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Vincentian honoured at Buckingham Palace

Vincentian honoured at Buckingham Palace

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A Vincentian is being awarded for his contribution to the development and education of youth in the Commonwealth.{{more}}

Today, former deputy director for the Commonwealth Youth Programme Andrew Simmons will be honoured by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II at a reception at Buckingham Palace.

While speaking on the “Interface” radio programme on NBC Radio on October 10, Simmons expressed excitement over having received his invitation.

“I was extremely excited,” he said, as he spoke about the moment when he read the letter. “I was so excited that I said ‘Praise God’.”

During the interview, Simmons reflected on how he got his start in youth development.

Simmons, who has had over 30 years experience in the field, explained that in 1978, he and a small group formed the JEMS (Junction, Enhams, McCarthy and Stubbs) organization, which was geared toward helping persons in various communities.

“I think growing up in St Vincent in a poor community, a very small village, one would look around and see the many problems that people were facing,” he said.

“We started going into communities…talking to people about the problems they faced and how we can help them”.

Through JEMS, the honouree stated that they were able to develop a community literacy programme, develop environmental projects, build community roads, build public facilities and raise funds to provide pipe borne water in McCarthy and lower Stubbs.

“For me, that’s how it started. I didn’t push it,” the co-founder of Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) said. “I, along with my other colleagues, developed a passion to work with people to solve their own problem.”

When Simmons left St Vincent and the Grenadines, he worked at the Commonwealth Secretariat and soon became the deputy director for the Commonwealth Youth programme, a job that he viewed as a challenge, yet “extremely exciting”.

As director, Simmons worked to develop programmes that were geared toward creating opportunities for youths in all member states of the Commonwealth.

Although he left the Commonwealth Secretariat in 2006, Simmons is happy that “these programmes are far more relevant today, in light of the global repression that we are currently facing”.

Simmons, who never attended secondary school, encourages youth in St Vincent and the Grenadines to set their goals and work toward achieving them, regardless of their background.

“I believe strongly that the young people are our future,” he said. “I want to use this opportunity to encourage young people in St Vincent that irrespective of who you are, that irrespective of where you come from, irrespective of how poor you are…once you are determined, once you are committed…believe in yourself…you can reach wherever you want to reach”.(BK)

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