States, either in a high school or at one of the universities.
President Barack Obama finds himself a frustrated and impotent leader facing the strength of the NRA, which sees not the gun, but the man behind the gun as the culprit. The news from The Bahamas, Jamaica and Guyana is filled with crime, gross in its explosion, numerous in its multiplication.
Yet Haiti is filled with good stories. There is the story of the mothers holding bags filled with their toddlers' books, going to and coming back from school. Who knows, the Haitian mother might the best black mother in the world.
There is the story of the young children fetching water while singing and dancing, even while potable water, or at least close access to water, should be a staple provision of the government.
There is the story of the large number of young girls attending school these days. The hiccup will be how, 20 years from now, Haiti will find enough men to match these women. Maybe the government will have to visit China and import some men from the province of Hunan, where women are found wanting because of the policy of female infanticide. Because of the preference for a male child, the ratio between men and women has been skewed there.
There is the story of the famous patty cord, the ubiquitous breakfast made of fried pasta filled with cheese, one boiled egg, cod fish and cut cabbage. The patty, sold for 16 cents, is a full and sufficient meal until evening. Enterprising women all over the city capital are engaged in this business. I have been suggesting, with no result so far, that some women repeat the operation in the evening, but this time filling the patty with jam or marmalade, a beignet for a light supper, again for the same 16 cents.
And then, there is Lascahobas, a true oasis in the region called Centre, an area where the bedrock is strong, solid and not vulnerable to earthquakes.
The keen observer will note the difference in the vegetation as soon as you turn the corner from Mirebalais to enter the road toward Lascahobas. Everything is green and lush. Mature trees filled with mangoes, avocados, coconuts, baby banana and vast fields of pistachio all the way until you enter the city.
Strangely enough, the characterization of an oasis strikes you in earnest as you travel from Lascahobas toward the frontier town of Belladere. The deserted fields that were your companion on your way to Mirebalais, the town before, come back as you leave Lascahobas.
Lascahobas is located two hours from the capital city of Port au Prince on a mountain road built with the support of the European Union (EU). The city proper has a population of 41,716 people, while the catchment area with its rural villages of Petit Fond, Juampas and La Hove represent a population of 61,000 people.
The atmosphere in Haiti today is filled with the spirit of election. Amid the throng of men vying to fill the post of mayor of the city there is a mother (maire, which is 'mayor' in French, sounds like mere, meaning mother).
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have a bias in favor of a woman as mayor. It seems the city is in better hands when it is in the hands of a woman as mayor. The City of Petionville, under the leadership of Mayor Ivanka Brutus, is going through a renaissance in spite of the demographic explosion of the city.
Lascahobas is graced with a pastor from the Catholic Church, Father Desras, who takes to his role of builder of the community with a bulldog sense of achievement. With the support of President Bill Clinton, who was caught by his budding energy, he has built a magnificent secondary school, preventing the children of the town from being nomads in the capital to continue their education. Two years ago, I attended the city fiesta of its patron Saint Gabriel, celebrated on March 25, the day of the Annunciation.
Father Desras asked the Lascahobas diaspora to help him finish the youth center building. The diaspora failed to come with the funds one year later. At this year's celebration, in his sermon he labeled them "Diaspo/rien" (rien in French means null and void of significance).
Father Desras is a pioneer in rural development. I am advocating with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to follow the model of the Brittany clergy that built the small towns in terms of education and civilization in Haiti.
It should have been the mission of the Creole clergy to reach the rural world to continue the nation building in the hinterland. I was in Lascahobas last Sunday to help the nuns from the Daughters of Marie celebrate their 40th anniversary in the town and the 100th anniversary in Haiti. One of the nuns, Sister Hugette Victor, who came as a young teacher then, is now the principal of the school. She has provided generations of young men and young women with the bread of education, formation and sophistication.
Lascahobas has its own radio and TV station due to the leadership of Father Desras. It was the Sunday of Pentecost, the feast of the celebration of St Spirit at the Episcopal Church last week. The Catholic TV station was there to broadcast the ceremony live. In fact, the pastor of the Episcopal Church, Father Desravines Jean Jacques, is joining hands with Father Desras of the Catholic Church to build the community of Lascahobas and its rural surroundings.
Lascahobas is also graced with its own community bank. My visit with the founder of the bank, Nourissant Fleurilus, struck me like a "eureka" for this essay.
Haiti has 142 small towns, some of them with a population of at least 75,000 people. Very few of them benefit from a banking facility. The reason given by the bankers is the same: there is not enough commercial activity to justify the opening of a branch. Lascahobas took the bull by the horns with its own hands. It has built its own successful bank with the participation of its citizens.
Lascahobas is close to Lake Peligre, the giant manmade lake built on the Artibonite River to produce electricity for the country. It is conducive for the raising of tilapia for local consumption and for export. I will be visiting the city this weekend with the president of a government-sponsored bank to seek to incubate the association of women entrepreneurs who produce coco oil, jam, liquor and all types of local products. They need access to foreign markets to distribute their products.
An international road is being built from the frontier town of Las Pinas, in the Dominican Republic, to the capital city of Port au Prince. Lascahobas, located at half one hour from the Dominican border, represents a true oasis to stop, rest, and become immersed in the hospitality and the culture of the city. The Haitian government is engaging in a comprehensive renovation of the infrastructure of the city, such as paving streets, potable water, electricity and a public market.
Lascahobas has several hotels. Its future should be targeted toward becoming a setting for international retired citizens. It is close to the largest hospital in the Caribbean, built and run by the internationally known Dr. Paul Farmer.
In conclusion, I was pleased to discover Lascahobas. Making that city a weekend getaway has brought to me rejuvenation, encouragement and a belief that a better Haiti is possible!
o Jean H. Charles, LLB MSW, JD, is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: jeancharles@aol.com and followed at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti.=
Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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