Hundreds of marginalised people in Barbados have been getting valuable assistance and recognition from the Community Education Empowerment and Development (CEED) charity.
Located at Reed Street, The City, president Dadrina Emmanuel told the Sunday Sun that CEED, which has been in existence since 2013, was hoping to grow its portfolio of services as its clientele continued to increase.
CEED seeks to empower and cater to people considered “different” and who, because of their circumstances, were not given many opportunities to improve their lot.
“We work with marginalised groups. This encompasses persons with disabilities, persons living in impoverished neighbourhoods, the LGBT community and drug users. We do outreach to sexual and gender minority groups, sex workers, transgender persons, people living with HIV/AIDS – anyone who finds themselves to be marginalised for whatever reason,” Emmanuel explained.
She pointed out that CEED partners with agencies such as the Welfare Department, the Ladymeade Reference Unit and the HIV/AIDS Commission, among others.
“We offer educational and skills-building programmes as well as empowerment and developmental programmes [such as] computer fundamentals, basic maths and English as well as CXC English, social studies and mathematics and computer fundamentals.
“In the skills component we offer sewing and dressmaking, cooking on a budget, cake and pastry. We even had fundamentals in waitress services and small urban space gardening,” she noted.
The programmes have been made possible through assistance from the Maria Holder Trust which was also instrumental in helping CEED to outfit its Bridgetown office.
Lauding the Trust, Emmanuel said CEED was able to successfully provide its educational and skills initiative since 2014, and estimated that around 4 000 people had benefited over the last six years with the programme called the Community Education Empowerment Project.
CEED, which is run by a board, also relies on a number of qualified volunteers to teach the courses.
Emmanuel said they were now hoping to go to the next level and provide people with more than just a certificate of participation.
“We are trying to partner with the Technical & Vocational Education and Training Council to get the centre certified. We don’t want people to just get a certificate of participation which can’t do anything for them. We want them to be able to be certified when they do our courses,” she said.
While the COVID-19 pandemic did affect their face-to-face programmes, Emmanuel said CEED was still busy going into the community making referrals, distributing literature and making sure people got the help they needed.
However, she said COVID-19 had placed the organization in a financial bind.
“Since COVID we have been finding it hard to attract funding so we are hoping to top up our fundraising initiatives and target corporate Barbados to assist us in continuing our critical social protection and social care programmes.
We want to continue with our developmental ethos, working directly and indirectly with the community which we are in and other urban communities.”
Transgender student Dadrina Emmanuel collecting the scroll for her upper second class degree in social work, from campus registrar Kenneth Walters. (FILE)
A qualified social worker, Emmanuel is a transgender who started CEED because of her own experiences where she faced discrimination because of her sexual orientation.
“Sometimes because of who I am, people think that we are an LGBT organisation but that is so wrong. We cater to anyone who find themselves marginalised for any reason. We don’t ask any questions.
“For me as a transgender woman and a social worker, CEED was founded because of my times at school. I didn’t feel as if I fit into the mainstream educational system and so I dropped out of school . . . . Later when I was trying to get an education, I went to a place where I was paying $40 an hour . A child complained about me and they told me when I come in to use the back door. So when I did a programme in NGO (non-governmental organisation) management, I had memories of that and I said I don’t believe anybody for whatever reason should have to go through this. This is where I got the idea of working with marginalised groups.”
She added: “I want to dispel the myth. I don’t want anybody to go through what I went through, whether it is for your sexuality, whether it be for your gender, whether it be for your status. I want people to feel free when they come through these doors. So we actually have policies when it comes to discrimination that you are not discriminated against. People wouldn’t know why you are here or which marginalised group you belong to.”
The 44-year-old Emmanuel, who graduated from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill in 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree (upper second class honours) in social work, said she knew it was critical for her to be able to understand the science and psychology of human behaviour in order to carry out her work.
Emmanuel said while behaviours were changing, Barbados still has a long way to go. “We are getting somewhere but as a transgender woman you wouldn’t see me being hired at somebody’s front desk.”