Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New Facebook page on Barrel children

There is a new Facebook page on barrel children. I did not create it. But it seems fairly new. Access it here.

Karen McPharlane's article on barrel kids

Karen's article is very interesting. It can be found here. She gives a good description of the challenges faced by parents who migrate to the US and leave their children behind in the Caribbean. The challenges indicated by Karen are especially arduous for undocumented parents.

She argues that individuals returning to the Caribbean should not hyper-inflate their living standards in the US without also conveying real life challenges. Nevertheless, she does recognize that parents do not make these decisions lightly. And often they grieve over the separation from their children. 

There is a lot of good points embedded in her article that guides us to intervention points.

Brook Larmer's Newsweek article on Barrel children

Brooks Larmer piece on barrel children in the Caribbean was the first article on this issue published in a mainstream periodical in the U.S. I am placing a link to the article here so that we can revisit it. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Welcome - The Foundation for the Development of Caribbean Children

The Caribbean will soon have the first indigenous private foundation dedicated to early childhood development. It will be named the Foundation for the Development of Caribbean Children. It will evolve from the highly successful, eight-year-old Caribbean Child Support Initiative (CCSI). Congratulations CCSI!!!!!

Dr. Claudette Crawford Brown lecture in Jamaica

Dr. Claudette Crawford Brown is a faculty member at the University of the West Indies - Mona campus in Jamaica. She is a colleague. We have collaborated on issues around barrel children. She participated in a forum I chaired funded by NIH at the Biennial conference of Caribbean and International Social Work Educators. She has worked to understand the issue of barrel children for over twenty years. Her lecture on juvenile delinquency in Jamaica can be accessed here. The Jamaica Child Welfare Resource Network for Children and Families can be found here. It managed by Claudette.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Migrant Children Project - University College Cork Ireland

The Migrant Children team at UCC hosted a major international conference on the theme of childhood and migration in University College Cork on 9-11 th April 2008. Over 130 delegates from countries all over the world attended the event, which provided a unique forum for academics, NGOs and policy makers to exchange experience and ideas in this area.The conference website can be accessed here.
Sixty-nine papers were presented during the conference. The book of abstracts is available here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Global Childhood and Migration Working Group Members

Global Childhood and Migration Working Group Members - This working group on childhood and migration is made up of scholars from over 25 universities worldwide. The aim is to bring a human face to children's experiences of migration, including children who are left behind, children who move back and forth, and children who settle in a strange land. We study and report on issues like how migration changes children's notions of self, strategies that parents and families use to handle child-rearing when they find they must migrate, and changing notions of childhood across cultures.

The importance of the grandparent/grandchild relationship for barrel children

Grandparents are important in the lives of young children. They can offer positive guidance as well as a host of other supportive measures that predict positive outcomes. This link between grandparents and the well-being of future generations is clearly noted in the literature.

In particular, grandparents are central to the Caribbean family. As noted in the book Caribbean families: Diversity among ethnic groups by Jaipaul Roopnarine and Janet Brown, the authors argue that grandparents often share child rearing responsibilities, engage in skill building activities as well as transmit family history and norms. Furthermore, Professor Mary Chamblain indicates in her book “Family love in the diaspora” that the centrality of grandparents in Anglo-Caribbean families predicts family cohesion and child adjustment.

But what happens when this family bond is interrupted as a result of immigration? Do grandparents exert considerable influence on value transmission and child adjustment when they reside in a country apart from their children and grandchildren?

