Extravagance takes the spotlight during the holidays, giving back to those in need remains the true heart of the season. Many innovative Caribbean charities and non-profit organizations keep this giving spirit alive all year long. So we’re celebrating some of the incredible missions that find creative ways to advocate for worthy causes. We hope these stories inspire you to support, and bring light to the darkness wherever it’s needed in the Caribbean.
In today’s technology-driven world, strength in the sciences can empower the Caribbean’s next generation. Knowledge empowerment is the mission behind the Barbados-based Caribbean Science Foundation (CSF). The non-profit provides immersive Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education to teens.
The nonprofit is led by co-executive directors and husband-and-wife scientists Dr. Cardinal Warde and Dr. Dinah Sah. A Barbados native and electrical engineering professor at MIT, Dr. Warde wished to bring cutting-edge education to Caribbean students interested in tertiary-level science. “My husband wanted to provide guidance and mentorship to these students at this turning point in their lives,” explains Dr. Sah.
In 2012, they launched the foundation’s 4-week summer program SPISE (Student Program for Innovation, Science, and Engineering), exposing students to STEM fields like university-level calculus, physics, computer programming, biochemistry, and renewable energy, as well as entrepreneurship. Of the 152 graduates across the Caribbean, many now pursue sciences at prestigious American universities.
The foundation also creates low-cost programs for all ages, targeting those traditionally unable to access high-tech education. Held in Barbados and St. Lucia, their computer coding workshops are open to all adults and teens over age 15. Budding kid scientists ages 10 to 18 can also hone their math and engineering skills at their Barbados junior robotics camps.
Regarding the CSF’s future, the foundation aims to provide more than just life-changing opportunities, says Dr. Sah. “We hope these students eventually become the region’s next generation of leaders, bringing unity among the islands.”
From ska to reggae, rocksteady to dancehall, Jamaica’s pulsing rhythms are familiar around the world. Little do fans know that many talents behind the music trace their roots to a religious institution founded in 1880. Based in Kingston, the Alpha Institute (previously known as Alpha Boys School) has a long history of taking in boys in need, and equipping them with tools for success.
“At the Alpha Institute, we work with students, their families, and community partners to make sure the next generation become contributing members of society, and build a sustainable future,” explains area administrator, Sister Susan Fraser. Run by the Religious Sisters of Mercy, the school provides students a safe and healthy environment to hone vocational skills, with courses in trades including landscaping, woodworking, and barbering.
Their most acclaimed discipline remains their music performance and sound engineering programs, with many graduates going on to win Grammys. Famous students range from Skatelites founder and trombonist Don Drummond to dancehall legend Yellowman. Music from these stars play on the school’s 24/7 streaming radio station, where every single song features at least one former grad, with over one thousand songs in rotation.
Throughout its near 140-year history, the institute remains an important part of the community. “Vocational training is a stepping stone to personal and national development,” says Sister Frasier, “we are committed to helping those who most benefit from academic and social intervention.”
When crisis comes, the islands have always rallied to the cause. That’s the story of the Ranfurly Home for Children, first established in 1956 by Lady Hermoine Ranfurly in Nassau, The Bahamas, after a devastating fire left many children homeless.
Since then, the home dutifully provides vulnerable children a safe and stable environment, with opportunities for a brighter future.
The home responded to the call, once again, following Hurricane Dorian’s recent devastation, says Alexandria Maillis-Lynch, the home’s president. They took in many orphaned and displaced children from Grand Bahama Island. “When we heard that Grand Bahama had been hit so hard, we immediately reached out to social services and said, ‘send them to us,’” says Maillis-Lynch. “These children have come to feel that this is home.”
In addition to providing a caring space to continue their academic studies, they also create a nurturing support system with professional counseling, dance and art therapy, and a gardening program where kids can connect with nature by growing produce.
Regarding the home’s plans for the future, “we need to get bigger,” explains Maillis-Lynch, “because more children should be able to receive the counseling they need, rather than being left out there because there’s no space for them.”