2018 NEW YEAR ADDRESS
2017 has surely been an incredible year for us at SASH Bahamas. We engaged international agencies to support an intensive peer to peer education and intervention program about STI/HIV practices, we established a chapter at the University of the Bahamas, we partnered with the National AIDS/HIV Program to carry out a study addressing barriers that MSM and Transgender individuals face when using the public clinics, we underwent policy and advocacy training in order to position ourselves to advocate on behalf of the community, we counseled many of you who walked through our doors, we forged new relationships with regional organisations across the Eastern Caribbean, we signed on to and endorsed a Code of Ethics for Caribbean non profit organisations, we distributed over 15,000 condoms and 5,000 lubricants, we hosted focus groups to hear from the community, we crafted demographic surveys to better understand segments of the community, and we strengthened our partnership with a few of our local non profit organisations, just to name a few.
We sure accomplished a lot in 2017. Despite these accomplishments, there was even more we had envisioned that we were unable to achieve. There were many who were hurting and needed assistance but we were simply unable to assist due to a lack of resources, or due to those in need not coming forward. 2017 indeed was a rough year for many of us. It was a year filled with loss, setbacks, and hurt.
If you are reading this, put a smile on your face, as you were able to hold your head high above the murky waters of 2017 and made it safely to 2018. There were many who did not make it with us, and for that we must be thankful for the opportunity to see a new year, with new possibilities. Perhaps we did not get to achieve some of our resolutions and dreams for 2017. Let us take the time to realize that we are now faced with an opportunity to start anew. Let us start with new goals, aspirations, and visions, and committ to them.
For 2018, we at SASH will champion the theme People Helping People. One lesson we learned in 2017 was that not all the time people in need required financial assistance, or material items. In most instances, some of our greatest victories with our clients was achieved by having simple, honest, open conversation. Open conversation with no judgements, bias, or prejudices. There are many in our community who are suffering from neglect, emotional dissonance, mental and verbal abuse, homelessness, helplessness, and lonliness.
That individul who you think has a difficult personality, that individual who parties excessively, that individual who is always overbearing or angry, are sometimes the very ones who need a shoulder to lean on. Offer your time to get to know your friends; really get to know who they are, walk with them in their struggles, and rejoice with them in their victories. Do it genuinely, without expectations. This is how people help people.
This year let's refrain from disruptive gossip about our peers. Surround yourself with positivity. Do not be afraid to let go of dead weight, toxic friendships and relationships. It may hurt for a moment, but there is a divine positivity that fuels the spirit when liberated from negativity. Engage more in volunteering and charitable efforts, as these actions often comfort the soul.
Again, take the time to talk to those in need. Listen to their story, and if possible, guide and support them in their recovery. Check in from time to time to make sure they are doing ok. Having someone to vent to is sometimes all that is needed to prevent someone from going down a path of self-destructive behavior.
Let's empower each other in 2018 as a community. Let's support each other, support each other's goals and visions. More importantly, let's get involved. It is time for you as a community member to get involved with issues and solutions that affect our community. We all have a part to play in assuring the wellbeing of each other.
We at SASH honestly believe that the LGBT community is more than just partying, good times, and the pursuit of material possessions. We've witnessed first hand that many in the community are talented beyond measure. Many of us possess skillsets and talents that we can use to empower those coming after us. If you are a skilled make up artist, baker, hair stylist, carpenter, etc, try to pass on your skills to someone who can benefit from them. It's time for people to help other people without being prompted to, or waiting for someone else to get around to it. It is time to set examples for our ever outspoken LGBT youth. Show them that they are more than stereotypes, and that they too must make a contribution to the overall empowerment of themselves, and by extension, the community.
To the youth who may be struggling with their identity, hold steadfast to what you believe in, what feels right, and what makes you happy. I encourage you to seek the wisdom of those who came before you, as they would be great advisors. At the same time exercise caution in your affairs and the information you volunteer. Not everyone in the guise of friendship means you well. Stand strong when confronted with peer pressure to engage in risky behaviors. Never compromise your safety for a moment's good time. SASH is a wealth of resource and information that is always available to you. The information and resources that we distribute is for your guidance and empowerment.
Finally, to the wider community, I urge you to support SASH Bahamas. Get to know the outstanding Bahamians who have helped so many in the community without requiring recognition. At it's core, SASH was created for the community, by the community, as only community members can craft solutions to problems affecting the community. SASH has always been a safe space for community members to express themselves freely without judgement and prejudice. We exist to create a space where you can be you when you can't be you. You as a member of the community have a right for a place of solace.
I urge everyone to attend the seminars and the focus groups, participate in the surveys and scholastic studies, read and share the reports we generate, support the fundraisers, ask questions, give us new ideas and feedback on how to better serve you, and advocate on your behalf.
Again, I implore you, if you have a skillset, get involved by teaching others about your skillset so that they can empower themselves and make progress. Give us a call, and enquire how you can give back to the community. It may be via a seminar, or a short training session. Perhaps lend your idea in the way of a social media campaign or blog post. Whether you can give your time, talent or your wallet, every in kind donation goes a long way in helping to sustain the programs and keep SASH operating. You must step forward to help us lift the community upward and onward towards progress.
As always, SASH Bahamas endeavors to be inclusive to all members of the community. But there is no inclusiveness without you. In our pursuit of educating, enriching, and empowering the community, it is our hope that you will be inspired to reach out, and assist when you can. No matter how we are called or where we hail from, we are all people.
Therefore, in 2018, let us as people, help the people.
Director of Operations
The Society Against Stigmatization & Hate