Professor Dwaine Plaza, an associate professor at Oregon State University, wrote on the influence of transnational grandmothers and their effects on third generation children living in Britain. He argues that grandchildren may suffer maladjustment from limited contact with their grandparents especially if these individuals previously played critical roles in their grandchild’s life. Limited contact with grandparents is particularly salient for barrel children who experience separation from their grandparents as a result of reunification with their birth parents in the immigrant country. These children often have to return to the birth country to see their grandparents and these visits are not nearly long enough. Dwaine offers this summation from an interview with a young girl from Trinidad who was separated from her grandmother:

For other third-generation informants, spending time with their grandmothers was restricted to return visits back to the Caribbean.
Since most Caribbean immigrant families were never financially well endowed this meant that making return visits to the Caribbean was a rare occasion. The long periods in between each visit meant that the grandchildren matured and developed their own character while grandmothers aged in the “home” country. For Denise, a twenty-five year old Trinidad-origin woman living in South London, her return visits were important because she was able to satisfy a “missing part” of her desire to understand her roots. The short duration of each return visit meant, however, that she really did not know either her grandmother or grandfather very well. What personal information she did now know about them came filtered via what her own mother told her. By the time Denise was old enough to ask serious questions about the family history both of her grandparents had passed away. Source: D. Plaza (2000). Transnational grannies: the changing family responsibilities of elderly African Caribbean-born women resident in Britain. Social Indicators Research, 51(1), 75-105.

Much like Denise, I left Trinidad and reunified with my parents in the U.S. I rarely returned to my birth country to visit during initial years in the U.S. My mother took me and my sister on vacation to Trinidad to visit seven years after we immigrated. It would be the first time I visited since I left Trinidad in the late 1970s.

The vacation lasted one week. We stayed with my grandmother in Maraval, visited relatives across the country, went to the beach, and shopped. I saw my old friends who lived next door, played cricket, and soccer. I ate foods that I missed like roti, tamarind balls, and doubles. I was in Trinidad heaven.

My cousins were delighted to see me. I even told a few to ask my parents to see if they could travel with us back to the U.S. I was so naive.

I cherished what little time I had with my grandmother. I was shocked that my strong bond with her had weakened over time. Seven years had passed since I had held her for comfort, cried on her shoulder when I got hurt, talked to her when I missed my parents, and depended upon her for food and shelter. She had aged and the vibrancy she once had while raising me as a boy had diminished. She was frail and had deep hollow eyes. I remember, on our return, my sister combing my grandmother’s hair with such care as if a sudden tug with the comb would entice every follicle on her head to release each strand.

Whether intentional of not, the forced separation from my grandmother had changed the nature of our relationship. More importantly, I did not realize how much it had changed me internally and would not realize it for some time to come.

We left Trinidad with fanfare. Everyone wished us well and hoped to see us soon. Little did I know that I would not return to Trinidad for many years to come.

I left home for college and the army and returning to Trinidad to visit became cost prohibitive.

My grandmother died while I was in graduate school. I went to the funeral with financial assistance from my parents. The mood was somber at the wake. I did not view the open casket at that point. I did not want to see her body. I wanted to remember her the way I last saw her – spirited and maternal, glaucoma and arthritis free, and somewhat mobile.

The tears came when I was finally faced with her open casket in the church. There she was dressed in a fine matron’s gown – at peace with the Lord. I thought to myself, there lay the woman that raised me for so many years as a boy. My eyes welled up and a critical mass of tears over-flooded its containment and streamed down my face. The woman who supported me during my first communion in the very same church I stood, helped me with my homework, provided for and protected my fragile spirit was being laid to rest.

I gave the eulogy. I really do not know why I was chosen. But I gave one that many said was moving. I left Trinidad hurt and experiencing a feeling of void that I hid from all.

It would not be until I got out of graduate school that I would return and return often. I wanted to know about my family in Trinidad. I wanted to know the culture and most of all I wanted to help my island nation. Although I am a U.S. citizen, my birth certificate says I was born in Trinidad and Tobago. So it is an undeniable part of me. I was driven to reconnect with my family both in Trinidad and the U.S.

From 2001 to now, I have travelled to Trinidad numerous times. I have worked on projects in Trinidad. I have done business in Trinidad and so much more. I will recount each of these trips in future blog postings and how my prior experiences as a barrel child guided my reconnection with my family.

I wrote this post because grandparents are important to the viability of future generations. They have knowledge of family history and can pass on best practices and advice that are associated with success.

