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Variety – Committed to Children of Barbados & the Wider Caribbean

BARBADOS (June 15, 2020) – Variety has made an indelible impact on thousands of lives over the past 25 years. As the Charity enters this new decade, it does so with renewed commitment to the children of Barbados and the wider Caribbean.

Our mission has always been to deliver equality and a future without limits to children who are disadvantaged. As we continue in this mission we announce new changes at the Charity. We are proud to have Cherise Weekes, former Office Administrator with the Charity for over seven years, step into the role of Operations Manager. Cherise has been a pillar of support for the charity for many years and has been intimately involved in many of the organisation’s key projects and fund raising initiatives. Cherise steps into her new role in August.

“It should come as no surprise that the Covid-19 pandemic’s devastating economic effects, have affected all charities. Variety has been no exception. We have used the last couple of months to work assiduously to restructure the charity with the aim of sustainability and prioritising our clients and beneficiaries,” said Chief Barker (President), Toni Thorne.

“Our trustees and Crew (Board of Directors) have recommitted to exciting projects such as the Sunshine Coach, The Homework Programme in children’s homes, Movie Mornings and our Physiotherapy programme, to name a few. We are equally excited to produce our staple fundraisers such as Gold Hearts, Row for Charity, Bags of Style, Pack-a-Pantry and others,” she added.

The Charity bids farewell to former Executive Director, Donnah Russell. Donnah was with the Charity for over 10 years. She was fiercely committed to making a difference in the lives of children who were sick, disadvantaged or had mental or physical challenges. We thank Donnah for her stewardship and years of support.

“As we move into this decade, we are ecstatic about our fruitful list of new projects, fundraisers and schedule of events. Our new management committees are structured in such a way, as to ensure continued and further transparency, integrity and democracy in our leadership and execution,” noted President Thorne.

Variety thanks everyone who has been affiliated with the Charity for over the past two and a half decades. We look forward to evolution as the nation’s children’s charity of choice for decades to come.


Variety the Children’s Charity of Barbados and Beacon Insurance, have come together to bring cheer to 250 children this Christmas.

Donnah Russell, Executive Director of Variety the Children’s Charity of Barbados, noted that the charity’s annual Christmas party was hosted by Beacon Insurance this year. She thanked Beacon for their generous support at a time when it was most needed and welcomed them on board the Variety family.

The party is a part of Variety’s Future Kids programming which seeks to give children the gift of social experiences and play. For many of them watching the feature film “Peanuts” compliments Olympus Theatres, it was the first time at the movies.

During the movie the children were treated to popcorn drinks and snacks, including the Christmas traditional ham cutter. The day’s activities also included Disco dancing, and a visit from Santa, who handed out treats. As the children left the cinema they were presented with a loot bag compliments Beacon Insurance.

Beacon General Manager, Mr. Brian Hennis, expressed his company’s policy on giving back and said “Beacon was pleased to partner with Variety the Children’s Charity in bringing joy to children during the Christmas season. Variety works tirelessly to ensure that children can enjoy the essence of the holiday season and we are happy to assist, as part of our “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” corporate social responsibility programme.”

Each child at the party also received a gift sponsored by Beacon and a toy donated by the Robinson Smiles Foundation of Washington, USA.

Thanks! Row for Charity a Success.

Variety the Children’s Charity would like to extend heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all participants, sponsors, volunteers and all others who donated towards the cause in the 15th Annual Row for Charity Event. We also want to extend a special thanks to all those who took part in our first ever Fun Fitness Challenge which was organized by Cary Holder of Cut Rock Bodies.

With your help we have managed to raise just over $25,000.00 which will be going towards our Sunshine Coach Programme. These coaches are specially equipped to carry wheel chairs and are used to take children with physical and mental challenges to school, therapy and other important appointments.

