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To shift a mindset is to change a life

Tiffanne Thomas, PhD, is the executive director of Transitional Community Services

The sentiments expressed by Khalid Wasi are neither new nor unique to Bermuda. In fact, this has been an often-repeated adage. The emotions underpinning this sentiment are a cross-section of outrage, confusion, desperation and apathy, to name a few. While it would be easy to spend time talking about the problem, the source of the problem, the policies that could lead to change and criticise what the Government is or is not doing, that is not the purpose of this piece.

Having worked in social services in Bermuda for more than two decades, I knew from the many professional spaces that I sit in, the multiple working groups and steering committees, that we had a gap in our treatment continuum as it related to meeting the needs of young adult men aged between 18 and 34.

As professionals, we would often discuss the lack of services to meet the needs of young adult Black men. This demographic consistently stood out as one of the most at-risk and least-served. This is underscored by services that one receives during childhood ending at the age of 18, the age when one is legally an adult. Professionally, we were having the same conversations, and frankly, it was becoming exhausting for most in these rooms. These rooms were filled with talented, dedicated, passionate professionals and yet the “collective we” had yet to figure out a solution to what many in our community called a “problem” — young adult Black men.

Being equally challenged and supported by one of my professional mentors, the late Martha Dismont, I embarked upon a journey of creating a solution. Martha said to me, “Tiffanne, the need is clear, we know the need, what are we going to do about it?” In late 2020, when the world was grappling with our “new normal”, Martha and I were busy dreaming about what life could be like for young adult Black men if they had the support, skills and tools they needed to be successful.

I started this journey looking at what our local data said about young adult Black men. I wanted to be armed with data so that what we did was not borne out of anecdotes and good intentions only, but out of a documented legitimate need. Our national numbers told a vivid story:


• 24 per cent of Black men have university degrees

• 38 per cent of Black men have high school diplomas as their highest qualification

• Men are twice as likely as women to have no academic qualifications


• 67 per cent of those underemployed were Black men

• 61 per cent of those unemployed were Black men

Substance abuse

• 79 per cent of those arrested for drug-related offences were men

• 77 per cent of those convicted of drug related offences were men

• 81 per cent of those referred for substance abuse assessments were men, with 51 per cent of them being Black men

• 83 per cent of those engaged in substance abuse treatment were men


• 98 per cent of those incarcerated were Black males

• 25 per cent of those incarcerated were serving life sentences, and of that 37 per cent of these men were aged 18 to 30

• The largest demographic of those incarcerated fall in the age range of 21 to 30, this group represents 29 per cent of those incarcerated; followed by 31 to 40-year-old men who represent 27 per cent of the incarcerated populations

This information was not simply data or numbers on a page. It was real, and to me it represented people. It represented fathers, brothers, uncles, nephews, cousins, friends. The lived experiences represented in this data contributed to the creation of Transitional Community Services.

We saw a need and took the bold step of creating a solution. Through our Community Bridge Builders programme, we work with young adult men aged 18 to 34, providing case management, counselling, employability skill-building and advocacy. Transitional Community Service continues to be the only organisation providing wraparound services solely to young adult men aged 18 to 34. Since launching the Community Bridge Builders programme in 2021, we have seen young men significantly change the trajectory of their lives, by choice.

Every young man who is a part of our programme is enrolled because he has chosen to enrol. The biggest vote of confidence comes from the men who self-refer to our programme, having heard about or witnessed the benefits from their friends. Our services are offered at no direct cost to the men in our programme owing to the generosity of our donors.

We do not profess to have all the answers, nor are we able to help every young man, but every day the team at Transitional Community Services works tirelessly to do our part in making our community a better place. Our results are testament to the hard work and dedication of our team.

Mr Wasi, thank you for highlighting this very important issue. In response, I simply say: we are here at Transitional Community Services doing our part. We believe “to shift a mindset is to change a life” — this is a belief that we live by and it drives our interactions with young men every day.

• Tiffanne Thomas, PhD, is the executive director of Transitional Community Services (registered charity No 1020)


BermudaFirst Report (2019); Bermuda Labour Force Survey Report (2019); Youth Development Zone (2019); Bermuda Drug Information Network (2018); Bermuda Census (2016); Mincy Report (2009)

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Published May 30, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated May 30, 2024 at 8:23 am)

To shift a mindset is to change a life

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