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Balthazar Barrie

Tell us about yourself and your relationship with Bernadette Francis

I am Balthazar Barrie. I am the second of eight children, and the first son of Bernadette Francis. I was born and raised in Delices on the eastern side of the island of Dominica. I loved my mother dearly and on Saturdays, I would accompany her to her garden which was about half an hour from home. As a result, we developed a special bond. 

What are your memories of your mother Bernadette Francis? 

My mother was a wonderful, resourceful, faith-filled, praying woman who loved God, her family, neighbors, and others and tried to serve God in her service to others. She was caring and resourceful. She would often send me to deliver a meal she prepared, to someone in the village. The recipient was often an elderly person who was always very thankful to my mother for her thoughtfulness and generosity, and bestowed blessings on us. 

Among the many fond memories of my mother was that Monday morning that changed everything for me and ultimately the family. I was called to the principal’s office and told that I had been awarded a scholarship to attend High School in the city. After receiving the news, I was permitted to leave school immediately to run home to announce the news to my parents, that I had won a 3-year scholarship to the Dominica Grammar School and that classes were beginning two days later, on Wednesday. 

With no time to spare, my mother set about organizing my departure for the city, more than 20 miles away, through wooded terrain, with no motorable roads. Having no money did not deter her. Instead, she hastened to borrow the bare minimum from a family friend, and sent me on my way to the city, that very evening, with her blessing, to join my grandmother and her sister who would prepare me for school. That opportunity and the generosity of others opened the path to my success and fulfillment in my journey of life. 

How did she impact your life as a child growing up? 

Among other things, my mother taught us by example to be honest, hardworking, kind, charitable, and to persevere despite difficulty. She wanted her children to have a better life than she had and realized from her keen observation of the children of educators that being educated was a door leading in the right direction. We were required to do our chores and our homework as our priority. She often reminded us that business comes before pleasure. I knew I had to complete my work before I could go out to play with my neighborhood friends. That was reinforced by the reality that at school, those who did not do their work were punished. I had great fear of the belt which made it easy to comply. My mother did not have in abundance, but she would find something to give of what she had, to someone who was less fortunate, always reminding us that we are to help each other, and that God is not outdone in generosity. By her examples and the impact they made on us, this foundation, BFF, was conceived. 

How important was education to her? 

Although my mother was not privileged with an opportunity to attend High School, she had received a sound elementary education, and had a great appreciation for the value of a secondary education. She did all in her power to ensure that all her children attended school regularly and were always punctual. She instilled in us her expectation that we were all to perform to our full potential. We were reminded that while someone or some circumstance may rob us of our riches, no one can ever take away our education or knowledge. In our home there were no excuses given and none accepted for not going to school, except for ill health. Besides, my mother had the final say in whether we were sick enough to be allowed to skip school. We could depend on her to find some remedy for most ailments. All her children attended and completed elementary school (equivalent to middle school), were literate when that was not the norm, and either migrated overseas or pursued career paths of their choosing. Of the eight children, three boys and two girls attended colleges or universities, and all pursued successful careers in education and/or careers in public service, ultimately having a positive impact on the communities where they served or settled. 

Tell us about your education journey. 

The opportunity for a higher education beyond the Delices Government School, allowed me to qualify for official training to become a teacher in the school system, and eventually to attend Erdiston Teachers Training College in Barbados, one of the prestigious teacher training colleges in the Caribbean region. That career opportunity allowed me to provide the means for my siblings, to attend high school in the city also. One of my greatest joys was that all my siblings were able to achieve successful careers. Ultimately, I became a School Principal and had a positive impact on the lives of my students throughout Dominica. I later transitioned to Community Development, and pursued and obtained a Diploma from Coady International Institute of St. Francis Xavier University, in Nova Scotia, Canada. Using my skills as an educator, I interacted with, and mobilized communities of people of all backgrounds and was able to transition from educating children and teachers to educating parents and young adults in the field of community development. Subsequently, I attended Loughborough Cooperative College, Loughborough, United Kingdom where I specialized in Cooperative Development. That prepared me to develop and head the Cooperative Division in Dominica, and to make a successful career of it. I engaged the villagers and motivated them to organize self-help projects, and to develop cooperative ventures that would, over time, allow them to significantly increase their income and improve their lives. I was the Registrar of Cooperatives until my retirement. 

Of the many initiatives during my tenure, the Petite Savanne Bay Oil Cooperative, among many other similar ventures was the most impactful. During that time, the cooperative became the leading exporter of Bay Oil in the world. 

A direct result of my education was the opportunities that it afforded me to visit several countries and to meet and interact with professionals from Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. 

My education journey allowed me to develop great and long-lasting friendships that I would not have dreamt of had I missed that single opportunity to attend The Dominica Grammar School because my family did not have the financial resources to get me ready for High School. 

What is your philosophy on education? 

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life. Education provides enlightenment, self-realization and opportunities for self-development, increased productivity, and a better future for all. 

Why should someone support Bernadette Francis’ Foundation? 

It is a means of extending a helping hand to the disadvantaged, and to give back even in a small way to those who are needy, especially those financially strapped students. As individuals we are more often unable to make a substantial difference in the lives of others and therefore take no action. By pooling our resources together, a group of individuals can make that difference. Bernadette Francis’ Foundation (BFF) provides the engine to make this happen. There is strength in unity. As contributors to BFF, we share the common goal of making a positive and urgent difference in the lives of others. Along the ladder of success, it is just as important to assist someone over the top rung of the ladder as it is to help another struggling, but determined, to get onto the bottom rung. 

Had the family friend not lent my mother the necessary funds to get me to school, I am certain that my life journey, and that of many others in my family would have been sadly different. You may never realize the full extent of the impact of your contribution to BFF, but you can be assured that it will have a significant multiplier effect on the lives of others. BFF is the best way to help the needy student attain his full potential and to help improve the socioeconomic development of the communities in the Caribbean and the World. 


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