Diane Phillips Column


Feed America: 220 Organizations, Bahamas Feeding Network: 110, One of Many Ways the Little Ol’ Bahamas Shines in a Crisis

By Diane Phillips

Complain, gripe and grumble all you want about being stuck at home. The reality is that while it is killing the economy, it is saving lives. Balancing the needs for human and economic survival is a grueling, day-by-day, hour-by-hour mental high wire act performed by those who were trained to do one or the other, never expecting to have to do both. As decision-makers with unfamiliar mazes struggle to get it right, they are discovering that the COVID-19 pandemic is doing for The Bahamas what few crises, if any, have done before.

It is shining light on our successes and ripping the covers off our frailties.

On the success side, it has opened official lines of communication between the Prime Minister and the public. Under ordinary circumstances, our leaders, like others around the world, rely on words of wisdom from large donors, big business, clergy and members of their inner circle to tell them what they want to hear. Bringing in organizations like ORG (Organization for Responsible Governance) and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation and giving them a seat at the table has helped lead to a gradual, rotating opening of some business sectors. Listening to those like Brian Jones who has been advocating increased digitalization since early 2016 is already accelerating what was a painfully slow conversion to e-commerce and e-government that will last post-COVID. Virtual learning is putting more tablets and discipline in student hands. New delivery services and apps like MobileAssist are proving their worth. Opening a portal for suggestions from the public on the OPM’s website will likely remain a permanent online feature.

We don’t realize it but we are changing, becoming small success stories ourselves.

We are adjusting to a new normal and accepting it. We are finding that we can get a lot done even if we don’t do it as well as those we relied on before. We can acid-wash and re-grout our kitchen tiles, groom our dogs, trim our bushes, sand and varnish our old wood floors. We are learning more about the right way to plant lettuce instead of the right way to examine produce on the shelf. We are shoring up our self-confidence by doing more ourselves.

We are also becoming more sensitive to needs around us, none more so than the need to feed.

The fight against hunger as become a nationwide-endorsed cause. Hands for Hunger, Lend A Hand, RBPF efforts, The Salvation Army, Great Commission Ministries are all working harder than ever to meet the demand while what started out as a network engaging a handful of churches looking for support only seven years ago has grown into the emerging star of feeding programs in The Bahamas. The Bahamas Feeding Network (BFN) mirrors the operations of Feed America, referred to as the gold standard of feeding programs in the U.S. This week Feed America reported it was helping a network of 220 organizations, Bahamas Feeding Network some 110. That is pretty amazing. Although BFN’s network varies from 70 to over 100 on a monthly basis, the work it does through a team of volunteers is so inspiring that it is a model of human kindness and good that should make all of us appreciate how The Bahamas can shine in a time of need. This week, BFN, which has converted from cooking more than 5,000 hot meals a week to distributing food parcels, coupons and gift cards, was rewarded with major donations, $50,000 in two tranches of $25,000 each from the Lyford Cay Foundation and $10,000 from the Nassau Jewish Community. During normal times, Royal Caribbean provides almost all its food. An underlying part of BFN’s success is the fact that every penny contributed goes directly to food with all administrative costs being borne by an anonymous donor since the day it was launched. Our willingness to envelop the need to feed is another success story energized by COVID-19. And the attention to hunger and food security will mean the latter will be treated with the vigour it requires going forward. We will lessen our dependence on others for what lands in our fridge and on our table and on those thousands of tables in hotels.

People are getting better at social distancing, making it easier to re-start construction and development. If BPL is able to place crews on the road for tree trimming, getting huge limbs off power poles ahead of hurricane season, would it not be plausible to allow construction to re-start its engines, still maintaining social distancing. Materials can be sanitized. An inspector could be placed on a construction site with authority to shut it down for violations. If it can be done in the Family Islands, we can only suggest, let’s give it a try in New Providence.

And amidst all the fussing about what’s wrong, let’s also take a minute every day to say thank you to all the frontline workers who put their lives on the line every day. Thank you, thank you and thank you.

As for those frailties the crisis has shone a light on, we all know what they are. Let’s just work on making them better and stop waiting for others to do it for us. After all, if we can hold Tango and groom his overgrown furry, droopy ears, we can do just about anything.

If ever you doubted Bahamian artistic talent…


So many great Bahamian artists of every genre have left us – in fine arts Brent Malone, Amos Ferguson, Jackson Burnside, in performing arts, Ronnie Butler, King Eric, Mdeez, most recently singer songwriter Eric Minns. But if you want to find reason for hope, you don’t have to look any further than #36, The Central Bank’s 36th edition of the National Arts Competition.  With both open category and high school competition, with lay-out compiled by relatively new Central Bank curator Ulrich Volges and photographs by the unstoppable Roland Rose and others, the coffee table catalogue is filled with artwork that could stand up to almost any world standard. Watch for more work by Christina Wong who competed in the open category and St. Andrew’s student Makeda Smith. And check out the catalogue online as there were only 400 printed. The competition awards ceremony took place last November under the patronage of Cornelius A. Smith, Governor General, but looking at the images months later will lift your spirits at a time when a little lift is especially welcome.