Earlier this week, Nevispages sat down with Mr. Anselm Caines who was recently appointed CARICOM Youth Ambassador for St. Kitts & Nevis. Mr. Caines has long been an active participant in youth affairs on our island having been involved in the Nevis Literary and Debating Society, HOPE Nevis, the Anglican Young People’s Association and also serving as a popular motivational speaker for our country’s youth. Today’s interactive session with Ambassador Caines was primarily geared at receiving greater insight into his new role as CARICOM Youth Ambassador and the duties which he will be required to undertake.
NP: – Mr. Caines, it’s an absolute pleasure to have you here with us this morning. Thank you so much for coming.
AC: – Well thank you for having me. I really appreciate the opportunity that you have extended.
NP: – Mr. Caines, first of all let me say congratulations to you on your recent appointment as CARICOM Youth Ambassador for St. Kitts & Nevis. What is your reaction to such an illustrious appointment?
AC: – It is certainly an honour to have been appointed to such a distinguished position. I think the appointment presents me with a critical opportunity to serve the young people of our Federation and to also help shape the national conversation as it pertains to youth related issues.
NP: – You mentioned service to young people. What is your role as CARICOM Youth Ambassador within that context?
AC: – My role as CARICOM Youth Ambassador, simply put, is to act as the voice of the youth in our country. It’s a sort of two-pronged responsibility. Firstly, I am charged with the task of finding out what are the principal concerns and challenges of young people in the Federation and conveying those concerns to policy makers at the regional level. Then secondly, the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors must formulate programmes and strategies which in a sense breathe life into the priority areas that have been established by the regional Heads of Government.
NP: – Could you highlight a few of these priority areas?
AC: – As a CARICOM Youth Ambassador, I would be required to do extensive work in a number of areas which touch and concern the welfare of our young people but particularly, the areas of HIV/AIDS, CSME education, cultural development and crime would receive special focus.
NP: – What qualities do you think are necessary for a CARICOM Youth Ambassador to possess and be effective in this position?
AC: – To my mind, each CYA brings to the table his or her own individual qualities that are unique and exciting. I think I must first highlight that because it’s important for us to appreciate that we all come with a diversity of strengths and talents which though not necessarily identical, when they are combined, will help the entire CYA caucus to be more dynamic and far reaching in its impact. However, if I were to make mention of just a few basic qualities that all CARICOM Youth Ambassadors should possess I would say firstly that you must be a committed and focused youth leader. You must be passionate about the service of young people and you must possess that burning desire to help them realize their dreams and aspirations.
Secondly, I think you have to be a strong communicator because as a CARICOM Youth Ambassador, you are charged with the responsibility of representing to the policy makers all the ideas and ideals of young people throughout the country. Accordingly, you must be able to articulate a particular position or perspective such that the Permanent Secretary, the Minister or the Chairman of a regional institution buys into what you are saying. But being a strong communicator also speaks to your capacity as a Youth Ambassador to relate to young people in the schools or on the streets and help them to express whatever is on their mind.
Naturally, also, given that I am a Youth Ambassador for CARICOM, it requires that I have a clear understanding and appreciation of topical issues of regional integration. I must be versed on the socio-economic structure and political systems of the CARICOM construct. I have to keep abreast of the everyday issues affecting young people-Issues such as crime and gang violence, HIV/AIDS, CSME and opportunities for entrepreneurship. These are some of the issues that the Youth Ambassador will have to address in relation to our young people and so one has to therefore remain current and up to speed with all the trends and developments, not just in St. Kitts and Nevis but also the entire Caribbean Community.
NP: – Are you the only CARICOM Youth Ambassador for St. Kitts and Nevis?
AC: – No I am not. There are actually four (4) CARICOM Youth Ambassadors for the Federation. Essentially, you have two senior CARICOM Youth Ambassadors in the person of myself and Ms. Sonia Boddie from St. Kitts and we are ably supported by two alternate CARICOM Youth Ambassadors; namely Mr. Jacquan Mario Phillip of Nevis and Ms. Jackeima Flemming from St. Kitts.
NP: – You mention alternate CARICOM Youth Ambassadors. What do they do?
AC: – The alternates for all intents and purposes have the same responsibilities as Ms. Boddie and I. The underlying responsibilities don’t change. They have to be able to convey the concerns of young people to the policy makers, they have to participate in the organization of events and they have to be just as knowledgeable on CARICOM and youth related issues. The basic distinction really is that the alternates play a more supportive role but still a very critical one at that. You see, the responsibilities of the Youth Ambassador are quite varied and so let us say that I am unable to make it to a function or execute a particular activity, then my alternate is right there, able to substitute for me without you even noticing that I am not present.
NP: – I understand. As an Ambassador for the country, I imagine that you would have to do a lot of travelling though. Am I correct in my assumption?
AC: – Yes, you are just about correct. Occasional travels and overseas assignments do form an important part of my portfolio.
NP: – Since you were appointed, have you been required to travel outside the Federation on official duty?
AC: – Indeed I have. In August, I was required to travel to Suriname to participate in the 11th edition of CARIFESTA alongside my colleague CARICOM Youth Ambassadors from throughout the region. CARIFESTA as I’m sure you would know is the Caribbean’s mega cultural festival which seeks to showcase Caribbean talent and celebrate regional culture. During that exercise I was required to be part of a CARIFESTA Youth Focus Learning Project. Then just last month, my colleague Ambassador here in St. Kitts and Nevis, Ms. Sonia Boddie, participated in the One Young World Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa.
NP: – What were you able to extract from these trips?
AC: – Well at CARIFESTA I was privileged to receive the opportunity to interact with various officials from the CARICOM Secretariat.
