By Canishka Alexander
The Department of Social Services held its Annual Child Protection Month Banner Competition and Parade on April 20.
The theme was: “We Care, We Share – Prevent Child Abuse.”
Banners were judged before students took part in a parade, which started at the Dove Plaza in downtown Marsh Harbour and ended at Marsh Harbour Gospel Chapel. Participating schools included: Central Abaco Primary School (CAPS); St. Francis de Sales Catholic School; Agape Christian School; Long Bay School; Angels Academy; Every Child Counts (ECC); Change Preparatory School; and Grace Baptist School.
Moderators were Rosalie Jones and Jawette Evans of the Dept. of Social Services.
Following two opening songs and the opening prayer, Dominique Russell, District Superintendent of the Department of Education brought welcoming remarks. She was concerned about the dangers children face via social media platforms as she prayed for God’s protection over their lives and for Him to expose all things for their safety and well-being. She also commended all social workers, teachers, guidance counselors and parents.
“Those with an interest in students have an interest in our nation’s prosperity,” she observed.
CAPS students recited a compelling poem about child abuse. Encouraged by their poem, Evans told the students that they can all make a difference despite how small they may think they are. She said in the case of child abuse, children must tell as many people as they can about what is happening to them, so that they can receive the help they need.
Once Kimrice Miller of the Dept. of Services read the Scripture, Father Deangelo Bowe was invited to address the students as the guest speaker. He said that child abuse is not only an issue that is prevalent in The Bahamas, but on that we deal with on a global scale. He added that Child Protection month not only deals with abuse, but neglect as well.
As a child, Father Bowe went from living in a single-parent home where his father was not around to a home where his mother got married introducing a stepfather who was wonderful when sober, but who would become verbally abusive when he would drink alcohol.
“Our circumstances will never define who we become or what we do in life. God has given each and every one of us the ability to choose and to act on who we will become and what we will do in life.
“One of the things the absence of my father brought to my life was it caused me to vow to myself and to God that I would never put a child through that experience that I had in my life. So what I vowed was that if I ever lived to have a child, I would never be absent, and that that child would have me as a part of their lives each and every single day.”
He told the students that they are special and that every one of them are unique.
“Do not allow your uniqueness, your difference from everyone else to be a reason to allow anyone to put you down, and so today, I hope and pray that as you leave here, you will continue to grow and to mature as loving, as caring and as persons of peace who will find it necessary throughout your lifetime to change the manner in which we deal with our children and for future generations.
Father Bowe emphasized to the students that what happens tomorrow has a lot to do with the choices they make today.
“You want to be an element of change in the way that we care for our children in this Bahamas and across the world – it starts with you and the way you interact and you care and you live with each other on a daily basis right at school,” he advised.
Senior Welfare Officer Ettamae Jones of the Dept. of Social Services announced the winners of the banner competition, which was separated into three categories: high school, primary school and pre-school.
In the high school category for the banner competition, St. Francis captured first place; and Agape placed second. Long Bay swept the primary school category, while CAPS came second. For the pre-schools, Change Preparatory took first; and second place went to Grace Baptist Pre-School.
Jones requested the banners from the schools, so that they could be put on display at the Bahamas Government Complex.
Father Bowe prayed over the students before they were dismissed.
Barbara Williams of the Dept. of Social Services made a presentation of gifts to District Supt. Russell, Principal Cecile Albury of Agape Christian School and Father Bowe as special guests. They also received a blue pinwheel, which Jones explained is a sign of hope for a brighter future. The pinwheel replaced the blue ribbon that used to be worn.
Meanwhile, Paige Gibson, who also works at the Dept. of Social Services, gave the Vote of Thanks.