Special congrats to our first place winners A.D. Challengers winners of the Wind Warriors Race and Monster Energy (sponsored by Bryden Stokes) who, after 4 dry years have won both the Motor Maniacs Madness Race and the first ever Fun Fitness Challenge. Careful though iMart has sworn to win it back!

Here are the final positions

PositionWind Warriors Wonder RaceMotor Maniacs Madness RaceFun Fitness Challenge
1stA.D. ChallengersMonster EnergyMonster Energy
2ndCGI CruisersiMartLimitless Performance
3rdAre we there yet?A.D. WarriorsAesthetic Dental 1
4thSOLitairesOcean 2 HotelGreen Machines
5thWater Polo JuniorsHarbour Lights Jager BombsPaddling Peddlers
6thRBC Royal BankPaddling PeddlersSurfer Boys
7thCDB MarinersWater Polo SeniorsHarbour Lights Ladies
8thKPMGMassy DistributionAesthetic Dental 2
9thHipac-Farmer’s ChoiceJada Group
10thWest Coast VillasA.D. Super Performers
11thBHL BlazersAquaknotz
12thDiamonds InternationalFam n Frens
13th#VirginsThe Codrington School
14thWine WorldCooper Kauffman
 15thStansfeld Scott



This year we had a photo platform for team pics and selfies. It is clear from the photos that this was a big hit. Click here to see (or order) team photos and photos of the event.

Next year we hope to have an even bigger and better event. On behalf of the children we serve thank you again and we look forward to seeing you all next year.

Pics for the page:

PositionWind Warriors Wonder RaceMotor Maniacs Madness RaceFun Fitness Challenge
1stA.D. ChallengersMonster EnergyMonster Energy
Pg 1, #14Pg 15, #10Pg 15, #17


Variety the Children’s Charity of Barbados presents the 15th Annual Row for Charity Event on Sunday, June 28th, at Harbour Lights from 8:00am to 3:00pm.

This year, we will have a Fun Fitness Challenge to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of the event, along with the usual Motor Maniacs and Wind Warriors kayak relay races!!! (MORE INFO ON THE FITNESS CHALLENGE TO COME SOON)

Participation in these races is on a “first come, first served” basis as entries are limited. Teams for the kayak races must consist of 12 members, 2 of which MUST be female and teams for the Fun Fitness Challenge must consist of 4 persons, 1 of which MUST be female (children can also take part in the challenge)!
The packages available are as follows:

Corporate/Social/Service Groups:

·$1000 – 1 Row Team (12 persons) plus food and drink tickets valued at $500
·$1050 – 1 Row Team (12 persons) & 1 Fitness Challenge Team (4 persons) plus food and drink tickets valued at $500

Friends/Family Teams:

·$600 – 1 Row Team only ($50 per person)
·$100 – 1 Fitness Challenge Team Only ($25 per person)
·$650 – 1 Row Team (12 persons) & 1 Fitness Challenge Team (4 persons)

Team confirmation deadline:  Friday, June 19th
Space is limited so please confirm your package as soon as possible. Simply complete the Row Confirmation, indicating your preferred package and scan and email to: cherise[at]varietybarbados[dot]org. We also need each team member to fill their contact information and sign the Row Team Waiver.

It’s a Family Fun Day so we encourage you to bring the whole family out to enjoy the event. We also encourage you to support the food and drink bars as these further assist us in raising the funds we need to help the children we serve.
Thank you in advance for your support!!!


Christmas is a time of joy and cheer. Not for everyone. Some parents are more and more anxious as the day draws near because as others prepare their ham and turkey and jug-jug, they are still wondering where the next meal will come from.

Each year Variety raises funds to provide the children we serve and their families with vouchers to buy food at Christmas. Each year the need grows.

This year, WIBISCO has agreed to donate part proceeds from their “Win It Now” Christmas promotion to the cause, guaranteeing that 100 families will have a brighter Christmas this year. WIBISCO will donate ten cents from every promotional cracker multipack sold between Monday 17th November 2014 and Wednesday 31st December 2014. Variety asks for the public’s support of the “Win It Now” promotion which is, by extension, the support of the children of Barbados who need our help.

