The Barbados Defence Force – an essential part of the Barbados community
The Barbados Defence Force (BDF) although an integral part of the Government is perhaps an enigma to most Barbadians as they mostly see the members of this organization only at official ceremonies. It is not my intention to go into the makeup or day to day running of this entity but rather to explore how the BDF can be encompassed more as a part of the Barbadian society.
My connection with the BDF began in 1981. There was a mild hurricane that passed close to Barbados and volunteers were sought by the BDF to help people in the north of the island whose homes were damaged. I knew Brigadier Lewis and volunteered. I was given a uniform and some carpentry tools and 10 of us were sent by truck to replace roofs, outhouses and other parts of dwellings affected by the wind and rain. It was the first time that I felt the joy of giving back as I was able to witness and help the plight of the poor and elderly Bajans we served that day.
Although time has passed and I now live 5000 miles from Barbados I, like others have a feeling of love and patriotism for a country that is so small that in the past some world atlases did not even show it. I have a fondness for the BDF and the great work they do for Barbados and so, this is simply to suggest other common areas that the BDF may be open to.
- May I suggest that at 5 pm each day the BDF should have exercises at the Garrison Savannah where all are invited to partake. Starting with a bugle to get attention, this can be a run on the garrison, sit-ups and/or other cardiovascular exercises. People can do as much or little as they like but participating in this should be fun and not work. The best would be to have someone who is extroverted leading the exercises (radio station personalities?) who can encourage these budding athletes and put them at ease. Perhaps a brief discussion once or twice a week about food for healthy living etc can be added. All the radio stations should encourage Bajans to attend and get a healthier life.
- As part of the chef’s course at the hotel school, the trainee chefs should spend 2 weeks in the kitchens of the BDF cooking for its members. Moreover, 12 head chefs at restaurants and hotels across the island should be encouraged to offer their services free of cost for one day a month. The emphasis should be on creating dishes based on the BDF budget and I am sure that this would not only be a challenge but a task that will be favoured by them. The menus and recipes of the visiting chef along with his portrait should be shared on the BDF site and their social media.
- All Barbadians should be encouraged to volunteer for 2 days a year to the BDF. They can be given basic training, used to maintain Government buildings, rake a beach, learn scuba diving, learn to drive a truck, share IT skills etc This should not be seen as free labour but more about community building. Thereafter they can then decide if they want to be a part of a reserve and be called up in event of national emergencies (hurricanes, fires etc).
Finally the BDF should create and sell souvenirs exclusively for Barbadians who have served with them where the money goes towards a fund as set out by the command of the force. These could be pins, belts etc and can only be purchased by people who have volunteered or taken part in the above exercises.