“In a 2006 IMF Working Paper it states that a majority of Caribbean countries have lost an average 70% of the labour force in the tertiary education segment, and more than 30% in the secondary education segment (9-12 years of schooling).
For St. Vincent and the Grenadines in particular, 40% of the workforce migrated to OECD countries between 1965 and 2000, and we have lost 18% of primary, 33% of secondary, and 85% of tertiary (71% to the US alone), which is the segment that is referred to as brain drain.
In fact, SVG is number 4 in the top 20 countries in the world, with the largest emigration rates for the tertiary educated workforce.”
Re- draining The Brain Lecture Alana Gumbs, GHS Alumni
When Sean Rose left St. Vincent for Tortola, British Virgin Islands (BVI) in 2006, he joined this significant group of Vincentian nationals who live and work in other nations.
Tortola represented an unexpected culture shock as the landscape was startlingly different to what we have in St. Vincent.
“Although Tortola is a Caribbean island, I was surprised at how metropolitan and diverse it was compared to back home. There was very little agriculture, so I didn’t have access to fresh food, a lot of what we ate was imported.
But it was an exciting place with a nightlife similar to the Grenadines. Very beautiful and picturesque.”
For the next three years, he functioned as news producer and journalist for Z-King Radio, a regional christian broadcasting network. In this position, he was the lone news broadcaster responsible for all of the station’s news content and coverage.
“This was an entirely new experience for me as I had never worked on radio before. It was a challenge for me because the work was different to what I was doing previously. I was also even more motivated to excel because the station was owned by a Vincentian, Alric Corea.”
As Sean mastered his new duties, the flexibility and independence of his job helped establish his position in the diverse social scene of expats, including other fellow Vincentians.
He enquired about organisations catering to the Vincy community in BVI, and was invited to a meeting to discuss reviving the defunct Vincentian Association of BVI (SVG-BVI), by the organisation’s former president. When attendees who met at the Brumant Fellowship Hall of the New Testament Church of God, Tortola, overwhelmingly supported re-establishing the association, Sean was elected the president.
“Serving and leading a body that involved many established Vincentians, such as Bishop Ishmael Charles, was a defining moment in my life.”
Tortola’s diverse population of both regional and global expatriates drew Sean’s attention to migration patterns and trends around the Caribbean and beyond.”I used that time to become acclimated to my new environment. I became involved in the social scene of expatriates, and the Vincentian community in BVI.
And this is how I started thinking on our diaspora. I observed first hand Vincentian members of the Royal Virgin Island Police Force (RVIPF), who had left our police service in SVG. They were equally patriotic and were making tremendous contributions to that community.
Unfortunately, the forces of division operate in SVG in a way to deny us better access to make the same, or even more significant, contributions at home.”Sean continues passionately as he warms up to this topic, “those of us out here in the diaspora are worth a lot more than our remittances.
We need to understand and appreciate our strengths so that we can easily address our weaknesses. We are naturally and easily intellectual people. We shine inside out.”
Sean fell into a comfortable rhythm balancing his work, community service and social life.
Although he carved out a comfortable existence for himself, he yearned to complete further studies. So in 2009, he decided to resign from Z-King to pursue his academic goals.
His prior experience at UWI increased his interest and determination to pursue higher education. He applied for a student loan, and subsequently returned to Jamaica to work on a Bachelor’s in Media and Communication.
“I was very excited. I loved every moment of my time there. I had always dreamed of going to university. I immersed myself in university life again and took part in extracurricular activities. It was also a cultural awakening as I observed the vibrant, thriving Jamaican culture.
Despite the pervasive fears of venturing off campus, I did it anyway, at times on my own, to explore downtown, Kingston.”
He lived off campus and served as President of the Vincentian Student Association in Jamaica, throughout his final year while simultaneously serving as PRO of the Morris Meadows Community Association, located in the parish of St Catherine. He achieved his Bachelor’s in Media and Communications in 2011. He was considering remaining in Jamaica while interning at CGR Communications as PR Assistant.
However, he opted to return home to pay his last respects to his grandfather, Lloyd Matthias who passed away.
Upon returning to SVG, Sean decided to explore career opportunities at home, which looked more promising with his degree in hand. With the idea of a future in communication consulting, he began accepting pro bono work towards that aim.
In keeping with his personal life philosophy of Caribbean empowerment through self realisation and personal responsibility, Sean targeted clients and projects with that in mind.
“I believe in Caribbean unification and in empowering our people. This belief drove my prior community outreach efforts in BVI and extended to the career choices I made at that time as well.”
Sean also focused on his interests in farming by hosting a Farmer’s Forum in Fancy, and spearheading a communications presentation for a local church in Georgetown.
In May 2012, in response to an application, Caribbean Broadcasting Network, operating out of Tortola, offered him a spot as a newscaster. Sean once again joined the diaspora by returning to the BVI.
Sean spent the next four years in television broadcasting. First as a newscaster at Caribbean Broadcasting Network, then as Senior Reporter at JahPhix Television respectively, both located on Tortola.
This time he focused his community service efforts on serving as a member and then President of the Virgin Gorda-based Valley Sound Lions Club. Previously, in SVG, he was an active member of the Leo Club of St. Vincent. Serving as a Lion was a natural evolution.
Lions Clubs International, led by its motto “We Serve” is the largest service organisation in the world, with approximately 1,382,000 members in 44,680 clubs and 738 districts in 186 countries and geographical areas around the world.
On his return to the BVI in 2012, Sean again joined with a number of Vincentians to revive the Vincentian Association and was re-elected President. During this time Sean lived on Virgin Gorda and ferried to Tortola for work. In 2014 he moved to Tortola, but was called on to serve as President of the Valley Sound Lions Club on Virgin Gorda.
“It was quite a challenge for me to commute between the islands for meetings and events after moving to Tortola, but I was determined to serve. I was also at the time President of SVG-BVI as well, thereby serving as head of two separate organizations.”
Sean reports this period as one of tremendous personal and emotional growth. In addition to the geographic challenges, he found his approach to relationships evolving, especially with his female colleagues.
“I cemented some of the relationships I had established on Virgin Gorda. I developed and refined my problem solving skills. I learned how to balance relationships through extensive communications in a mostly female lions club.
It was certainly an enlightening time for me. I embraced, even more, the idea of empowering women, and had to learn new behaviors. I had to ask myself, ‘how do I maintain my masculinity while remaining sensitive to different views?’ It was a delicate gender balance to strike. I didn’t want to be too harsh or too soft.
I realized that all points of views mattered. Fortunately for me the ladies I worked with gave me excellent feedback and advice. I had no choice but to listen. My relations with the powerful ladies of Valley Sound Lions Club remain active and memorable.”
After getting married in February 2016, Sean resigned from his position at JahPhix and relocated to Miami, Florida with his wife and newborn son.Currently, Sean is engaged in building his brand as a freelance journalist and communications expert, contributing to regional periodicals including news784.
As far as his future goals are concerned, SVG figures prominently. Sean is hoping to initiate cultural activities and events to attract tourists to the island. He envisions an annual festival centered around the process of making modongo bakes.
This is one of several ideas Sean has shared with me to propel SVG towards practicing an environmentally viable form of ecotourism.
“I think about sustainable living. How to protect our rivers and streams. Our rivers are a source of livelihood for some. Our fresh water is great for domestic and other uses, including food in the form of crawfish and lobsters. We need to manage our forest reserves. So I am working on some solutions.”
After several conversations with Sean, I have all the confidence in the world that this Native Sun will continue to shine on, illuminating our beloved Vincy.
By Tricia Reddock