February 28, 2014

Vincentian diaspora leadership workshop in USA a success

A number of recommendations to help the Vincentian diaspora reach its true potential emerged when the St Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York Inc held its first in a series of Diaspora Leadership Workshops at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center, Brooklyn, New York, on February 22, 2014.{{more}}

Over 25 persons participated in the workshop.

The objectives of the workshop were to: provide an opportunity for Vincentians in the diaspora to build their capacity for providing high quality leadership to the Vincentian diaspora in the 21st century; learn about the latest global approaches or methods of diaspora affairs; build the leadership and human resources base of the Vincentian diaspora in relation to acquiring knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to take the Vincentian diaspora to a higher level of existence in terms of action and benefits; and learn about concepts and ideas vital for conducting effective diaspora affairs.

Chairperson of the Committee, Maxwell Haywood, in his opening statement, said:

“We have done a lot as a diaspora community in the USA. However, when you look at what is to be done, when you look at the unfinished business in our diaspora affairs, when you look at what could be done, when you look at what needs to be done — it is very obvious that we need a clearer vision, a clearer view of the road ahead.

“On this road, on this highway, we need to know beforehand the route we will take, the challenges we will face while navigating our diaspora community on this broad highway of diaspora affairs. “This workshop is destined to help to make the foggy road clearer.”

The workshop heard remarks from the St Vincent and the Grenadines Ambassador to the United Nations, H.E. Rhonda King.

“This is a topic near and dear to me,”she said.

“We are a people on the move and capacity building is an imperative within such a people. We need to locate ourselves in the universe.

“Locating ourselves in the universe is an enormous task – vast, complex and never-ending. It is the task of all of us, as we struggle to understand our individual lives and the world around us, but it is a task that is well worth the effort,” she stressed.

Consul General Selmon Walters outlined his views on the qualities of leadership. He urged the participants to ensure that the community is strong in terms of leadership and organization.

Workshop facilitator Sherrill- Ann Mason-Haywood, who is also general secretary of the Diaspora Committee and an Academic Support coordinator at City University of New York’s SEEK Program, delivered a one-hour power point presentation that was informative and inspiring. She addressed four main areas: key terminologies and characteristics of Migration, Diaspora and Development and their linkage; perspectives on Migration and Development; approaches of international agencies, governments and diaspora organizations to Migration, Diaspora and Development; positioning St Vincent and the Grenadines on the landscape of Migration and Development; and issues, challenges and possibilities confronting the Vincentian diaspora.

Lennox Daniel, vice-chairperson of the Diaspora Committee and former SVG Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations, thanked participants for attending the workshop. He highlighted the activities of the Diaspora Committee, such as the scholarship initiative being conceptualized to assist the many Vincentians who are in need of acquiring higher education.

After the presentation by Mason-Haywood, the participants were engaged in discussion of the question: Do you believe the Vincentian diaspora is living up to its potential? The consensus in the meeting was that it is not living up to its potential. The following ideas emerged from the participants:

1. The diaspora should be engaged in more strategic planning for development purposes. In order to realize its full potential, it must move from its limited project level to the policy level;

2. Persons must look beyond self and more toward the community. Changing the mindset of Vincentians in the diaspora and at home is crucial. Issues linked to volunteering must be addressed. It is also urgent that organizations recruit new members to ensure sustainability;

3. There is an urgent need for a database that will serve as a central information network for Vincentian activities, professionals, businesses, projects, etc;

4. It needs to improve its outreach to attract donor funds, which means that it should improve the way it markets the work of the diaspora organizations;

5. Barriers to developing strong leadership and a united community should be identified and addressed. The “crabs in a barrel” mentality must cease if we are to appreciate and act more on a level where all could see their progress as a community. Diaspora organizations should also do more work together and create more synergies. It is necessary to identify a niche for each organization and promote greater collaboration;

6. The business sector must become more engaged with diaspora affairs. The diaspora needs to give more support to Vincentian businesses in the USA;

7. Focus should be placed on culture (indigenous) as a means of economic development;

8. The diaspora should explore establishment of cooperatives (e.g. financial) in the diaspora; and

9. It is crucial to address climate change.

The participants found the workshop to be rewarding and important. Here is a sample of the comments from the participants:

“It was great…I learned a lot…I am in this 100 per cent.”

“It was great…I’m looking forward to attend more workshops. I did learn a lot.”

“The session was very informative and thought–provoking as to how I can assist.”

“It was time well spent. It is a good start. Just need to keep it up. I am open for further discussions and anything I can do to build our nation. Good job.”

“The presenter was awesome. Good job.”

“Very good workshop, great step towards nation building and development”

The St Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, Inc plans to continue facilitating leadership workshops in the diaspora and in SVG to build capacity around the issues of diaspora, migration and development.