They highlighted some of the challenges that they have had and they indicated that they don’t believe that they are sufficiently penetrating the schools. Fortunately, I was able to work at the CARICOM Booth for a great portion of my time at CARIFESTA and so I was able to bring back with me quite a bit of literature and paraphernalia for distribution in our institutions of education. In addition to that we began discussions on certain educational initiatives that we can implement to enhance awareness amongst our young people because what you find, and it’s a bit unfortunate, is that too many of our students are leaving secondary school and they can’t tell you who is a Dr. Eric Williams or a Maurice Bishop. Some hardly know anything about Dr. Simeon Daniel or Dr. Kennedy Simmonds. But they can more readily tell you about a Barack Obama or a Hilary Clinton. I think there is a slight disconnect and these are things that we will have to address.
NP: – I can see by your facial expression that this is something that you are very passionate about Mr. Caines.
AC: – I am! I believe that our young people need to become more expansive and comprehensive in their understanding of Caribbean affairs and not unduly restrict themselves. In so doing, we will have to look at the mode of delivery and to that end, begin to employ educational strategies that are not only consistent and Caribbean-centric but which are also exciting. Develop activities which appeal to the imagination of our youth.
NP: – Could you give us some insight as to what educational strategies or initiatives you have in mind?
AC: – Well one such initiative that I would like to see implemented is a biennial CARICOM Regional School Quiz throughout the entire Caribbean Community involving participating countries from all 15 CARICOM member states. Additionally, I would also like to see organized in our schools a simulated CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting. This is something that can be done during Black History Month where our students would get the opportunity to dress up and adorn themselves in lavishing Prime Ministerial attire. Emanating from this would be the opportunity for them to debate topical issues relating to the Caribbean Community in a setting that sort of mirrors a round table discussion of a CARICOM Heads of Government Conference. This is something that I think can be done during Black History Month, quite similar to the way in which American students around this time would portray pieces on Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Rosa Parks.
NP: – I think those are very good ideas, especially the simulated CARICOM Heads of Government meeting during Black History Month.
AC: – Well in that case I will ensure that once it is made a reality, you are one of the first institutions to receive an invitation to come and cover it.
NP: – I would be very grateful for that Mr. Caines. It’s also my understanding that you are the first Nevisian to have been elevated to such an illustrious position of CARICOM Youth Ambassador. Is that correct?
AC: – Yes, that is my understanding as well.
NP: – What are your thoughts on this?
AC: – Well no doubt it’s a moment of great achievement, not just for me personally but for the Nevisian people. I think that when policies pertaining to youth development are being formulated at the regional level and the name of St. Kitts and Nevis comes up for discussion, you will be sure to have individuals who can bring personal perspectives from each island to the fore and in that way, help to produce a result that is a true expression and manifestation of youth from across the entire spectrum of the Federation. But perhaps even more so than that, I think the appointment is reflective of the enhanced working relationship that has manifested itself between both island Governments and the Youth Departments over the past 4-5 years. No doubt we still have further to go but I think we have made great strides.
NP: – Finally, is there anyone you would like to thank and anything else that you wish to say before we end this interview?
AC: – Firstly, I must thank God for his guidance and my family for their support. I wish also to register my immense gratitude to the Federal Government and the Federal Ministry of Youth Empowerment for affording me the opportunity to serve the country in such an illustrious capacity. I always consider it to be a moment of great pride when young persons are assigned to positions of trust and influence whereby they can in turn influence the livelihoods of other young people. In particular, I must single out Ms. Chereca Weaver, Senior Youth Officer in the Federal Ministry of Youth Empowerment who has primary responsibility for coordinating the CARICOM Youth Ambassador Program at the national level.
I must also recognize the senior officials from the Ministry of Youth in Nevis led by Junior Minister, the Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams; Permanent Secretary, Mr. Keith Glasgow; Assistant Secretary, Ms. Michelle Liburd and the new Director of Youth on Nevis, Ms. Zahnela Claxton. I have already been able to engage them and they all seem quite enthusiastic about learning more about the CYA Program and what it has to offer for our young people. I am therefore greatly encouraged.
Certainly, I am obliged to register my immense gratitude to the former Director of Youth here on Nevis, Mrs. Diana Pemberton, as well as the Youth Officer at the Ministry of Youth, Ms. Lisa Mills. Those two young ladies worked very hard to procure opportunities such as these for our young people on the island and were it not for their efforts, I perhaps may not have even been in this position today and so for that I am immeasurably grateful to them.
I also must place on record my appreciation for the work that Ms. Claudia Walwyn would have done as Director of Youth prior to Mrs. Pemberton, as well as to thank the former Permanent Secretary and the former Minister of Youth on Nevis, Mr. Alstead Pemberton and Mr. Hensley Daniel. I place on record my appreciation for their work because the movement to have young Nevisians recognized and uplifted to such positions of esteem and influence did not just begin at the point of my appointment. I recall serving as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador Alternate in 2008 and sitting in meetings with Ms. Walwyn and then Minister Daniel. We decided then that we would have to be more vigilant and proactive in terms of pushing for opportunities like these and also try to work much closer with the Youth Department in St. Kitts because at the end of the day, the issues that young people face in Nevis cannot be so fundamentally different to the issues that young people face in St. Kitts. It was out of conversations like these that the commitment for greater collaboration was made and I really want therefore to thank Ms. Walwyn, Mr. Pemberton and Mr. Daniel for the work that they would have done to lead us to this point.
Finally, I must also extend my gratitude to CARICOM for endorsing my appointment as a Youth Ambassador. For in all that I do, I am called to remember that I am not just an Ambassador for St. Kitts and Nevis but also the entire Caribbean Community, and so it is that I pledge to serve them both equally and faithfully. Thank you.