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Belizean Woman Living Abroad Wins Prestigious Award

Mar 24, 2023

Belizean Woman Living Abroad Wins Prestigious Award

A Belizean woman living and working in San Diego, California has won a prestigious award. Belizean-born, Bernadette Griggs left Belize way back in 1980 and settled in the United States. There, she advanced educationally and in 2018, joined an organization called the Jewish Family Service, where she is the Chief Financial Officer, managing a budget of over ninety million dollars, compared to twenty-six million when she had just assumed the job. Griggs shared her story with News Five. Marion Ali reports.

Marion Ali, Reporting

Bernadette Griggs is a Garifuna woman from Hopkins Village. At the age of seventeen, she migrated to the United States and worked towards advancing herself in education and employment. Now, as the Chief Financial Officer of the Jewish Family Service, a non-profit charity started in 1918 that takes care of the homeless and people who have difficulty making ends meet, she was nominated from among one hundred and seventy-seven CFOs from other organizations in San Diego for the Business Journal CFO of the Year Award. Last Friday, it was announced that she won. By the sheer number of competitors, the competition was stiff.

Bernadette Griggs

Bernadette Griggs, Winner of the San Diego

“In the county of San Diego there are a hundred and seventy-seven non-profit agencies serving three point two million people and in twenty cities that spans about four thousand two hundred square miles. And that’s a little bit about the county, so there was a, an opportunity to be nominated and my job decided that I was worthy of the award and nominated me. And there was a ceremony where that was announced that I was a winner in the non-profit sector as a Chief Financial Officer of the year.”

Griggs explained the significance of such an award to her.

Bernadette Griggs

“Coming from Belize is very significant and as a young girl growing up in a very small village of Hopkins, and during that time, Hopkins didn’t have water. We didn’t have plumbing, we didn’t have running water and electricity so to have gone through that and to be able to get to the place of where I am today, I mean, it’s a significant achievement.”

Griggs has a Master’s Degree and underwent additional training in order to qualify for the post that she currently holds. She has been able to grow the organization’s budget from twenty-six million to ninety million in just a few years. Prior to that, she held several outstanding positions. Now, having given herself a chance to live comfortably, Griggs has used her personal funds to look back on young Belizean students.

Bernadette Griggs

“For the past, I would say maybe four years, I’ve taken much interest in the educational students in Belize, specifically, the south. I’ve done some work at Ecumenical High School, Del ille High School, and of course my beautiful village at Hopkins. I was able give the school some, some laptops, computer desktops and so forth. And I continued to – and it’s important for us, for our kids to have technology. During the time when there was the pandemic, there were students that used paper, the parents had to go to the principals once a week to get paper. There was an opportunity for me to be able to help some in regards to giving some tablets to student there.”

Griggs says she is currently preparing to ship more tablets to Belize to be distributed to students. Now, as she approaches retirement, Griggs says she wants to return to Belize and open a lab for students to learn.

Bernadette Griggs

“I’m going to be migrating back to Hopkins and live there. And what I would like to do is be able to create a lab for students. I want to have a kind of afterschool program, tutoring program, having tablets where students can come get help with their homework, have internet access. I will expand the bandwidth of my internet in my home so that they can come and be there and have help and have access to tablets and do their homework. And, working with the school in the village is, is my goal.”

Griggs is married and has two sons – one who is an engineer and another who works in the medical field. The San Diego Business Journal will publish a full page feature on Griggs’ story on March twenty-seventh. Marion Ali for News Five.