Monday, September 30, 2013

To Caribbean Optimism 2012-2013

What a difference a year makes...
As we close out the 2012-2013 year
The 7804 Optimist says:
Congratulations to all members of Optimist International Caribbean District for a tremendously awesome year. The lives of our children and young people across the Caribbean are better because of you... your spirit of service and commitment as volunteers cannot be discounted.

Big up and maximum respect 
to District Governor, Lynden Buchanan...
for making such a difference one child at a time!
And what a way to end the year?
The Arthur Guinness Award for the Bridging Gap project!!
Endurance to the very end...

Optimist Latoya Wade

Saluting District Secretary-Treasurer, Latoya Wade... 
for an amazing year! Continue to do what you do for Optimism.

To all Lieutenant Governors... for leading with such quiet resolve and aplomb.

And lest we forget, District Chairpersons and special committee leaders and members, we acknowledge you for crossing the many rivers and helping to show that overcoming is possible.

Club presidents...without you there is no Optimist movement. Gratitude to you all... A blazing trail you have all made!

And oh, what a special force the Caribbean District shared with the Southeast Region...
Her royal highness of generosity and inspiration,
International Vice President, Sonia Anderson...
what more can we say but

Finally, to For The Future Optimist International President, Jean Claude St. Onge for sharing his passion for children with the Caribbean, we say Thank You.

To the incoming 2013-2014 team of District Governor, Nutilia Simon, we say, nothing but the best. We are confident of the promise because we know...we've got it!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Magnificent Six

The magnificent six – Women past governors of Optimist Caribbean district.
(first published in the Optimist International Caribbean District Q4 Magazine, August 23-24, 2013)
IT IS AGREED. Caribbean women have been nothing short of phenomenal in their quest for equality and equity. Their declaration of self-hood and agency has benefited the development of the region in many spheres – including but not exclusively civil society, non-governmental, and voluntary service organizations.
In the Optimist International Caribbean District (OIDC), the evidence is indisputable. The pace of women’s progressive rise and impact within Optimism subsequent to the removal of the men-only provision from the Optimist International (OI) constitution in June 1987 is both significant and instructive.  In that same year a Caribbean woman named Jennifer Wynter (later Palmer) was among the first few females in the world to become an Optimist when she joined the Optimist Club of Kingston.
Optimist Ronnie Dunn
It had taken 68 years for women to be officially in; but within four years of that June 1987 declaration Jewel L. Thompson (Wichita Falls, Texas) became the first female governor (North Texas District; 1991-1992). And, 20 years to the historic vote to accept women, Ronnie Dunn (Frankfurt, Kentucky) was presiding over another momentous Montreal Convention as the first female International President (2006-2007). So in just over two decades the women had made their mark on the leadership of Optimist International. But what was happening for women in the Caribbean District was extraordinary.
Seven years into the life of the Jamaica District (est. 1992) and only three years into its official elevation to Caribbean District status (est. 1996), a powerhouse from the Optimist Club of Ocho Rios became the District’s first female governor. Shirley Jarrett had set off what was to become a tsunami of female clout within Caribbean optimism because by 2009 the District was heading into the leadership of its sixth female governor – that’s one female governor every 22 months. And, in their own incomparable fashion (pardon the gender undertone), each had created both a strong wave individually and a sea of brilliance collectively.
Optimist Shirley Jarrett
1. Shirley Jarrett (Ocho Rios) 1999-2000:
At a time when the world was anticipating all kinds of calamitous consequences on the turn of the new century Shirley Jarrett took on the governorship of the Caribbean District under an insightful theme – Vision 2000. With her Secretary-Treasurer (DST), Cecille Hale – a self-styled neophyte in Optimism – Jarrett proceeded to chart a new direction for the District as the first woman governor. According to the former principal and General Manager of the Runaway Bay HEART Hotel Training Institute, establishing the JOOI Caribbean district and elevating the district to number one in OI were among the highlights of her governorship. 
The distinguished and outstanding governor would later become Optimist International Vice President in 2007/2008.
Optimist Carol Haynes

2. Dr. Carol Haynes (Bridgetown, Barbados) 2001-2002: 
Known for her outstanding service to health and particularly HIV&AIDS across CARICOM, Carol Haynes made sure the Positive Caribbean Attitude was to be forever etched in the annals of Optimism. As the first governor from outside of Jamaica, the graduate of Hampton High School and The University of the West Indies proceeded to strengthen the team across the region. 
Ensuring sponsorship for all three conferences and convention (including Antigua and Trinidad) she says “was critically important in order to reward members for their invaluable work across the District”. The woman who sees “absolutely no limits to the role women can play in (Optimism)” would go on to serve as the first female IVP from the region in 2006/2007.

