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.