In 1986, I volunteered in the rural Caribbean community of Barrouallie, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I played a small part in developing a preschool that is still helping kids get a better start, and for that opportunity I’m grateful. Just over thirty years and change later, I returned.
I sometimes felt the presence of my younger self, like seeing the ghost image in a rangefinder camera. The occasional person remembered me, calling out ‘hey teacha, welcome back’, sprinkled with the affectionate ‘you be balder and bigger now.’ No argument here. A few offered me Hairoun beer, so no complaints either…
Welcome to this gallery of some photographs from my time working in international development. Scroll/swipe down to see the photos. You can also read Go South Young Man, reflections on a time in the development sector.
‘Teacha Jill’ Defreitas is in the background. She ran the preschool for many, many years and influenced a generation of kids. She now lives in Brooklyn, NY.
The preschool – which has around triple the students we had in ’86 – is an independent school that runs on local support, some international funds, and limited government help. I heard along the way that the preschool was considered one of the most successful in the country, and the Vincentian government used it as a model while creating other preschools.
Some of the kids in this photo: Lisandra, Mikhail, Anyiah, Shanique, Tasha
Cassita, one of our students in ’86, now lives in Barbados. Out-migration is a very common theme in many Caribbean nations, but it’s fluid – many come back home too.
Kenisha Patrick has lived, worked and studied abroad, but is now back home in Barrouallie. She’s an entrepreneur, community stalwart and computer software teacher at the local vocational school.
Kenisha can be seen in this 1986 photo to the immediate right of Vincentian community worker and guiding activist behind the Glebe Hill Preschool, Nelcia Robinson.
Kahunda and Zacky at their snack shop. I’d often buy local ginger beer and plantain chips, and on occasion some I-tal food there as well.
Zeddy enjoying a Hairoun beer. Hairoun was the Indigenous Carib peoples’ word for the island, meaning Home of the Blessed.
Black Caribs are descendants born of the mingling of the indigenous Caribs and enslaved Africans brought to the islands in the 18th century. Black Caribs make up less than 2% of the population of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and are often found in very isolated and impoverished communities. The Black Caribs are the people who originated the ‘Garifuna’ people after part of their community was expelled from St. Vincent in 1797 and exported to the island of Roatán, Honduras, from where they migrated to the coast of the mainland of Central America, spreading as far as Belize and Nicaragua.
There is prejudice against the Black Caribs, another lesson in the complex interplay of inequality, colonial history and modern identity.
Several moms and their kids in Glebe Hill. I went past this house everyday on the footpath to the preschool.
Long-time friends Miss Monica and Miss Elva think they recognize themselves in the preceding 1986 photo I took of moms and their kids in Glebe Hill. One joked that they haven’t changed a bit but I have.
Sharon lived near our preschool and taught me how to roast breadfruit.
Sharon has always lived in Barrouallie, and has always worked hard. On our return trip, my son and I bought much-welcomed cold drinks from her.
This guy was taking a break from working. (To lime is to hang out.)
The photo was taken in Wallilabou, near Barrouallie, and just metres away from an old set used in the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean 1 & 2. Those scenes set in Port Royal? Shot here.
I don’t know the names of these two gentlemen, but this was taken during carnival. They stood liked they owned the town.
Carnival, or Vincy Mass, is a wild celebration of music and heritage with street parties, steel pan calypso performances, costume parades. It goes on for a few days. I was the photographer for one of the floats. I remember that day, but Sunset rum might have obscured the others.
This man said to me: “You have a camera, but what can you see?”
This girl, whose name I unfortunately can’t remember, was standing outside a community library that offered social and educational programs in Trench Town. Almost directly behind me as I took this photo was Bob Marley’s small ‘government yard’ house in the community.
I was in Kingston to write a few stories and make a video about a project Cuso supported that helped kids navigate – both legally and emotionally – through the court system.
These women were meeting to voice their concerns about their lack of voice in municipal government decision-making.
I was in Northwest Cameroon to write stories on projects that support women through microcredit, small business training, democracy education, and advocacy for widows.
Shortly after taking this photo, I tried to play a bit of pick-up soccer with this boy and his friends. Try is the word, as they ran (literal) circles around me.
I went to Ghana a few times to write stories and create radio pieces on projects ranging from microcredit to using sport for development to judicial reform.
I also wrote a travel story called The Whitewashed Stone.
This is Ahmorn on her organic rice farm. I was involved with the Nova Scotia Environment & Development Coalition, which had a solidarity project with environment and community groups in Thailand. We were able to send several farmers to visit successful organic farms in other parts of Asia, and brought a few farmers to Nova Scotia as well.
Thailand was my second volunteer stint abroad, but a shorter posting. I was there supporting the Nova Scotia-Thailand solidarity project, as well as write articles for a Canadian audience on topics including sustainable development, community-based tourism, farming and fair trade.