Two years ago at this time, Sherry Robertson, executive director of Yarmouth Life Skills, was in Saint Kitts and Nevis, lending her expertise to a couple of agencies that work with people with disabilities.
She went to the West Indian nation in September 2016 and returned home in April 2017.
More recently, Robertson hosted two residents of Saint Kitts and Nevis who came to Nova Scotia to spend a few weeks seeing the Yarmouth Life Skills group up close, observing what they do, seeing how they function.
Both guests – Latoya Merchant and Patricia Mary Clarke – said it was a good, valuable visit. They hope what they saw and learned while in Yarmouth will help them with their respective organizations in their home country.
Merchant is director of Ade’s Place and Clarke is acting director of the St. Kitts Nevis Association of Persons with Disabilities (SKNAPD).
“Our coming here was really to see how they (Yarmouth Life Skills) run their centre and what we can incorporate with ours,” Merchant said. “It has been a really good experience.”
Clarke shared this view, saying, “I have learned a lot. It has given me food for thought ... I want to say thanks to the board of directors (of Yarmouth Life Skills), Sherry and her staff. Everyone welcomed us.”
Merchant – who had a 21-year teaching career – said she was impressed with the efficiency of the day program offered by Yarmouth Life Skills, how it flows from one activity to the next and how program participants know their duties and have a routine. At the same time, she said, participants are given a range of choices, which she finds “very commendable.”
Asked if she would be able to apply what she learned during her Yarmouth visit to her work back home, she said, “I would but I would have to tailor it to our culture.”
And it’s not just her own organization that stands to benefit from the knowledge she gained from her time in Yarmouth.
“I believe in sharing with other organizations in Saint Kitts, like the association for the blind and the deaf,” said Merchant. “We can actually share what we learned with them. I don’t think that knowledge should just be stored. It should be shared.”
Aside from spending time at Yarmouth Life Skills and seeing what they do, the visitors got to learn about other local organizations. SKNAPD, for example, has a Dial-a-Ride service. While the guests were in Yarmouth, they got to hear about the HOPE Dial-a-Ride service from Linda Vickery, HOPE’s executive director.
“Linda was very, very good to share her experience and wealth of knowledge,” Robertson said. “And we went to the Kaye Nickerson (Adult Service) Centre and they were very welcoming also. We didn’t get to everywhere we wanted to go. We got some training in ... We’ve been busy.”
While she hopes Merchant and Clarke will come back to Yarmouth, Robertson also is thinking about another reciprocal visit in this partnership, one that would involve bringing a group of participants from Yarmouth Life Skills down to Saint Kitts and Nevis for a week or so. Through Skype, participants from here already have formed a relationship with their counterparts in the West Indian country, said Robertson, who would like them to have a chance to meet in person.
Robertson says the idea, however, is just that – an idea – at this point and such a trip would require a fundraising effort.
For their part, Merchant and Clarke said they would like to return to Yarmouth, ideally when it’s a little warmer.
Referring to the friends she made on this visit, Clarke said, “I’m going to miss them dearly. The only thing I will never miss (about) Canada is the cold.”
Added Merchant, “As Mary said, everyone was very welcoming and Sherry is a really great host.”