Unsung Hero: Olga dedicated to teen charity
The impending 50th anniversary of Teen Services is a poignant occasion for Olga Scott, who came to Bermuda in 1967 to help get the fledgeling children’s welfare programme started.
Decades later, Mrs Scott, the wife of former Premier Alex Scott, remains a dedicated member of the board for the charity that provides a range of services to at-risk young women — including pregnant teenagers and teenage mothers.
“As I reflect back on it, I have had faith in God’s will,” said Ms Scott at the Centre, which adjoins Fort Hamilton, and is today proclaiming May as Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.
She has come a long way from starting in Bermuda on a two-year contract.
Recruited by the philanthropist Stewart Mott, who provided the seed money to start the initiative, Ms Scott faced a tough job in a new country.
“It was a time of some discomfort and disquiet in the community on the issue of contraception,” she recalled. Birth control had a loaded history from earlier decades, when it had been foisted on the black community. Suspicions still ran deep.
“They felt at the time that they were bringing in a black person to try and curb the black birthrate,” she said, emphasising that her role went far beyond family planning in building trust and community involvement.
“With my background as a social worker, I worked to help develop young people, not just to deal with their sexuality.”
Counselling was a key component, along with education.
The initiative was originally called Youth Health Education Development.
After two years of private funding it grew with a government grant, and help from the late education minister Gloria McPhee. It was a labour of love for Ms Scott, who spent the early days with no family in Bermuda, but came to enjoy the support not only of Mr Scott but his parents, Willard and Lucille.
The community itself also rallied behind Teen Services. When classes were offered, people volunteered to babysit children while their mothers studied.
Programmes such as a teen conference and the Outstanding Teen Awards grew out of the organisation Ms Scott directed, and for many she became the face for an initiative that turned young peoples’ lives around. Teen Haven, for example, “gave us an opportunity to add the residential component to Teen Services”, she said.
Ms Scott, who still runs into former clients who call her by her maiden name of Ms Lawrence, stayed on as director for 27 years.
She was driven by “helping young Bermudians to develop, take their place in society, and overcome hardships”.
“I can say with some degree of personal satisfaction that I am still playing a role after these many years,” she said, calling herself “blessed” to have other driven people to work with.
“The relationship that one develops with social-worker professionals current or retired is so rewarding. And next year, we are looking forward to the 50th anniversary of Teen Services as a whole.”