By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
PRIME Minister Philip “Brave” Davis touted the Bahamas National Youth Guard programme “as one of the most important initiatives on their roster of goals for this administrative term.”
On Friday, he commended the 64 young graduates for answering the call to serve and becoming the first National Youth Guards in the country trained to respond to national emergencies and natural disasters.
The PM believes that had the NYG been implemented in 2019, many lives could have been saved during Hurricane Dorian.
“I believe that this initiative is among the most important on our roster of goals for this administrative term,” he said during the graduation ceremony at the Grand Lucayan Resort in Grand Bahama.
Youth, Sports and Culture Minister Mario Bowleg, Minister of Social Services and Urban Development Obie Wilchcombe, Minister for Grand Bahama Ginger Moxey, and Alex Storr, Executive Chairman of the Disaster Reconstruction Authority, were also in attendance.
Mr Davis said that when his government took the helm, it promised to create policies and programmes pivoted on disaster risk management.
“We recognise the need for urgent action and a swift turn for a culture of preparedness and proactive initiatives,” he said.
The Prime Minister said Dorian was a horror and nightmare for many who survived it.
“I remember it like yesterday … the images are still stark and vivid to me when Hurricane Dorian swept onto our shores and raged for what seemed like an eternity. So many lives were lost – too many.
“It took a catastrophic event like Hurricane Dorian to show us just how much work was needed to be done to mitigate the loss, damage, and suffering in the face of a disaster,” Mr Davis said.
Just last year the government through the University of the Bahamas signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Hawaii and Pacific Disaster Centre, he added.
Mr Davis said it was forged in the spirit of preparedness and with an attitude of positivity toward creating sustainable pre and post disaster response systems in vulnerable countries like the Bahamas.
The Prime Minister said the purpose of the NYG is to create a corps of young people who are equipped to help the nation respond to emergencies and disasters by supporting public and private agencies.
The NYG recruits are from 10 islands across the Bahamas, including Grand Bahama, New Providence, Abaco, Andros, Long Island, Bimini, Eleuthera, Cat Island, Inagua, and Exuma.
They completed three months of training at the Police Training College in Grand Bahama. The graduates will transition into internships with over 10 disaster response agencies.
The Prime Minister reported that 66 percent of the recruits are between the age of 18 and 20 years.
Women, he said, were well represented, accounting for 48 percent of the recruits.
“This is indeed encouraging because it speaks to the willingness of our young people to engage and contribute to the wellbeing of our country,” Mr Davis said.
“It only made sense to train our young people and equip them with important high-level skills to ensure that the Bahamas is well suited to respond to national emergencies.
“Investing in our youths and investing in the safety of our country is of upmost importance,” the prime minister said.
He stressed that the government of the Bahamas is staunchly committed to doing all it can to implement effective disaster prevention measures.
Mr Davis believes that the 64 young men and women “will be the generation that changes the tide for the Bahamas.”
“You … made a bold and courageous choice … to serve your country when we need you most,” he said.
“Your commitment … has put you in a position to be a vitally important asset to the Bahamas disaster risk management agenda. On behalf of this nation, I wish to thank each and every one you for answering the call.”
The Most Outstanding Female Guard award went to Voulecia Roberts. Tawyano Holbert received the Most Outstanding Male Guard award. He was also the recipient of top awards for NEMA and Leadership.
The Most Outstanding Guard overall award went to Ramon Herrera-Lightbourne who also received top awards in Carpentry, Defense Force, and Psychological Training.