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Spreading the love while campaigning for human rights

Action on issues: standing in the back are George Barbieri, left, Eron Woods, Aaron Crichlow, Keevon Minors, Eli Smith and Will Campbell. In front are Andira Crichlow, Sharri Weldon, Taylor Crichlow and Courtney Clay. Christian Chin-Gurret is not in the picture (Photograph supplied)

It started out as a group of like-minded friends coming together to try and make a difference but has now grown into a movement to address issues ranging from housing, to education, healthcare access and justice.

Bermuda Is Love campaigns continuously, holds workshops, organises meetings and panel discussions, awards scholarships (which they fund themselves), has free legal advice sessions, helps with a community garden, organises donations of clothing — the list is as impressive as it is long.

It was the brainchild of Bermudian lawyer Aaron Crichlow, who pitched the idea to his friends.

“I like to think of it as a movement,” said Mr Crichlow. “A movement of like-minded individuals who care about each other, who care about Bermuda, who care about the environment, who care about making the world a better place, and us all coming together to make active change in that direction.

“We all have similar passions and we try to bring everybody’s talents together to say, ‘How can we make it better? What perspectives do you have? What are we lacking here? What can you add here?’ So we all kind of just bounce off of each other.”

Mr Crichlow credits his family for instilling in him the need to find solutions to pressing issues.

“Throughout my life, there’s always been that concern about how do you make Bermuda a better place? How do you make a more caring society?

“I was doing my degree in law in London and I came back because of Covid and Covid really gave me the opportunity to sit down and think about what do I really care about.”

He added: “So it became how do we essentially change people's minds? I contemplated building a community — getting people together is the first step in terms of changing people’s minds.

“For the beginning of Bermuda Is Love, it was very much focused on building community through raising awareness through the various events that we put on, such as our trash clean-ups, our clothing drives and different campaigns.

“It’s just about increasing the consciousness of Bermudians. And by increasing the consciousness, we all become more aware of ourselves, of each other, of our place in the world.”

Bermuda Is Love consists of George Barbieri, Eron Woods, Aaron Crichlow, Keevon Minors, Eli Smith, Will Campbell, Andira Crichlow, Sharri Weldon, Taylor Crichlow, Courtney Clay and Christian Chin-Gurret.

Apart from the sheer volume of work they do, what distinguishes this group from others is their age. All of Bermuda Is Love’s members are under the age of 30.

Ms Clay said: “People associate us with Bermuda Is Love, and I think even incorporating the word love into the name, it kind of just makes people change their minds.

“And then people see what we’re doing through our campaigns, through our events and what we post and they are like, ‘Oh wow, like this is really something’.

“We’re not just talking about what we are doing, we’re actually doing it and I think that’s what makes people really start to think twice about certain things.”

She added: “Our ultimate vision is to create a Bermuda where everyone loves each other.”

On the name of their group, Ms Clay said: “I think like sometimes the simplest phrases are the most impactful. If you ever try to complicate anything, it just becomes like, ‘Wait, what?’ But when you have such a clear and simple message, it sticks.”

Underpinning all of Bermuda Is Love’s work is one basic principle: human rights.

They believe that everyone has a human right to things such as housing, food, clothing, education, healthcare access, justice and a healthier environment. They advocate for equality between individuals.

Asked if that was very idealistic, Mr Crichlow added: “It is about us recognising as a community that these are things that should be prioritised for everyone, as in the government should be prioritising it, an individual should be prioritising it and as a community we should be prioritising it.”

According to Ms Clay, the issues the group supports “are all part of basic human rights”.

“The basic needs should be human rights as well, so we want to educate people about what they have access to already and what their rights are.

“The blood drives would come under the right to healthcare. A free clothing giveaway would come under the right to clothing, the free legal clinic, the right to justice.”

Asked if they were succeeding in changing people’s attitudes and perceptions, Ms Clay said: “I think so. I think change is a very, very slow thing at times. And sometimes it may not seem like anybody's making change, but that's just how change works. It's a movement. It’s over time.”

If change can be a slow process, is Bermuda Is Love in for the long haul? “Definitely,” she said.

“I think that we go beyond Bermuda Is Love. It’s about individuals trying to make change. It's not even just the name, it's about just the mindset.

“Wherever you go, whatever industry you're in or wherever you are in the world, it’s about changing the hearts and minds of people. And if you can do that, if you even change the mind of one person, you’re making great change.”

Bermuda Is Love is ready to take the next step in its evolution and is planning on becoming a charity, which would allow for fundraising.

“Becoming a charity is being able to give more people opportunities to further education, make Bermuda a better place and just push the mission further,” Ms Clay added.

A question on whether there may be a leap into politics is met by laughter from both Mr Crichlow and Ms Clay and a cryptic “time will tell”.

“I think the sad thing, truthfully, is that a lot of issues in Bermuda get swept under the rug and people aren't willing to face them or take their rose-coloured glasses off and address them,” Ms Clay added.

“Every family probably knows somebody who is struggling with something, whether it's addiction, whether it's homelessness, whether it's mental illness or something.

“But we all turn a blind eye to it. And there are so many people who are homeless, so many kids who go to school hungry and nobody really does anything.

“People don’t want to look at the why? Why is this happening? Because it just doesn’t happen overnight. It just doesn’t appear, like people just don’t show up on the street and have nowhere to sleep.

“I think that’s the real problem. People are turning a blind eye to the real issues at hand. That's why we have to advocate for these basic human rights and human needs because people don’t want to look at them.”

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Published April 15, 2024 at 7:45 am (Updated April 15, 2024 at 8:09 am)

Spreading the love while campaigning for human rights

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