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Community Last Updated: Nov 24, 2020 - 12:36:10 PM

TM Club 1600 Helps Bridge Union Village Tech Gap
By Tosheena Blair, Precision Media
Nov 24, 2020 - 12:39:13 PM

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On Saturday, November 14, The First Bahamas Branch of Toastmasters, Club 1600 presented 35 electronic devices to children of Union Village in its first wave of giving. The club’s goal is to donate 100 devices to the community. Pictured from left to right is club president Shacoy Mullings, a young resident of Union Village and immediate past president, Ancin Munnings.

First 35 of 100 devices donated to students in the community
Union Village students who lack reliable or any technological device to facilitate remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic received a critical tool from Toastmasters Club 1600 during its ninth annual Neil Percentie Back-to-School Giveaway.

“We are in a new era of education as a result of the global pandemic, one that we must embrace,” said Shacoy Mullings, president of the first branch of Toastmasters in The Bahamas. “In this new era, the classroom is now a device placed in the palm of your hand.”  

Remote learning exacerbated existing inequalities, particularly in the public-school system. It also created new ones. Consequently, placing technology within reach of those who need it most was of paramount importance to the nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills.  

Over the summer, club members began re-envisioning their back-to-school event in light of the new reality of virtual classrooms and social distancing mandates sparked by the coronavirus.

For months, Club 1600 encouraged private individuals and other Toastmasters clubs to rise to meet a critical technological need either in cash, technical expertise or by donating second-hand devices.  

The club’s goal is to donate 100 electronic devices to young Union Village residents, helping to bridge the digital divide between the haves and the have-nots.

Club 1600 members, including Onit Systems’ founder Valentino Munroe; immediate past president Ancin Munnings and John LaGuerre memory wiped, updated software and, if needed, repaired older devices.

“There is an old saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ Look around, what you all see here today is that village,” said Mr Mullings at the event which saw 35 of roughly 100 young attendees receive brand new Samsung Galaxy tablets as well as gently used digital devices. Everyone got books, pencils and pens.

“The adults of Union Village believe in you and are counting on you to succeed on your educational journey,” said the club president to the children.

Those in attendance enjoyed free drinks from Limeade Bahamas, hot dogs, ice cream, cotton candy, snow cones, popcorn and cake at Saturday’s event which was held in conjunction with the Middletown Sporting, Cultural Development Association, a group concerned with the betterment of the Union Village community.  

Club 1600 members aimed to boost the morale of their young listeners with short, punchy motivational speeches.

“Steer clear of negative peer pressure as it only leads down the path to bad grades and bad decisions,” L. Robert Knowles told students.

“Surround yourself with friends and acquaintances that are positive because that attitude will rub off on you. Have you ever heard the saying you are the company you keep? Well, it’s true.”

The second presenter, John LaGuerre appealed to the community’s youth in English and Creole.  

“Challenge yourselves to always try your best. We all believe in you, but you must also believe in yourselves if you want to achieve greatness,” he said.

The event honors the memory of the late Neil Percentie. The community-minded, Club 1600 member was gunned down on September 7, 2011.  

“We believe very strongly in the work he started in the lives of the people of Union Village. We donate these laptops and tablets to you in his honor in the hopes that you will succeed in school,” Mr Mullings told the crowd.  

“I want to remind you that these devices are intended to be used to facilitate your schoolwork…The First Bahamas Branch of Toastmasters Club 1600 is happy to assist with this transition in your lives. Understand that it comes with great responsibility. There will inevitably be distractions, but the onus is not only on your teachers and your parents but on you as well. Again, remember to always put your best foot forward, never give in to negative peer pressure, strive for excellence, and surround yourself with positive influences.”

On hand for the occasion was Mr Percentie’s mother, Florina Tinker; daughter and brother, Aeisha and Quintin Percentie.

“I was very pleased to see all the children and to see them enjoy themselves. This was an awesome event that touched even the surrounding areas of Pinedale and Peardale. I thank Club 1600 for their continued support of the memory of my son.”

One grateful recipient, primary school student Samantha Gottshalk had been worried about falling behind in her studies.

“This will help me take part in my classes,” said the young girl who dreams of becoming a doctor.

With demand for computers at an all-time high,  Union Village resident, Jenny Bethel praised Club 1600 for its generosity.

“This initiative will benefit many homes,” she said. “Many children in this community were unable to take part in virtual learning due to them not having devices.”  

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