By Chester Cooper/ Exumas and Ragged Island MP
I subscribe to the biblical principle that to whom much is given, much is required.
And this is why I have donated my Member of Parliament salary for the past four years to worthy causes that will benefit Exuma, and, ultimately, The Bahamas.
My first year as an MP, I donated my salary to the Louise Cooper Scholarship Fund, named so in honor of my dear, late mother, who instilled in her children an appreciation for the value of education.The year after that, I donated my MP salary to the Exuma Pride project to help make Exuma even more beautiful.
The following year, I donated my MP salary to the Exuma Food Bank.
This year, I am donating my MP salary to the Forbes Hill Cultural Center.
These have been my signature projects that I hoped to kick start with a firm footing through a tangible donation in the hope that it would help, and that others will follow.
The proposed Forbes Hill Cultural Center, which will be located at the site of the historic Forbes Hill All Age School, is envisioned to be a multi-purpose center that will serve as a hurricane shelter and community center.
We want to also transform the entire grounds into a cultural village where we can have opportunities for entrepreneurship including a periodic farmers’ market, gift sales and the support for local cottage industries – such as crafts, spa services and straw work.
The Forbes Hill Association has worked on this project for a long time to see how we can really restore the school, which I attended, and which contributed to the lives of most who hail from the community.
When a school closes it usually signals a disturbing ‘beginning of the end’ of a small community as people tend to migrate away to provide an education for their children.
We wish to resuscitate Forbes Hill, Exuma, and bring about the vibrancy that was once there.
I was born and raised in Forbes Hill. It is an obscure little settlement, but it is a powerful community from which many successful people have originated.
We don’t want to lose that. And we want to ensure that more young people from the community can get a proper start in life.One of the ways we do that is through the cultural village, which will be anchored by the community center.
We have made some progress already. We’ve cleaned up the grounds, we’ve demolished the roof and the shutters.We also plan to move shortly to rebuild the core and strengthen the belt course.
And within a few weeks, we should start to see a roof take shape.
We appreciate all the residents and descendants of Forbes Hill, and all of the residents and descendants of Little Exuma – from areas such as The Ferry and Harry Cay – who will contribute to the ongoing development of the Forbes Hill Cultural Center.
As it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to keep these settlements going.
In that vein, we recognize the many winter residents and guests who have found much enjoyment and a sense of home away from home in the Exumas.
We would also like their help.
Anyone who would wish to do so here at home or in the United States or Canada, and indeed the world, can make checks payable to The Exuma Foundation for Forbes Hill Association, a registered non-profit corporation in both the US and Canada.
I’m excited about this opportunity and I hope that others will be inspired as well.