Newsletter for June, 2020
 Celebrating the class of 2020

By Glen Herbert
It's graduation time, and we're happy to report three important celebrants this year. Gabby Ollivierre has graduated from SAIT with a diploma in professional cooking. She's a chef. Kadeen Hazell has graduated from flight school , having earned a commercial license. He's a pilot.

And this: Rhea Simmons is graduating high school in Ontario. Four years ago she began a great, challenging, interesting, at times difficult adventure when she enrolled at Lakefield College . There she joined a group of peers from more than 40 countries, though despite the international, cultural, and linguistic diversity, she later recalled that “the school is a really big family and I got used to the people really quickly, and made friends.”
When I visited, Rhea’s self-portrait was displayed in a glass case outside the art room, there with portraits of other students. They were faces of young people, all looking out toward their future, or so it was easy to imagine. Rhea pictured herself wearing a favourite necklace with a turtle pendant, a subtle visual reminder of how far she had come. “Our philosophy of education rests on our belief that students learn best through trusting relationships,” said Anne-Marie Kee, head of Lakefield, recently when discussing the remote learning program necessitated by the pandemic. Rhea hasn't just graduated a program, she's also become part of a long, proud legacy of positive, caring relationships.

Oh the places they'll go ...

It's easy to think of graduation as an ending, though of course it's a beginning, too. Gabby will continue on into a career as a chef, an indeed that's already begun—she's apprenticing at Joey Barlow in Calgary toward completing her Red Seal certification. Kadeen will be in the air, at first completing flight hours required for licensing, this because of the disruption in his program due to the pandemic. Rhea has been accepted to a university program in Canada, and will begin a new life there, in time. So, there are more adventures, and even better adventures, still to come.
A new boat for the Junior Sailors!
Thanks to the donors who made this possible: Kiss a new boat for the Junior Sailors Academy Bequia . The crew took it out for the first time just this past week. The boat is a traditional double ender, the second for the club. It's a more challenging boat, so it helps to build skill, though double enders are are also used for racing. Earlier this year the club won a regatta in Canouan in Camille , JSAB's first double ender.
 The beginning of the Bequia Mission
Looking for a new vacation destination, they instead found a new life

By Judy Simmons
The Bequia Mission came into existence in the early 70’s the moment my mother and father June and Ron Armstrong stepped foot on the tiny Island in the Grenadines. Their arrival on Bequia was a lucky fluke, a fluke they thanked God for often during the years they lived and worked on the Island. Wanting to experience a new and different vacation destination, my parents had taken my Uncle Jack’s advice and booked flights to St. Vincent, a country they had never heard of. 

Uncle Jack, my mother’s brother, had a business associate in Barbados, who in turn had a business associate in St. Vincent, who in turn owned a cottage on Bequia. This Vincentian businessman was none other than Mr. P.H. Veira, and he agreed to rent his small house in Hamilton to my mother and father. Mom and Dad’s lives changed forever as a result of that first visit to Bequia. The Island and its people touched their hearts as well as their souls to such an extent that they immediately planned for early retirement.

Mom and Dad didn’t arrive on Bequia alone. Accompanying them were their good friends David and Norah Busby, and the two couples eagerly explored the small Island during their stay. They fell in love with the pristine tropical Island and enjoyed the white sandy beaches, but it was the people they were drawn to the most. My father had at one point in time served as Director of the Canadian Hearing Society, and once he realized there were quite a few deaf children on Bequia he vowed to start a school for them. My parents also wanted to help the Island’s Anglican minister finish the high school he was building, and with these aims in mind Mom and Dad’s mission was born. Beginning as “The Friends of Bequia”, the organization was incorporated as a registered charity named “The Bequia Mission” in 1981.

The Bequia Mission was a voluntary, non-profit and non-denominational charity. Although Dad was an Anglican minister, he wanted to help ALL the people of St. Vincent, not just Anglicans, and he therefore (much to Father Adam’s chagrin) insisted on keeping the Mission non-denominational. Its purpose was to provide social, educational and medical aid to the entire country, and for many years my parents and a host of volunteers accomplished their goals with impressive dedication.

Dad’s dream of a school for the deaf was met with resistance at first. Children born deaf were in most cases kept out of the public eye, and it took a lot of coaxing on my father’s part to change the situation. Dad was a kind, gentle man, and the more time he spent on Bequia the more he was trusted. The parents of the deaf children gradually allowed them to participate in what became the Bequia School for the Deaf. 

The little school was located on the upper floor of a building owned by the Anglican church close to Bluesy’s sail loft, a humble beginning for what would eventually become the Sunshine School for Children with Special Needs. The Bequia Mission also opened a workshop for the handicapped close to the school for the deaf, and people were able to buy the clever crafts created there. The handicapped children of Bequia, whether blind, deaf or physically deformed, soon became part of the community in a way that had not previously existed on the Island, and this pleased my parents enormously.

The Bequia Anglican High School’s construction had been completed by the time I arrived, and I knew that the “Friends of Bequia” had helped financially with its construction. The school lacked a science lab, and the library was pretty sketchy, but the building itself was large and strongly built. The school fees were very reasonable (when I taught in the late 70’s the cost was $40.00 EC per term), but what seemed reasonable to me was too much for many parents. The Bequia Mission began a sponsorship program for underprivileged children, making it possible for every child on the Island to attend school. People from abroad sponsored the students, helping with such things as uniforms and eyeglasses as well as school fees, and many close relationships were forged as a result.

The medical clinics on Bequia needed attention too, and with the Mission’s help renovations were made and much-needed supplies donated. I can recall someone donating an autoclave, I was there when it was presented to the appreciative nurses. With an autoclave the clinic would be able to sterilize equipment, a big improvement for sure! Unfortunately, the autoclave didn’t come with instructions, and sat unused until someone realized that the nursing staff had no idea how to use it. The Windstar gave me an ex-ray machine for the clinic (they had purchased a new one for the ship) and it was the same story – how on earth did it WORK? Without an ex-ray technician on the island the machine simply gathered dust. Mac and I donated a small refrigerator so that blood could be stored in the clinic’s lab, nobody had a problem figuring that one out!
Judy Simmons writes about her life on Bequia—from going to school at Lower Bay, to meeting the Queen, to founding Mac's Pizza—in her blog, Bequia Stories .

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