As an educator I saw first-hand effects of impulsive and irrational acts of violence. The epidemic of crime and violence, with young people being both the perpetrators and victims of such acts, had a ripple effect on society at large in the Caribbean.
2010 was a life-changing year. I became the Bahamas Youth Ambassador to the Commonwealth and started to build on my passion for peace. I also flew to Rwanda for a peace building workshop organised by The Royal Commonwealth Society and sponsored through the Commonwealth Secretariat. Out of this meeting, CANACARIBE – the Commonwealth Champions of Peace programme – was formed. I was selected by my peers to chair this group, and a year later, we launched a train-the-trainers event that empowered 35 young people from around the Caribbean in conflict prevention and resolution. This network grew and saw collaborations with the CARICOM Secretariat and several UN agencies.
The Caribbean is marketed as a picturesque “ideal” vacation spot, with its beautiful climate and flexi-time. Most Caribbean states rely heavily on the service industry; consequently, the region does not live in isolation of the wider community. Acts and threats of crime and violence have not only stolen prematurely the lives of its citizens but have also affected its tourism product and way of life.
The world looks at acts of terrorism as extreme violence, but truthfully, the method makes no difference as the extreme nature of violence is relative and in the case of small states, human capital is a most valuable resource. In these nations, crime and violence affect everyone. Therefore, training, education and empowerment in the area of peace building are needed in the Caribbean to give people the power to be the change they seek in their community and by extension their region. Ideally, the Caribbean can become the example of a people that can be responsible for each other and show love by understanding the plight of people who we may consider as “others”.
With that said, I would like to see this network develop in the Caribbean in a similar way to CANACARIBE – growing a strong network and allowing young people to be the facilitators of peace building efforts in their communities. With my interest in peace building, conflict resolution and citizen security in small states, I hope to encourage more youth participation and inclusion in peace initiatives through developing the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network-Caribbean.
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