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Senator Furbert: We’re better off now

Government Senator LaVerne Furbert yesterday accused child welfare campaigner Sheelagh Cooper of exaggerating the extent of Bermuda's poverty.

The head of the Coalition for the Protection of Children stated last week that 50 percent of black female-headed households with children lived at or below the poverty line when the 2000 census was taken.

Those numbers have increased substantially over the last ten years, she told a joint parliamentary select committee on violent crime and gun violence. Sen Furbert argued yesterday in the Upper House that Bermuda is in a better position than it used to be.

“I think it was a means of being sensational,” she said of Ms Cooper's comments. “I remember people having to go outdoors to go to the bathroom. I don't see that kind of poverty in 2010. “When I was young, some households would have ten to 12 children in a room. Children shared beds until they were adults, much less rooms. Now my grandchildren all have their own bedrooms and their own computers.”

She added that Bermudians had always worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. “My father worked two and three jobs. I had to work two or three jobs. To make it sound like it's something new is really rather ridiculous.”

The senator praised the volunteers involved in a school breakfast programme run in part by the coalition but said greater effort should be placed on teaching parents to provide their own children with a nutritious breakfast.

“I believe that adage that it's better to teach a man to fish, rather than give a man a fish,” she said.

“These children that we are now feeding in schools will not know how to prepare their own meals.

“I agree they need to eat breakfast but I do not know how much we're doing to help by feeding the children rather than teaching those parents how to raise their children.”

Opposition Sen Suzann Holshouser accused Sen Furbert of being in a “state of denial”.

The UBP senator praised Ms Cooper and the coalition for their contribution to the community.

“We have parents with children growing up in parks. We know that,” she said.

“I have left homes in tears, knowing that the food in the household is not enough for the children.”

Sen Holshouser said the school breakfast programme was helping families who might not be able to provide breakfast for their children.

“Many households simply cannot afford the nutritious meals that we heard of,” she said. “The reason the coalition established that programme was because there was a need.

“There is a need to make sure our children at least have a head start. We must congratulate organisations like the coalition. We should be grateful.”

Ms Cooper said the statistics she quoted before the joint select committee were the results of the 2000 census.

The reality was actually more bleak than the picture she'd presented, she said.

“If anything, the magnitude of the problem has been underestimated, not exaggerated,” she told

The Royal Gazette.

She said in response to Sen Furbert's criticism of the breakfast programme: “We are feeding primary school students breakfast so they can learn. I know no better way to improve people than to make sure they get a better education.”

Sen Laverne Furbert

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Published December 09, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 10, 2010 at 3:29 am)

Senator Furbert: We’re better off now

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