Children who migrate to the U.S. and are separated from their grandparents must continue the grandparent/grandchild relationship. Parents who are reunifying with their children in a host country should take every means to provide their children the opportunity to visit the country of their birth. It is their right. It also is an intervention that would go a long way in sustaining the long term adjustment of the child.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Caribbean researchers win UNICEF award

Professors Elsie Le Franc and Sally Grantham-McGregor Win First UNICEF Award for Child Research in the Caribbean. Click here for the full story.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pamela Marshall - Barrel Child

Pamela has a new book out titled "Barrel Child". You can access here on Amazon.

Review - A story of love, expectations, parent-child conflict, cultural clash and family secrets that will touch everyone's heart. Can material things truly compensate for a mother's love? What happens when mothers are forced to emigrate in search of economic opportunities to provide a better life for their children? What happens when barrels stuffed with food and clothing are shipped to their children in their homeland to show their love and to compensate for their absence? What happens to the child - feelings of abandonment, longing and anger? Barrel Child: A story about a young girl's struggle to find herself and her place in today's world, overcoming the psychological and emotional toll of being a barrel child to become a good mother to her own children.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Naked Truth about Barrel Children

Continuing our immigration radio series on The Naked Truth, we tell the untold story of the children and families who are casualties of immigration. While parents move to U.S., UK and other world super powers to establish a better life for their family, what happens to their children? What happens when your only connection to your mom or dad is a barrel of material things she sends from abroad?Interviews with author Pamela K. Marshall and professor Dr. Melrose Rattray.

Talk radio hosts Tiffani Knowles and Andre Harrison team up to gab for an hour about trends, music, faith and much more. Every week we interview a super cool guest appealing to a faith-filled, urban twenty something market.

The show can be accessed here. The substantive parts start at 58:00.

The Family Reunification Campaign

The Canadian Council for Refugees is a non-profit umbrella organization committed to the rights and protection of refugees in Canada and around the world and to the settlement of refugees and immigrants in Canada.  The membership is made up of organizations involved in the settlement, sponsorship and protection of refugees and immigrants.  The Council serves the networking, information-exchange and advocacy needs of its membership.

CCR has a program that focuses on family reunification for refugees and immigrants. More information can be accessed here.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Barrel child Twitter Page - Very cool.

I came across a twitter page that highlights the issue of barrel children in the UK. Here is a synopsis of the page.

"To raise the awareness of Barrel children in society. These children are left behind, whilst parents seek financial reward in another country. Often suffering."

Here is the link to Barrel child

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Separation and Reunification Forum in the UK

My colleague, Dr Elaine Arnold, in the UK alerted me to the Separation and Reunion Forum that addresses and studies issues around Caribbean serial migration. Fantastic! I am happy to know that others around the world are actively researching this topic.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Child-shifting and West Indian Migration

I recently read a 2003 paper entitled “Rethinking the Caribbean families: extending the link” by the renowned Professor Mary Chamberlain. In the paper, Professor Chamberlain argues that grandmothers are central to the cultural beliefs of families in the Caribbean. She goes on to explain that the current view of grandmothers as surrogate parents to their grandchildren in order to help their children overcome economic challenges is simplistic. Furthermore, the simplicity does not account for the cultural importance of the extended family in rearing children among Caribbean people. In this view, shared parenting is seen as cultural capital for West Indians. This is similar to Melvin Wilson’s description of the cultural capital accrued by African American extended family units through among other things the exchange of goods, services, support, and oral and written history.

Professor Chamberlain makes a good point in her summation of the importance of grandparents in the Diaspora story of Anglophone Caribbean family’s migration to North America and the UK. She suggests that “…family formation preceded the migration movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries…and was the enabling factor in, rather than the consequence of, migration.”

I concur with Professor Chamberlain assessment. She formulates a very interesting perspective on the predictors of West Indian migration and has the potential to enhance our understanding of migration. There is ample evidence, even in my life experiences, where the enactment of support (e.g., a grandmother caring for grandchildren) allowed parents to make a decision to migrate. In contrast, a different decision may have been made in the absence of similar types of support from a grandparent.

