The re-opening over the weekend of an expanded learning house offering educational courses and guidance for those who feel shunted aside from facilities in mainstream society, tell a story of growing social marginalization in Barbados’ society.
The Community Education Empowerment and Development re-opened its doors last Saturday, and the experience that president Dadrina Emmanuel related to the small gathering for the occasion pointed to the increasing number of people who consider themselves not integrated into life on the island.
CEED President Dadrina Emmanuel said the organization had to redefine the term “marginalized”.
Salvation Army’s Major Denzil Walcott wants the CEED project duplicated.
“When we first started out, we looked at marginalized groups based on sexual orientation, gender identity, drug use, sex work – the things that people don’t want to talk about, and groups of some people who don’t want to [be identified],” explained Emmanuel at the Reed Street home of CEED, where the CEED II programme was being launched in a refurbished setting with greater classroom capacity.
“But what surprised us was that the group expanded and [the term] ‘marginalized’ had to be redefined because what we were recognizing was that people from within the area of Reed Street and its environs were coming and saying that sometimes even putting your name on the application form means you don’t get the job.”
She said nationality also emerged as a reason for discrimination as non-Barbadians also began knocking on the doors.
“Some persons are saying ‘we cannot access this service because we are non-national’,” she said.
CEED began at its City location in 2013 with the intention “to move marginalized groups in Barbados from beyond societal, social and political boundaries to assist with the overall development of these communities”. In 2014, it received the first funding from the Maria Holder Trust.
CEED offered a number of academic and vocational training programmes.
Experiences of discrimination of “transitioning” persons even at the level of secondary school, were part of the concepts that gave birth to CEED as an organization “where persons who felt that they were marginalized and ostracized within the secondary school system and going up could have a place where they can come and have some level of skill enhanced, learn a new skill, or pursue their education”, Emmanuel explained.
A National HIV/AIDS Commission needs assessment survey in the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] population found that the second highest need among that group was for an organization for people willing to learn.
“We responded to that need,” Emmanuel said, adding that the board of directors came together and, through self-help, “we made sure it was a space where people could come”
“It was cramped at some times. Sometimes you are teaching and food is cooking,” she added. “The tutors were very dedicated. We couldn’t afford to pay them. They volunteered. They kept by our side.”
CEED board secretary, Natasha Ward confirmed that the philanthropic organization had been running programmes in cramped conditions, sometimes having seating capacity for just eight people in a very small kitchen.
“But somehow we made it work,” she added.
With the growing number of marginalized persons turning up, CEED got a second two-year Maria Holder Trust grant for expansion of the building for increased services.
The growth in the number of marginalized prompted a call by Project Manager of the Maria Holder Trust, Donna Clarke, for more tolerance in Barbados.
“We must all work together to try to alleviate and break the cycle of stigmatization, particularly in this marginalized community. I believe that we live in a society that thrives on labeling and name-calling,” she said.
Clarke said that with the CEED II funding, there will be greater emphasis on offering a wide range of activities and programmes with particular focus on more vocational courses, including barbering, carpentry, masonry and plumbing.
She expressed the hope that by the end of the two-year programme “participants will be more empowered and equipped to become productive members of the community and society”.
More than 200 people have passed through CEED’s doors since they first swung open, and over 120 are already enrolled in classes that began today, with another enrollment set to begin soon for a November intake.
Remarking on the relevance of CEED’s programmes for Bridgetown residents, the Salvation Army’s Major Denzil Walcott said: “Whatever you might say about what is happening in our country, our young people who live in The City have nowhere to go.”
He spoke of a hope that the work of CEED contributes towards “opening of the eyes of other people in our community to see that we need another centre like this”.