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Sunshine League looks to reopen

The Sunshine League could soon reopen its doors as a home helping foster children.

An open house will be held at the King Street facility on Saturday where the charity’s board members will unveil their plans and ask the public for its advice on the way forward.

The 24-hour residential care facility closed in 2011 after its board members cited the “excessively high costs” of operating the programme.

Board members said they were unable to meet financial obligations after Government slashed the 92-year-old charity’s annual $200,000 grant to $100,000 and fewer private donors contributed to the home’s $700,000-per-year running costs.

Approximately eight youngsters were in the care of the 16-bed home at the time.

“It’s very important for us to ensure that there’s full collaboration moving forward,” said board chairwoman Aderonke Bademosi.

“We want to make sure that the services we provide are useful. We will be working hand in hand with other organisations to provide the types of programmes that are needed within our remit.”

When asked why the change, and how is the situation different from 2011 when the facility could not afford to continue operations, she replied: “The Sunshine League had to change and determine a new way forward because it is no longer a residential children's home.”

The residential childcare facility was founded 94 years ago today, by Agnes May Robinson.

The charity’s managing director, Glenn Faries, said it was ironic that the social problems that led Ms Robinson to establish the home on January 28 1919 still exist.

“If you read some of her notes and journal entries she made, a lot of the issues that she was concerned about and wanted to address are identical to some of the problems we have today,” he said.

“She was concerned about young women, and gangs of young men roaming the streets. It had a different face 94 years ago than it does now because the world is so much more different now, but the need and the problems were the same.

“And that’s why we feel that even though times have changed vastly, we can still carry forth her legacy because we’re still dealing with similar problems.”

There’s much about the community that demands an organisation like the Sunshine League today, Mr Faries added.

“It was suggested that what we need to do with our resources and goodwill is to use the Sunshine League as a support base and there’s various different ways that can happen.

“We can focus on encouraging more families to become foster care families because there’s a big need for it in Bermuda and it’s probably going to become bigger.

“Another way would be to have programmes and activities for not only foster children but for other children as well in the broader community.”

Saturday’s event is a direct result of a community discussion held last year to establish a new model for the Sunshine League, Ms Bademosi said.

A presentation outlining the charity’s vision, mission, core values and strategic plans will be shown at the open house, scheduled from 1pm to 4pm.

The discussion will also include how the Sunshine League could serve as a support base for Bermuda’s foster care community.

“There’s a big kitchen up there, we could use that to collaborate with the schools that have cooking classes and focus on using our property in a way that benefits foster children and others,” said Mr Faries.

“There are lots of organisations on the Island that do life skills training and if we do something along those lines we would partner with organisations like PRIDE and the Mirrors Programme.”

The charity also intends to pay homage to Ms Robinson during Saturday’s events.

“We see her as a visionary, as a person who saw a need in our community in 1919, who made a decision to make a difference,” Mr Faries added. “And 94 years later we are still carrying on her vision in order to make a difference in our society.

“It’s important for us to be able to remember the essence with which she started this organisation. She didn’t know where it would go when she started it, but she knew what she wanted to be able to do.

“We see this as an opportunity to ensure that we pay homage and make sure that her vision and her legacy is recognised and lives on.”

Ms Bademosi said: “It’s also an opportunity to pay tribute to her and to say thank you to the community for their support over the past 94 years.

“We want to invite people to come and participate in the celebration of Bermuda’s first charity; see what the building looks like and join in the celebration of the relaunching.”

The open house celebration will include a tree planting ceremony in honour of Ms Robinson, tours of the property and stories from some of the alumni who lived at the home over the years.

“We look forward to participation in celebration of the renewed commitment of The Sunshine League in continuing the rich legacy passed down to us by Agnes May Robinson,” said Ms Bademosi.

New vision: Dr Glenn Faries and Aderonke Bademosi Wilson at the Sunshine League property.

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Published January 28, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated January 27, 2013 at 9:55 pm)

Sunshine League looks to reopen

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