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A life devoted to youth

Mark Robinson lives next to a busy section of North Shore Road in Pembroke. As people whizz by, they often call out, “Hey, Mr Robinson.” That can set off a debate between the 85-year-old and his wife Barbara over who that was.

They know a lot of people.

“For most of my life I worked with young people,” said Mr Robinson.

He was a summer camp organiser for three decades.

In 1968, disappointed by the lack of summer camps available to his children, he took 46 children to a camp in the United States.

“The programme worked so well I decided to start one here,” he said.

The next year, Camp Hope was born, offering life skills, personal development and fun activities during the summer months.

“We took children from Somerset to St George,” he said. “It got them off the street. We took them from age 7 right up into their teens.”

Often, he ran multiple camps at once on Darrell's Island, Burt Island, Ports Island and White's Island.

Over the years he saw many success stories including his own children.

“My youngest son came when he was 7,” Mr Robinson said. “My wife brought him to camp on a visitors' day. When she went to look for him to come home, she couldn't find him. He was hiding in the small boat we had.”

At 12, his son started a small business using skills he learnt at the camp to make and sell wooden plaques.

“They went around the world,” Mr Robinson said.

People would often bring children with behaviour problems to him.

“We had one child who came to us when he was ten,” Mr Robinson said.

“He was a real rascal. The school system couldn't handle him and he was sent to an institution overseas.

“His grandmother saw a brochure about our camp. She asked if we could do something for him. I said, ‘If we don't, who will?'.”

Mr Robinson was thrilled to later see the boy go on and achieve success in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award programme.

“When Ewart Brown was Premier, I went to see him,” Mr Robinson said. “I said Bermuda had beautiful children. If we don't take care of them now they won't be able to take care of us later on. He thanked me for coming and said it was a real eye-opener. We have to train children right now.”

He is a firm believer in discipline and respect.

“We had one camper who came down from the United States,” Mr Robinson said. “He was acting up and I warned him that if he didn't follow the rules he would be sent home.

“I said, ‘You're in my country now, and you need to follow the rules'.”

When the boy refused to listen, Mr Robinson packed his things and put him on the next plane back home.

He grew up on Tee Street, Devonshire. His mother, Etoile Robinson, died when he was little and he was raised by his grandmother, Alice Mallory. His father, Saunders William Robinson, was a stone mason and fished. He said: “I used to keep pigs for him. I would walk from our home to the hospital with a small cart I made to get scraps from people's houses to feed the pigs.”

In the mornings he helped a neighbour, Max Lambert, care for his chickens and goats before Mr Robinson went to school.

“I got 2 and 6 a week for that plus a dozen fresh eggs and a quart of goat milk,” he said.

“Sometimes I was late to school because of that but I didn't mind it. My grandmother always took the eggs and goat milk and made custard.”

He said people today think they invented recycling: “They didn't, we preserved and reused everything in those days.”

He went to Elliot Primary School. His grandfather, Samuel Robinson was one of the 12 founders of Elliot.

“Three generations of my family went to the school,” he said proudly.

When he finished school his first job was as a messenger on Front Street. In his teens, just after the Second World War, he went to work as a driver on the Kindley Air Force Base in St David's.

“I used to go out to meet the B29s coming in,” he said. “I would help transfer the troops to the barracks. It was a great experience. I learnt a lot.

“That is where I learnt the principle of safety. You had to go by the book all the time. Now, even in camping, my priority is safety first. Sometimes I think they think I am too stern, but I have seen people get hurt when they didn't need to get hurt.”

When he left the base he went to work as a salesman for the Bermuda Bakery.

“I made a lot of friends,” he said.

He and his wife, Barbara, will celebrate their 63rd wedding anniversary next month. If he had the chance he would marry her all over again.

“She has been neat and sweet to me,” he said.

“Yes,” she said, “but I'm the one doing all the work.” They met at his sister's house. At the time, his sister was working with the future Mrs Robinson.

“He was sitting up there, and the rest was history,” Mrs Robinson said, with a laugh.

She said the secret to their long marriage was patience.

“You have to forebear and forebear,” she said. “Somethings you just have to let things slide. It is very important to keep the communication lines open.”

Mr Robinson believes the secret to success in life is kindness.

“I tell my children to be kind and compassionate because you don't know who you are going to need tomorrow,” he said.

He and his wife have five children, Dorothy, Daniel, Richard, Myron Anthony (deceased) and Francine (a foster child), 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

“Spending time with my offspring is a must,” Mr Robinson said.

“We have the grandchildren over at least once a week or once a month. My wife cooks a home-cooked meal for them and I tell them about their history.”

He had a stroke in 2002 and now has some mobility issues.

“I never let it stop me,” he said. “I kept going.”

He spends two days a week at the Sylvia Richardson Care Facility in St George.

But he doesn't use his time there to relax; he ministers to the clients.

“I pray with them and talk with them,” he said. “I don't care how old you are, you need encouragement.”

• Lifestyle profiles senior citizens in the community every Tuesday. To suggest an outstanding senior contact Jessie Moniz Hardy: 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com. Have on hand the senior's full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them.

Success stories: Mark Robinson has helped many children to thrive by offering life skills at his camps (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published September 13, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated September 13, 2016 at 12:07 pm)

A life devoted to youth

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