In other words, grandparents who engage in co-parenting afford parents the opportunity to pursue options for migration abroad. If Professor Chamberlain argues, that the West Indian cultural belief of the centrality of the grandparent in collectivist parenting then one can logically assume that parents were free to explore opportunities abroad knowing that their children would be taken care of by the grandparent(s).

She says, “[grandparents] willingness to care for grandchildren enabled their own children to migrate and may thus be seen as a necessary prerequisite for migration.”

How does this fit in with the ‘barrel child’ experience. For some time prior to my parents migrating to the U.S., I stayed with my grandmother during the week in Maraval while my parents worked. Sometimes I stayed with my aunt in a town called Belmont close to the Capitol. On weekends, I would return to my parents until the next Monday when I would return to my grandmother.  

This arrangement was agreed upon because it was the best child care arrangement at that time. It also was consistent with the collectivist parenting that permeated the West Indian culture. The shifting of children from parent to grandparent and to aunt and uncles and even older siblings was common across the West Indies. Fernando Henriques, the prominent Jamaican scholar, calls this child-shifting - the temporary or permanent fostering of the child by kin folk, usually a grandmother, aunt or a close family friend.

I was shifted as a youth to the care of my grandmother when my parents migrated to the U.S. My uncle recalls being sent by his mother (my grandmother) to live with his older sister when he was very young. My uncle sent his first born son to live with his grandmother when he was seven. He lived with us in our grandmother’s house.  Each child-shift could have been decided for different reasons. It could have been childcare, migration, financial stress, limited resources as well as a myriad of others.

It is possible that child-shifting can have a negative impact on the parent child relationship. However, there is limited research in this area especially among the West Indian population in nativity. It would be interesting to examine whether similarities exist between related cultures where the extended family is seen as an asset. For instance, is the West Indian collectivist parenting ideology supportive to the overall well-being of the family and its members similar to that of the West Indian extended family?

Moreover, does the impact of child-shifting on the parent child relationship vary as a function of the number of sibling in the family, how many are getting shifted, and in particular who is getting shifted? Therefore, it may not be as important to be shifted as it is to understand the reason why you are being shifted in terms of impact on the parent child relationship.

The greatest migration of unaccompanied children in the Western Hemisphere

This is the story of Operation Pedro Pan. It is the largest migration of unaccompanied children in the Western Hemisphere. This is a very interesting story and worth a read. There has been little research conducted to understand the current well-being of this population. It does has some similarities to the experiences of barrel children from Anglophone countries in the Caribbean.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bosco House rules (pt 2)

I started to run and quickly shot to the front of the pack. I was in a full sprint. My legs were pumping and my hand swinging as fast as they could. The warm breeze blew by my face at an incredible speed.

I thought I had no equal on the track that day.

I heard the roar of the crowd as they cheered their favorite runner on and their favorite house. I streaked down the front straight-away – keeping my eyes on the upcoming turn. Spectator’s hands were pumping in the air – cheering, yelling – it was bacchanal.  

Being in front of the pack felt liberating. It seemed like I was all by myself in a field, running just for the fun of it.

A quick glance back revealed that I had pulled away from the group. That motivated me to run faster. Sweat started to drip down my forehead.

Seventy yards had gone by in a flash as I rounded the middle of the first turn. I was doing well and allowed a smile to cross my face. I had opened up a 10 yard lead and was beginning to tear down the back-straight.

I was still sprinting at top speed as I got to the 100 yard mark. I was going to win this race – I softly said to myself.

As an adult, I know what “hitting the wall” means. As an 11 year old, I was about to find out.

Shortly after hitting the 100 yard mark, my legs began to burn something terrible. They felt heavy as if someone filled them with caulking material. It happened very rapidly. It was like running through a curtain and coming out on the other side feeling like you just completed a marathon only after staying up all night drinking Johnny Walker and coconut water.

My breathing became labored. My arms that were pumping in unison earlier in the race began flailing. My strides became shorter and my head started tilting back. I was struggling. A look back revealed that the group behind me was approaching quickly.

