The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

I am not an expat, not even a local. I call myself “native” because I feel that there can be no deeper connection to a person’s homeland than that. I am rooted in Bequia and invested in life in Bequia. I was born, bred, and brought up here. At a young age, I left the safety of home and went to another man’s country where I assimilated, educated myself and built a successful career. I loved living in my adopted homeland but Bequia called me home and I early retired and returned. This is where I have been for several years now and it is where I spend every day doing something to make a difference in someone’s life and doing for my Bequia. I am passionate about this place and the country of my birth — St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Bequia is wonderful and the only place I would want to live, but, like anywhere else, it requires effort and passion to keep it moving forward and tenacity and perseverance to fix problems. I read in an article last week where a person identified only as SB lamented that foreigners were up to no good and doing things that keep locals out. The author used examples of boards which are set up to deceive and which keep locals out by arranging meetings at inconvenient times for locals. The author also dropped the names of some organisations that operate on Bequia and was obviously bitter about the new one on the scene.

Bequia people, take stock

I want to suggest to the author who said that they recently returned that there is room for even more people to come together and organise and do more for the people of Bequia. I want to suggest that there is so much to do for Bequia that the organisations that already exist and doing good things for our island are only the tip of the iceberg. There is plenty to do and I see no need to pull any group down because each one offers its uniqueness and people gravitate to where they feel an affinity and where they feel their skills and knowledge will bring value and make a difference. If you recently returned, then I want to believe that you have brought with you skills you developed abroad that you can share with your people. I have been blessed by learning from expats in their own country and I continue to learn from them when they come here and participate in life here. They have much to offer and we would be simply stupid to turn their help away. I am not suggesting that some may not have different interests, but why would we turn away those who reach out in friendship? It does not make sense.

I am proud to be part of several groups doing fantastic things for Bequia and I am proud of Action Bequia and my role in it. I did not choose to write to defend the organisation but I feel I must set the record straight because I know better. I know the people who started this NGO and I know their intentions are honourable. I have been with them from the start and I have come to know their hearts. They work very hard to raise funds among their community here and abroad and all that they raise is turned into projects for Bequia. Administrative costs are zero. We do what we do for the love of this place and the people who live and work in it. How do I know that? I am the treasurer.

Contrary to it being an organisation of expats with imported ambitions, Action Bequia is a group whose coordination committee is overwhelmingly local and whose every decision on projects to support has to be approved by a management committee, which is also majority local. Its first project was to fix a very ugly and dangerous Belmont Walkway and the current focus is on a recycling and a litter reduction programme that is being developed in consultation with community groups and the CWSA. In between, Action Bequia has organised or supported many, many infrastructural projects, community, youth, cultural, education and sporting initiatives including swimming, basketball, track and field and more. In February, we spent in excess of $23,000 to support the Ministry of Health in the fight against Zika by bringing together volunteers to clean up the environment from one end of the island to the other. Christmas lighting up, Carnival, Easter Regatta, Easter on-shore activities are among the many, many activities that have received financial support from Action Bequia. It’s silly to contemplate, really, but to make my point I wonder which one of these events or activities the expat can take back to their respective places when they decide to go home. The popular Belmont Walkway connects people from as far away as Hamilton to Princess Margaret beach and it stays right here, the litter bin programme, currently in progress, stays here. I cannot think of anything the expats do for Bequia that they can pack up and take with them. Everything that Action Bequia has done and continues to do is for the benefit of Bequia and its people and I am very, very proud to be part of that.

SB’s ‘Bequia, take stock’ is too true

It is unfortunate that of the many projects Action Bequia has completed so far, that the author chose to highlight the one that was not perfectly executed. It is true we did not do the best job to fix the filthy, smelly drain in front of Tannis Store in Port Elizabeth, but although it is not perfect, many would agree that it is much better than it was and we are not yet done. Efforts to improve continue as we team with BRAGSA to find a final solution to the issue of the main drains in Port Elizabeth, which do not drain naturally to the sea anymore due to the rise in sea level. Let me remind people what used to happen before the drain was covered. Does anyone remember falling into that same drain at Tannis corner? Who will admit to watching in shock as a visitor, terrified by reckless drivers speeding along that Tannis turn, fall into the filthy drain? Action Bequia was concerned and responded to people and organisations like the Bequia Tourism Association who wanted to see the drain covered before someone was seriously hurt. Has anyone noticed that as a result of covering the drain, a sidewalk was created and pedestrians are now safer than when they shared the side of the road with speeding vehicles. What about the food shop that is now operating because customers have a place to stand while waiting to take away lunch?  The sidewalk, yes the same covered drain, is now taken for granted and there is a feeling it was always there but I know better and all of us in Bequia know better.

Thank you, expats, for caring enough to keep donating to Action Bequia to enable the organisation to continue to make a difference.

To the expat who wrote about what Bequia used to be, well we Bequia people can tell you even more about that. Of course we miss some of the old ways of life but we exist in the real world and as we lament the past, the simple way of life, the sweet and gentle people, we must embrace the present because it is there that we live and we must open our minds to accept change and be open to opportunities for our young people.

So SB, if you are willing to expose your identity, let’s talk. Perhaps you may like to join Action Bequia and we would welcome you.  Maybe you would like to join the coordination committee to help influence future priorities and if you want to know about us and the projects we support, have a look at our website, www.actionbequia.org. If not us, perhaps you could seek out others that do excellent work in helping to make Bequia a better place for all of us.

Lucille Cozier

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].