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Overseas-based Vincentians: A very valuable resource

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Fri, Dec 20. 2011

Vincentians living in the United States are this week spearheading activities in their country of residence, as well as here at home, to mark what is being observed as SVG Diaspora Week. A packed programme of events will keep the organisers and the Vincentian migrant community busy and highlight both their links with the land of their birth,{{more}} as well as their important contribution to social and economic development in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The activities are being organized by the umbrella body of Vincentian organisations in the USA, the Council of St Vincent and the Grenadines Organisations (COSAGO), with the full support of US-based Vincentian diplomatic staff.

Estimates of the number of overseas-based Vincentians and their offspring vary wildly, but it is certainly substantial. There is hardly any Vincentian here at home who does not have relatives living abroad and in some cases, entire families have migrated and multiplied in their new surroundings. Scattered all over the globe, the most notable concentrations are in the countries with which we have traditionally had strong ties – Canada, the USA and the United Kingdom among developed countries, and Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. There is now a strong and vibrant Vincentian community in the Virgin Islands (US and British).

This migrant community represents a most valuable resource with tremendous potential for nation-building. Typically, remittances from these hard-working migrants support their families here and make a significant contribution to the national economy. Christmas would not be the same for many of us without the legendary “barrels”. But the value of this precious resource goes way beyond remittances and barrels. Many of these are Vincentians who have utilised the opportunities offered in their migrant home to acquire skills and lift themselves academically, technically and culturally as well.

They form a deep reservoir of knowledge, skills, and capital which, if properly tapped, can propel the development of their homeland to enormous heights. One only has to recall the range of skills possessed by the invited speakers at this year’s Girls’ High School Centenary lecture series to grasp the significance of this. Yet, we are far from tapping into these vast human resources in any consistent way and they remain still largely outside the pale of our human resource bank. The savings and accumulated capital of these persons collectively, their access to capital resources which Vincentians at home would not ordinarily have, and their business acumen can all be harnessed for the national good, in investment and trade.

In order to do this, we need to change our attitude, as a people and also at the governmental level, to our brothers and sisters in the diaspora. They are not just there to “send this” and “send that”; we have to treat them with the respect which they richly deserve.

We have to treat our brothers and sisters abroad and their organisations with as much respect and rights as any Vincentian or Vincentian organisation at home, and not just seek resources; but we neglect to put the relationship on a basis of mutual respect. We are shooting ourselves in the foot by neglecting to do so.

SEARCHLIGHT wishes our entire migrant community abroad, a very productive SVG Diaspora Week.

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