Optimist Cecille Hale
3.  Cecille Hale (Sunset Kingston) 2004-2005: 
By 2003, the DST to the first female Governor had come of age as an Optimist and the district elected her to serve as 2004-2005 Governor.  Cecille Hale took to the task with the quiet diligence that has become her distinctive disposition in the district. In her words, “What I wanted most for my year (was) to draw everybody in; I wanted to sell them Optimism; I wanted them to buy in and be involved; I wanted every member to feel the way I do about my Club, my Organisation.  So I sold them the 'Opportunity for Involvement'… (In the end),  we received, on stage at OI Convention, awards for the highest percentage of membership gain, of most Honour Clubs, and from our region, our District was number one.  The members obviously had bought what I sold”. Indeed, the reluctant governor had brought back some limelight to the district.

Optimist Sonia Anderson
4. Sonia Anderson (St Ann’s Bay) 2006-2007: To many Optimists, Sonia Anderson is just WOW – Woman of Wonder!  She took the One Love theme ‘to the world’ and in the process, put the District back on top of Optimist International, and as top governor took all three of President Ronnie Dunn’s awards. “The district had developed the 'habit' of building most clubs but unfortunately oftentimes lost more than or almost as many as we built. (We) ended the year with twelve clubs more than we started. We lost only one club, Grenada”, notes the retired IT professional and proud grandmother of five.  
Extremely popular across the Optimist fraternity, Anderson, the 2012-2013 International Vice President, is known for her always charming and motivational discourse.

5. Judith Reid (North St Andrew) 2008-2009: 
When Judith Reid became Governor her charge was: “Give me five for the Children – Mission for tomorrow” reflecting both the strong sense of spirit and commitment to purpose that were among the special qualities of her defining personality.  Of course these were under-girded by Reid’s eccentricity, colour and chic. As the women who shared the pole position of district governor recall, PG Judith was “flamboyant – a true optimist (who) wanted the best for the movement at whatever cost” (PG Gene). “She was my friend – a committed, indomitable, and strong-willed Optimist!” (IVP Sonia). 
Reid was “a highly energetic Optimist who was unbelievably courageous in the face of her challenges” PIVP Carol).  “The ever-present Optimist” (PG Cecille) who was “truly known for her perseverance… She was tenacious in carrying the Optimist Torch to the end” (PIVP Shirley).  
The Optimist of the Year Award is a testament to the extraordinary honor in which the late PG Judith Reid is held by the District.

Optimist Gene M. Douglas
6. Gene M. Douglas (North St Andrew) 2009-2010: The first governor of the newly designated Caribbean district in 1996 was Major Errol Alliman and his DST was long-standing Chartered Secretary and proud past student of Morant Bay High School, Gene M. Douglas. Fourteen years later as Governor she was saying to the District “…for the children: Soar and Shine” and it sure did. At ‘touch down’ Gene M. and the district had taken the International President award for building the most clubs during that year but critically its organizational capacity, committee structure, and collaborative foundation were strengthened. “My role as governor was good because of the team that was in place”, reasons the retiree who is still active as corporate secretary of one the Caribbean’s largest financial institutions – Sagicor Bank.

Optimist Nutilia Simon
Within a decade then, the Caribbean District had seen a meteoric upswing of female leadership in its ranks and though bearing a striking similarity to that which was unfolding in the wider society, contextually there was a deeper meaning in Optimism. The fact is that even in a world of service, especially with a focus on children, where women’s so-called natural nurturing instincts would have been perfect fit; the women simply were not welcome up to little more than a decade before that.
Come 2013-2014 yet another woman will be at the helm when retired airline executive, Nutilia Simon (St Johns, Antigua) takes over the governorship on October 1. There is no better time to invoke the innovative and focused leadership of the magnificent six - past Governors Shirley, Carol, Cecille, Sonia, Judith and Gene M. 
Indeed, the women of OICD have been incredibly effective in providing hope and positive vision as they continue to bring out the best in kids.  

© Patrick Prendergast, August 23, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

Reflections.2 from OI-CDC 2013

Governor Lynden's Closing Charge…
We must complete this important leg similar to the Usain Bolt-Asafa Powell final leg exchange; ensure that the incoming team gets the baton in a good position and have the advantage of a good start. 

It's more about keeping Optimism alive and positioning our District to be the best that we can be.

As part of achieving this I have challenged our New Club Building team to deliver the other four clubs before September 30

I also make my pledge to enlist at least two new members over the next two weeks...
I challenge my fellow Executive team, Past Governors, Lieutenant Governors and Optimists in general to look among (your) friends and associates and enlist at least ONE member to the District Roster before September 30.

We need to leave our District in the positive to ensure a good start to the New Year. 

Let’s make a difference in our leg of the relay and when we pass that baton successfully we will know as the next runner will shout enthusiastically, “GOT IT!".   
Optimist Lynden Buchanan (Caribbean District Governor 2012-2013) and Optimist Dave Wilson (Governor's Assistant)