by Dominique Lescott
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Saint Lucian born visual artist, and filmmaker Fiona Compton behind the popular Instagram account Know Your Caribbean asked Caribbean friends and family who live in their home countries to stop discouraging Caribbean people who live abroad to move back home.
Fiona Compton shares Caribbean history to over 137,000 followers on Instagram and through partnerships. In her recent Instagram post which was liked over 12,000 times, she asked “all my Caribbean family and friends who live in their home countries” not to discourage the Caribbean diaspora from returning to their native islands.
The caption said, “The Caribbean is in a constant state of brain drain. We leave for what is meant to be a short time to get diversified education, new skills, and then some of us get comfortable, get married, get paid well, or perhaps it’s healthcare…and many of us get discouraged to move back home, by those who stayed.”
The WINN news team asked for thoughts from the diaspora. Jahreem Encarnacion, a local Nevis based entrepreneur who was born in the Caribbean and migrated to the USA before relocating back to Nevis recently said “We export our talent and sell our birthright, what do we expect?”
The type of comments Compton listed include, ‘Why you trying to move back home there’s nothing here for you.’
WINN also spoke with a Nevisian international student Donne Dyer who said “Well how I see it, it goes both ways, yes developing your island is key as it encourages growth and fosters further development within the island but it can also stunt your personal growth within your career”. Dyer added “Especially if what you studied isn’t relevant to your island, or it is not at a high level, which may leave you feeling demotivated. So for some saying “Don’t return” may be coming from “it’s best to stay where your skills are appreciated”. Dyer is currently studying abroad in the UK studying for a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.
In the post, Compton found comments discouraging, and added: “But if we have all these frustrations about how the Caribbean is progressing, about how all our land is being sold to foreigners, that we don’t own anything anymore, that foreigners are getting all the well paid managerial jobs – why do we discourage our own who went out to get all the training to come back?”
In 2018, St. Kitts and Nevis hosted its first Diaspora Conference to promote sustainable development through building partnerships between the Federation and its nationals living abroad, endorsed by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Premier of Nevis, Mark Brantley. According to the Diaspora Affairs website, the 2013 World Bank Study suggested that, “There is nearly one person living abroad in the Diaspora to every person still resident within the Caribbean,” and that it is safe to suggest that there is approximately fifty thousand (50,000) persons throughout the Saint Kitts-Nevis Diaspora, living mainly in the United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, Asia, the Caribbean and Europe”.
A British-Nevisian dual citizen who grew up in both Nevis and the UK and wanted to remain anonymous told WINN that she had planned to go back to Nevis, however, she remained abroad after university for several reasons including, “because of my illness and I needed access to good healthcare and another reason I didn’t go back is because I fell in love”. The individual who is married said she stayed for love and said “that’s the personal side of why I didn’t return, once I finished uni”.
The individual told WINN that they still pump back into the economy and the community in Nevis through sponsorship and working both when they are on island and sometimes from the UK, particularly in education, tourism and health sectors.
“The diaspora gets licks”, is another reason they stated for staying in the UK and added “I’ve heard people back home saying ‘oh you come down here and you think you could do what you want because you gone away’. They get defensive and it’s a turn off. So when I go home, I’m not expected to do anything in the community because I went away?”
On May 30, 2018, Chair of the Planning Committee for the Diaspora Conference and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Kaye Bass, appeared on the programme “Working for You”, and explained that, “I think countries more and more are realizing that the Diaspora has value. They give back to their countries of destinations and they give back to their countries of origin”.
According to Ms. Bass remittances make up over 1% of GDP in the Federation and further stated that persons in the Diaspora can contribute to the country by way of investment or innovation (SKNIS).
Compton concluded her Instagram post by saying, “Of course home isn’t perfect and moving back is not a walk in the park – but Lewwe try no?!” and asked the question “And for those who can’t move back – how do we give back whilst abroad?”
Davinia Tomlinson, a locally based entrepreneur who recently relocated to the Federation and runs her UK based business rainchq from St. Kitts answered how we can give back and said, “In my view it is imperative that as active members of the diaspora we reflect on how we can contribute to the economic development of the islands we call home, building on the talent that already exists to create a stronger foundation for future generations.
Tomlinson added, “It is not an easy transition and certainly not one that should be taken lightly, but I think we do ourselves a disservice when we dismiss the opportunity to build a life in the Caribbean and instead opt for what we consider to be the relative comfort of our birth countries, whether that’s the US or the UK. History and in fact recent times have shown us that the western world should not be our default option for optimal quality of life. For me moving to St Kitts was a no-brainer. Here I have peace and there is no price you can put on that”.
Lastly, we spoke with Kashma Evelyn who has a career in Marketing in New York who said, “After gaining an education, your plans and career may change. Change in the sense that what “you see yourself doing” does not always align with the available opportunities and resources in your Caribbean island”.
Evelyn is also a popular food blogger who added “For example, in my career as a Marketing professional, I manage the food blog, FoodForKash on Instagram. I observed that being a full time food blogger is quite new to St. Kitts and Nevis, and having to create brand deals with local restaurants and hotels would be quite difficult. For that reason, I chose to stay in the US where the opportunities are endless. On the other hand, I do understand the need to develop new niches, like food blogging, in St. Kitts and Nevis, but with such a limited need, the choice to stay abroad became more inevitable.”
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