I had hit the wall and it was going to get worse.

I continued on and when I reached the final turn, the first runner from the group in the back pulled along-side me. I caught him glance over to me as if to say, you probably forgot this is the 200 yard dash…see yah!

And with a glance, he pulled away. As much as I willed myself to go faster, my body responded with a resounding – No!

Another runner followed the first one and then another and then another. By the time we hit the final straight-away, and with the finish line in site – I was looking at the backs of 10 runners. They had all passed me like a peloton reeling in a break-away rider in the Tour de’ France.

My strategy was all wrong. I had used up all my energy early on and now I had none. All I wanted now was to hold on and not finish last.

There were still two runners behind me.  I needed for them to finish behind me in order to save face with Mr. Orosco and my classmates.

I steadied myself and concentrated on running. But it felt like I was running in cement carrying a fifty pound rucksack on my back. The two runners crept up slowly and passed me with 3 yards to go. The peloton had no mercy. I crossed the finish line in last place then immediately fell on the grass track.

I was spent, dejected, and defeated. I was breathing so hard that I thought my lungs were going to explode out of my chest. I saw little black spots in my vision – a sign I was about to pass out.

Mr. Orosco walked up to me and asked, “boy what were you doing out there?” I couldn’t respond. Who the hell was this looking over me? All I saw was a pair of large framed glasses on a round head with a bushy black beard.

“Mr. Orosco?” I replied like an exhausted runner being interviewed right after a 100 yard dash by a sports commentator. “I uhh uhh…was trying uhh uhh uhh…to uhh uhh, win the uhh uhh, race uhh uhh.”

Mr. Orosco explained, “You went out to fast. Use your brain son next time!”

I remained on the ground for about five minutes. The starter had to tell me to get up because the next race going to begin. I literally dragged myself to the sideline and laid on my back. I remember the white puffy clouds and how perfect they looked racing across the blue skies.

I had lost the race but learned that strategy is always important.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bosco House Rules

        March Pass at King George V Park on Sports Day

     My BATA Bullets

     Hoop rolling

Track and Field mess at Rosary Boys R.C. (Part I)

Track and field in Trinidad and Tobago is very popular. Like football and cricket, it is ingrained in the cultural fabric of our nation, schools and communities. We grew up as youngsters emulating T&T track stars like Hasely Crawford, Francis Adams, Mike Agostini, Edwin Roberts, and Wendell Mottley.

Boys and girls could be seen and heard running and playing in the yards of many schools across the country. We ran during and after school. We ran from home to the taxi stand in the morning to school. And the taxi stand to home in the afternoon. We ran during recess. We ran playing cricket, from Jack Spaniards, and to Griffith’s shop that sold the best ‘tulum’ either man or woman can make. We ran after barrel drum rings that we guided with our sticks in a game called hoop rolling. We ran while playing football as everyone displayed their novice skills while invoking the name of Pele and Beckenbauer

Even in Port-of-Spain, a casual walk down Charlotte Street past Rosary Boys R.C. and the Royal Cinema would bring to one's ear the joyous sounds of laughter fading in and out as boy’s chest heaved up and down as they chased each other in the school yard during recess and lunch.

On the rolling hills of Maraval and Paramin are where my legs grew strong and I raced as quickly as my bare feet moved across hot concrete during sunny days. My thoughts of racing consumed me. At times I wished I could run all the way to NYC to be with my parents. I loved to run.

I ran primarily for fun. I liked the feeling of the wind blowing past my face and the thought of being free to explore as far as my legs could take me.

I also ran for Bosco House at Rosary Boys R.C.

Bosco House is one of the best and arguably the most celebrated of all the houses at Rosary Boys.

Boys at Rosary were divided into houses: Bosco; Aquinas; Porres; Savio. These represented saints in the Catholic Church.

The houses were akin to the houses at The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter novels. And we had fierce rivalries that would match that of Gryffindor and Slytherin.

