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Bermuda ‘under siege’, says event organiser

Dr Sharon Apopa (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The promise of actions — not words — is what participants will pledge at an event addressing the impact of pain which has left Bermuda “under siege,” according to the organiser.

The Impact of Pain on Social Constructs will tomorrow night examine how pain — “caused by unresolved intergenerational trauma, gang violence, constant change, grief and loss, frustration and disenfranchisement” — manifests in the community. “This island is positioned for social unrest,” event organiser Sharon Apopa said.

According to the doctor, the event follows months of speaking with community members.

“If you have your ear to the ground in the community, you have seen an escalation in people’s emotions around the issues,” she said.

The event follows a recent spate of violence, including the fatal stabbing of Raymond Butterfield earlier this month.

It also comes on the heels of a recent public event and training for social services workers on the treatment of racial trauma by visiting clinician Kenneth Hardy in February.

Pastor Hollis Neal will serve as the event’s keynote speaker.

Trained as a psychologist — and with a background that includes educational experience — the former pastor at West Pembroke Pentecostal Assembly brings a wealth of experience, Dr Apopa said.

“Because the issue is multifaceted, I felt that he could look at all of the different problems that are impacting on the pain in our community,” she said.

Saadia Bean, Cordell Riley, and Gina Spence — as well as others — are the facilitators.

The purpose of the event, Dr Apopa said, was twofold: first to help people realise that acknowledging pain is a “vital factor” in moving forward, and second to empower everyone to know there is a role for them to play “as a member of the community” in dealing with that pain.

It is not about eliminating pain altogether.

“Pain in and of itself has value — it’s a warning sign to us that something is going wrong,” Dr Apopa said.

“We want to know that something is wrong, but we don’t want to stay stuck in the level of pain that immobilises us as community members.

“We know that pain, in some sense, will always be with us.”

The means by which people often self-medicate — be it drugs or alcohol, gambling, shopping, or other diversions — do not address the underlying pain, she said.

“At the end of the day, none of them are actually a solution to their problem — and they usually end up creating another problem,” the doctor said.

It will also serve as a call to action.

“People are tired of getting together and talking about things,” Dr Apopa said.

“They want to see action.”

The event, she said, was about putting into place prescribed measures for change outlined in action papers including the Inter-Agency Committee’s 2010 Call to Action, and 2014’s The Assessment of the Situation of Children drafted by the Inter Agency Sub-Committee of Children and Families.

“I think that we have spent a lot of time talking about causation, but not enough time being solution-focused,” she said.

To that end, all in attendance will fill out “commitment cards” — a promise to do something to affect change in the community in the short term, she said.

As community change will require the efforts of all members, Friday’s event is open to everyone.

“I want children, I want men, I want women,” the doctor said.

“I believe that we cannot address it without having every aspect of the community present.

“We’re all Bermudians.”

The free event at the Evening Light Pentecostal Church, located at 44 Parsons Road, begins with a reception offering soup and rolls at 6.30pm.