Let Your Light Shine and Call for Hidden Heroes Nominations Kick Off Character Day Bahamas 2022

Participants of the Character Day Bahamas workshop (day 1) included educators and youth organizers who benefitted from the information, networking and receiving campaign promotional posters and t- shirts. Sitting in the front row are presenters Karen McCartney, consultant at the Ministry of National Security, Dr Niambi Hall Campbell Dean, associate professor, University of The Bahamas, Sonia Brown, president of the PACE Foundation, Charlene Carey, consultant to the PACE Foundation and Jewel Horton, school psychologist, Ministry of Education. The workshop was held simultaneously on ZOOM with many other attendees participating. Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry.

“Let Your Light Shine” is the 2022 theme for the Character Day Bahamas campaign. It sets the right mood as schools countrywide ready for in-person instruction. Additionally, with the economy’s uptick and return of many to the workplace, it is the right time to bring Character Day to the business community. A Corporate Lunch and Learn is planned for September 7, 2022.

Speaking at recent mid-August Character Day workshops held for educators, guidance counsellors and youth workers, Sonia Brown, president of the PACE Foundation which leads Character Day Bahamas, offered some insight.

“Let Your Light Shine,” reminds us that there is something special about each of us.” Brown emphasized, “We tend to focus on the negative from a societal aspect. But it’s all about recognizing for example in a child that we might call stubborn, that there is grit and perseverance. We have to find a way to channel their energies so that they can understand and strengthen their character to better themselves, their school, their communities, and their family.”

Character education explores six virtues – Wisdom, Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance, and Transcendence with specific strengths attributed to each. For example, the character’s strengths under wisdom include creativity, curiosity, love of learning and perspective.

“You can work on your strengths and make them stronger,” said project coordinator Charlene Carey. “Character is malleable. Our goal is to help students and others to be their best.”

Workshop facilitators Dr Niambi Hall Campbell Dean, Helene De Jong, Karen McCartney and Jewel Horton shared tools and tips on maximizing “Your Light, Light Intensity and Shining Your Light,” important topics for individual and collective success.

Character strengths are important for retaining and maintaining relationships. Many said that the pandemic had isolating effects and that there has been a sharp increase in anxiety, depression, and in persons not wanting to return to human interaction. It was felt that social intelligence and self-regulation have declined.

Participants were reminded that people often try to hide their struggles, letting others see only what they want them to see. Therefore, kindness, empathy and self-awareness are vital. Self-regulation (control) is the ability to manage one’s behaviour and reactions, and ‘social intelligence,’ is one’s capacity to develop, understand and manage interpersonal relationships. 

McCartney said, “Youths tend to have a hard time recognizing what a ‘friend’ is because of the (prolonged) time spent on social media. They are not engaging as frequently with humans as they may have been doing pre-pandemic.” She further elaborated that it may not be easy to distinguish true friends from acquaintances and that parents can help with this.

Educators who attended the Character Day Bahamas 2022 Workshop are preparing to roll out their programs that gear up for Character Day activities in October. From left to right are Sandra J. Munnings, teacher, First Step Academy, Tonya Storr-Belle, teacher at EP Roberts Primary School and Kevra Bostwick, teacher, Garvin Tynes Primary. Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry

Workshop attendees were reminded to take care of their wellness to have a stronger, positive impact on children and others. “Educators spend more time with our children than we do,” said Brown. “Your work is extremely important. We need you to take care of yourselves so that you can educate our children and improve our country.”

‘Your light’ starts with being self-aware and understanding what builds you up and brings you down. Self-awareness starts with being mindful and meditation or quiet reflection is a good tool for this.

Factors like stress can affect one’s “light Intensity” therefore, managing stress and challenging emotions are important for a bright beam. Dr. Hall Campbell Dean discussed eating clean, staying well hydrated, moving (exercising) and establishing a sleep routine which all contribute to one’s light. Having good thoughts – self-kindness versus self-judgement and healthy boundaries are also switches that keep the light on.

Tonya Storr-Belle, a teacher at E.P. Roberts Primary School and a former Hidden Hero winner said that their school will focus on citizenship and respect for Character Day.

Keva Bostwick, a teacher at Garvin Tynes Primary agreed that more focus is needed on self-care for teachers and students. “I especially liked the tip – that we should not allow our thoughts to run our lives. We are not everything that comes to our minds,” said Bostwick.

An important part of the Character Day Campaign is the Hidden Heroes Awards. More on this as well as how to apply for a small grant is available at http://www.characterdaybahamas.org. Nominations close September 30, 2022.

Character Day Bahamas is led by the PACE Foundation and is sponsored by the Templeton World Charity Foundation Inc. which allows resources to be distributed free of charge to participating schools and youth organizations.

PACE (Providing Access to Continued Education) Foundation is a non-profit that supports the work of The Andrea E. Archer Institute, a special school for teen mothers. They firmly believe that everyone deserves a second chance and have had the privilege of giving second chances to teenage mothers for the past fifty years. More information can be found at http://www.pacebahamas.com.