Every two years in May, Rosary Boys R.C. would hold the Rosary Games - the Inter-House Athletic Championships - at King George V Park (better known as Pompi-eye) in St. Claire. Think of it as the Olympics of Rosary Boys RC. Everyone looked forward to the event which was usually held on a weekend and pitted all the houses against each other in intense competition.   

The games included all sorts of sporting and skill events. There was the three legged race, the potato sack race, obstacle course and many others. There also were the running races – the 100 yard dash, the 220 yard dash, the 75 yard dash, and so on. These were the races that drew most of the attention from boys and spectators alike.  

I ran the 220 yard dash as a junior in my first year of competition. It was one lap around the field that was half the size of a regular 440 yard track.

The field was a low cut Savannah type grass. Small flags were placed in the ground to outline the inner and outer boundaries of the track. There were no lane demarcations. The field was filed with pot marks – small ½ inch holes that posed a hazard to the unsuspecting runner.

Boys dressed in shorts and colored t-shirts that identified their house.

Families camped out around the field looking and cheering on their sons. Snow cone vendors were ideally positioned near the boys to maximize sales. The hot sun, blue skies, and gentle breeze held the rainy season at bay.

The megaphone in the background called out the upcoming races and boys raced to starting line as they heard their race called.

These were joyous days and the youthful exuberance of good clean competition enveloped the setting as revelry consumed the hearts and minds of masqueraders on Jouvert morning.

The Games always began after much pomp and circumstance. The Houses marched around the parade grounds. Boys marched behind a flag bearer like an army platoon and pass honored guests on the grounds. The National Anthem was played - followed by a few words from the Head master. Then the Games would be officially opened.

My 220 yard dash was late in the morning. I took the time to stretch and run around with my housemates. We played tag and even a brief game of marbles. I ate snow cone and corn while watching my teammates’ race. Jumping and yelling every time a Bosco house lad placed in a race.   

Eventually, my race was called over the loud speaker. “All racers for the 220 yard dash report to the start line,” blasted the voice.

“That’s me!” I said, as I rose from the ground and trotted to the start line. My teammates responded, “go Salandy!” while patting me on the back as I ran along.

I selected the 220 yard dash because I was good in the 100 flat and thought I could do well in the 220. I had no formal training in track and had never run that distance competitively. The truth be told, I just wanted to run. I guess that is how thoroughbred horses feel about running.

I arrived at the start line and watched as the other competitors milled around waiting for further instructions from the starter. The starter was an older gentleman dressed in white slacks, a white shirt, white sneakers, and a maroon hat - the color of the West Indies Cricket team. In fact, he looked like a cricketer. He held a black starter’s pistol in his right hand and a clip board in the other. He looked down at the white pages on his clip board, raised his head and said 220 yard flat competitors take your mark at the start line.

My heart started beating fast and my hands got sweaty. There were 12 boys entering the blocks at the start line. There were two other boys from Bosco in the race. We did not receive any instructions from Mr. Orosco other than do your best. My strategy was to just run fast. Run like the wind. Run like a pack of pothounds were chasing you. Run because Bosco depended on you!

We lined up for the start of the race – our feet right behind the white line that ran across the green grass. I watched as the starter walked along the line of racers, peered down at our toes, and then sauntered into the infield.

The track lay ahead of us – one lap to glory is what ran through my mind. The grass felt a bit slippery under my canvas Bata Bullets. These sneakers would be the wings beneath my feet.

A crowd gathered in anticipation of the race. Teachers and boys were hollering and providing encouragement for their favorite House and racer. My grandmother and sister were there to root me on. My sister went to St. Rose’s Girls R.C. next to the Boy’s school. Some of St Rose’s girls were there to cheer on their brothers, cousins, and friends.

I lined up third from the inside. My competitors and I were lined up elbow to elbow trying to gain a competitive edge.

It was time! The starter yelled, “on your mark, get set!” Then the pistol went off.

The next 40 seconds would turn out to be one of the most interesting races I ever ran in my life and a valuable lesson learned!