Our economy is being ravaged by the impact of COVID-19, especially on our tourism industry.
Many people have been laid off and many have had to take large pay cuts. Many businesses and Civil Society Organizations are struggling to survive. Entrepreneurs and small business owners have seen their businesses destroyed and some have no income.
Things are likely to get worse before they eventually improve. When will things get better? Some experts suggest it will take quite some time: at least 18 months to 2 years after a vaccine has been developed and people feel confident to travel again. The truth is no one really knows.
During this period of severe economic and social strain, we are very fortunate indeed. Unlike many other Caribbean countries, we have a significant number of globally influential and wealthy non-Barbadians who have homes here and make a major positive impact on our economy through their generous charitable philanthropic giving. This giving is mainly to our many Charities, as well as support for Government social services such as education and health and for other Civil Society needs.
A recent example has been the raising of over US$3 million for urgent medical supplies needed to tackle COVID-19 related priorities.
Based on recent research, it is my estimate that foreign philanthropists have contributed in excess of US$100 million to social programs in Barbados over the last 10 years alone. This giving will grow if properly nurtured.
Major contributors include the Julia & Hans Rausing Trust, The Maria Holder Memorial Trust, The Sandy Lane Charitable Trust, The Barbados Children’s Trust, Tabor Music, Derrick Smith School & Vocational Centre, the Sixt Family.
These are just a few major ones. There are many others that give generously but get little recognition.
Every significant charity in Barbados will have benefitted from the philanthropy of these generous people including, The Substance Abuse Foundation (Verdun House & Marina House), the Barbados Council for the Disabled Inc., The Barbados Cancer Society, The Barbados Diabetes Association, the Barbados Vagrants & Homeless Society, QEH, UWI, Kaitif Skatepark, 11 local play parks, the Barbados Defense Force Field Emergency Medical Facility, Pinelands Creative Workshop and countless others.
Through generous start-up support by Barbados Resident Foreign Philanthropists, the Aspire Foundation (Barbados) Inc. was established in 2016 to ‘help charities help’. Its charity incubator recently graduated 14 Barbadian Civil Society Organisations from the programme, including Paredos, The Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc., My Child & I, The Because of Jenna Trust, CPRI (Barbados) Inc., Future Centre Trust Inc., The Substance Abuse Foundation Inc. and Operation Triple Threat.
Many Barbadian children suffering from various serious medical problems have been helped enormously by the Sandy Lane Charitable Trust. This charity has also undertaken many initiatives in Education, Health, Community Outreach of all sorts and providing support to The Thelma Vaughn Home, the Psychiatric Children’s Centre, the World Pediatric Project and others.
The Barbados Children’s Trust has created the Nightingale Children’s Village where all children under the age of 12 years old in residential care would be raised in a caring, safe and stable community. The trustees became aware that the family unit in Barbados was not as strong as it once was and that there were now several children who would spend their entire childhood in group homes without any visitation from family members. There were also dozens of children who may have been removed from their families for a variety of reasons including parental drug abuse, physical abuse, physical or mental disability or dysfunctional behaviour.
Many international scholarships and training programmes for Barbadians are provided by foreign philanthropy.
Sporting and cultural events are also major beneficiaries of this gratuitousness .
Its worth nothing than in addition to their very generous social philanthropy, foreign property owners pay taxes and spend a great deal more on employment of Barbadians and purchases of other goods and services in Barbados from all economic sectors and importantly, all paid for in foreign currency.
The global business success of these foreign investors in Barbados has also been leveraged to advise on economic strategy and in some cases they have invested in local businesses beyond their philanthropy and real estate holdings.
A good example is the recent acquisition of Apes Hill where the new owner is injecting significant new capital to ensure its continuity and commercial viability.
It seems therefore very appropriate at this time that we thank these generous philanthropists, who chose to invest and spend time in Barbados, for their many years of support for our social infrastructure and services needs.
We are asking them for even more help now as we work together to restore the social fabric in a time of the pandemic crisis.
Stronger and closer collaboration between philanthropists and our communities and Civil Society Organizations can be transformational in the development and achievement of Social Justice for all.