“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.  Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” – Luke 6:35-36

A more user friendly interpretation of the above text is “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never-I promise-regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind”.

The Revitalisation of Bridgetown Retreat did take place on Friday May 14 and was a stimulating experience, attended by over 60 public and private sector stakeholders. There was a spirit of helping and giving with the expectation of a return for Bridgetown Barbados. The meeting began with a welcome by Mrs. Lisa Gale, CEO of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI). This was followed by an opening address by Senator Jeptor Ince on behalf of the Prime Minister of Barbados who was introduced by Mrs. Glenda Medford, the President of BCCI. Senator Ince recalled that there were many previous revitalisation of Bridgetown  initiatives but expressed the hope that because of the extensive planning and consultation that was put into this one, there would be a high probability for its success. In his mind there was no doubt that the collective assets of our capital city could be mobilized into a magnetic force to attract locals, residents and tourists alike.

I was privileged to be the facilitator of the event and began the first part of the proceedings by inviting Mr. Lalu Vaswani, Chairman of the BCCI Bridgetown Steering Committeee, to give a background to the Bridgetown initiative. He noted that the process followed by the BCCI was one of embracing the interest of the public and private sector stakeholders and encouraged them to participate in the revitalisation programme led by the Chamber. He looked forward to the involvement of many of the stakeholders in the retreat where the Chamber’s plans would be outlined and where an appeal would be made for cash contributions from businesses in general, and private and public sponsorship of foundation projects as a precursor to making Bridgetown come alive.

The next speaker was Mrs. Maureen Davis representing the private sector Tourism Development Corporation. She described the work of the TDC over the last 22 years where an average of $1 million per year had been donated to several projects associated with the development of the tourism industry, many of them in Bridgetown. She noted that the TDC welcomed the initiative by the BCCI to be the Coordinating entity which would marshal the forces from the public and private sectors to ensure the success of the Bridgetown revitalisation initiative.

Then we had a comprehensive presentation from Ms. Alissandra Cummins on Bridgetown as a UNESCO World Heritage site. She indicated the importance of World  Heritage sites for opening doors for the development of a country and the importance of managing the Bridgetown site to optimise its benefits.

After a refreshment break, there were eight presentations from public and private sector organisations who were already heavily involved in one Bridgetown initiative or the other. This was a set of very interesting independent presentations without any evidence of co-ordination.

Mr. Stewart Layne, CEO of Barbados Tourism Investment Incorporated (BTII), was the first to deliver his presentation on the physical development of Bridgetown. This was extremely impressive and certainly augers well for the future. Then there was the presentation from Ms. Debbie Stoute, Marketing & Corporate Communications manager of the Barbados National Bank (BNB), where she demonstrated the importance which the BNB has given to the revitalisation by the positioning of their new state of the art headquarters at the centre of Bridgetown. Mrs. Sue Springer, Executive Vice-President of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), spoke about the BHTA’s Tourism Fund and how it had been used, through the TDC, to assist in many tourism projects, some of which were in Bridgetown. The source of the revenue for the tourism development projects is a voluntary contribution of one dollar per night of hotel stay for visitors to Barbados.

Mr. Ken Atherley, Manager, Corporate Development and Strategy, Barbados Port Inc. gave a state-of-the-art PowerPoint presentation on the Port’s expansion plan for both passengers and cargo to accommodate the larger cruise and cargo vessels which are now becoming the norm in international transport circles. Mr. Andre Hoyte, Marketing Officer of the National Cultural Foundation (NCF), explained the NCF’s plan for making Bridgetown come alive and expressed their interest in collaborating with BCCI in this regard. Mrs. Shirley Farnum, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Community Affairs and Culture, gave a short exposé of the new initiatives being developed in her Ministry. The next speaker was Mr. William Hinds, who introduced his booklet “Solar Motion – Solar Vehicles and the Solar Vision for Bridgetown”. The final speaker was Mr.Kemar Saffrey, Chairman of the Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society, who is engaged in a very impressive initiative to meet the needs of homeless people in Bridgetown. He in fact offered to provide a space which the Chamber could use as an office for their Revitalisation of Bridgetown initiative.

After lunch the participants engaged in round table interactive dialogue to give their advice to the BCCI on the way forward. Mr. Andy Armstrong, President Designate of the Chamber, thanked the stakeholders for a wonderful day of interaction which augurs well for future collaboration.