November 27, 2009
Selfless Vincentian is regional Unsung Hero 2009

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – A dedicated 42-year-old community worker from Mayreau in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been adjudged as most deserving of the top award in FirstCaribbean International Bank’s region-wide Unsung Heroes programme for 2009.{{more}}

John Augustus Roache, familiarly known as “Uncle John”, emerged as the most impressive among 29 regional finalists when the distinguished panel of regional judges assembled by the bank to choose its Unsung Hero recently to make their final selections. Inspired by his own mother’s life of service to others, Roache began from an early age to dedicate his own life in the same way.

It is the second year running that a community from St. Vincent and the Grenadines has provided the region with its top unsung hero, following last year’s acknowledgement of the work of Veolant Cupid, another community volunteer credited with touching many lives in the rural community of Lauders, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Believing it to be his ultimate purpose in life, Roache began helping others from the time he was a young boy growing up on the little island, which was accessible only by boat and lacking in many modern services. After graduation from secondary school, he followed up by gaining qualifications in general nursing and health care, foregoing his dreams of higher education in Canada, and dedicating himself to assisting sick and injured persons on Mayreau.

Roache converted the porch of his house into a makeshift clinic, and began offering free health care assistance on Mayreau, using contacts he had established at the then Kingstown General Hospital to get basic items. Today he still offers nursing services and is a major provider of health care on Mayreau, but his volunteer work has blossomed to encompass several other areas. Roche established the Ella Roache Charitable Foundation named in honour of his mother; additionally he has performed duties as a Justice of the Peace for seven years; he is the village counsellor and “goat-skin lawyer”; he assists with adult and pre-school education; he conducts homework programmes and Common Entrance Examination classes at his home and has served as president of the Mayreau Government School P.T.A.

Unmarried and without children of his own, Roache has mentored the children of others and is seen as a father figure on Mayreau. He also visits the elderly and is a leader at the Pentecostal Church in Mayreau.


This year’s runner-up positions went to 48-year-old Milton McLean of Duff’s Bottom, Tortola, British Virgin Islands, and 76-year-old Cynthia Stephenson of San Sauveur, Dominica.

McClean, a married father of three, was chosen for his outstanding contribution in guiding and mentoring children and young people in Tortola through sports and social clubs which he founded and operated since 1981 over the span of his career as a teacher.

Recognised for her work with children and the elderly, Stephenson worked throughout her career as a teacher on a variety of community projects to the benefits of vulnerable children and elderly persons. Affectionately known as “Teacher Cynthia”, she has also been involved with assisting fisherfolk by organising them into cooperatives; and when she became a bus owner she provided low-cost transportation for school children.

The judging panel for the 2009 Unsung Heroes programme included Sir George Alleyne, the Chancellor of the University of the West Indies; Sir Shridath Ramphal, the former Secretary General of the Commonwealth; Sir Neville Nicholls, retired President of the Caribbean Development Bank; Charles Williams, the Carib Chief from Dominica; Jones P. Madeira, Judiciary Court Protocol and Information Manager of Trinidad; Marie MacCormack Q.C., retired High Court Justice of Barbados; and Dame Olga Lopes Seale, renowned Barbadian social worker.

The three regional unsung heroes will be honoured early next year at a ceremony in Barbados, which will simultaneously launch the 2010 Unsung Heroes programme. Finalists at the local levels have already received awards of US $6000 each towards the development of their benevolent work. Now the regional runners-up will receive an additional $US 5000 each, while the overall hero will receive a further US $7500.

FirstCaribbean International Bank congratulated the FirstCaribbean Unsung Heroes across the region for their selfless courage and commitment in taking action to benefit the less fortunate and vulnerable persons in their communities.

“Again this year, the quality of submissions both at the local and regional levels of this programme has been very impressive; and I congratulate our panel of judges on doing an excellent job yet again, faced with the difficult task of choosing from among such an exceptional field of nominees. Several outstanding persons were nominated from around the region, and while only three could go forward as regional finalists, they are all winners as FirstCaribbean Unsung Heroes,” noted Chairman of FirstCaribbean, Michael Mansoor..

Inaugurated in 2003, the Unsung Heroes regional programme is FirstCaribbean’s flagship corporate social responsibility initiative which has contributed tens of thousands of dollars in funding for worthwhile community projects over the years, and continues to be of great assistance to unsung heroes.