Donnah Russell, Executive Director of Variety the Children’s Charity said that she was delighted with the decision by WIBISCO and that it would bring “hope for the Christmas season” to many children and their families.

About Variety

Variety the Children’s Charity of Barbados & the Eastern Caribbean is dedicated to assisting children in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean who are sick, disabled or disadvantaged. The charity was founded in 1994 and is tent #73 of the 80 year-old Variety International. The first major project in Barbados was the equipping of the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital at a cost of $1,000,000. The Unit is now equipped to handle emergency admissions for young patients requiring various levels of life support and care for immediate post-operative open heart surgical patients, orthopaedic and neurological patients from Barbados and other Caribbean countries. For further information or to make a donation please contact Variety’s Executive Director Ms. Donnah Russell at 428-9258 or 266-9258.



Children in Barbados who face mobility and other physical challenges are provided with therapy by the A C Graeme Development Centre, a government funded institution. On a monthly basis, Variety Tent 73 supplements this care by paying salaries for one or more physiotherapists to work with these special children.

One such therapist is Melissa Walcott-Pusey, whose services on the island we could not possibly adequately compensate. Justina, a ten year old girl diagnosed with Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, is one of Melissa’s patients.

In January 2013, as a result of Melissa’s caring and thorough services, Variety provided Justina with a hospital bed and air mattress so that she could adjust her head and feet and her mother could easily change her position to reduce the risk of pressure ulcers and acid reflux. The bed’s height from the ground can adjust, making it easier for Mum to provide for Justina’s toileting needs and daily passive range of movements to her limbs without injuring her back.

Justina will never be able to independently care for herself and therefore it is imperative that her mother remains as healthy as possible in order to facilitate long term care for her.

In 2013, Tent 73 also provided Melissa and another therapist with training to ensure that they stay relevant in their fields of work. During the year Justina is transported by Sunshine Coach to our Summer Movie Mornings and to our Gold Heart and Christmas parties, ensuring that she is provided not only her physical needs but also with social events she can enjoy.


Senator Kerry-Ann F. Ifill was born December 20th 1973. She lost her sight at the tender age of four but this only served to boost her drive and ambition. Kerry-Ann started school for the blind at age 6 but went on to join the mainstream schools from eleven years old. She was the first blind student to attend the prestigious Combermere School, overcoming many physical challenges while she was there.

Kerry-Ann was the first blind person to graduate from the University of the West Indies, earning herself a degree in Sociology and Psychology with Second Class Honours. She went on to obtain an MBA at Durham Business School, in England.

In 2008, Barbadian Prime Minister David Thompson appointed her to the Senate, then to the position of Deputy President of the Senate. On 14 March 2012, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart announced her appointment as President of the Senate. There she continued her trend at being first, as she was the first woman to hold that position, the first person with a disability, as well as the youngest ever, at the age of 38 to hold that position.

Of her appointment to the Senate, and the effect on the community of persons with disabilities, Senator Kerry-Ann says, “I think my appointment has opened up a whole new line of thinking that life is not as insurmountable as it may seem; that strides can be made and people should feel inspired to press on with their goals”.

While still in her role as Deputy President, Senator Kerry-Ann Ifill was asked to fill in for the then President and address the joint sitting of the Houses of Parliament on the official visit of the Earl and Countess of Wessex to Barbados. So flawlessly presented was this address, that it was the talk of the town, making the hearts of all Barbadians proud.

One editorial noted that Senator Ifill, “…is a young black woman whose remarkable accomplishments to date have been achieved despite the challenge of being blind. She is clearly a person of sharp intelligence and must be a clear role model for all those people who are disabled or challenged by disabilities of one sort or other.”

Senator Ifill is also President of the Barbados Council for the Disabled using that office along with her determination and dedication to excellence, to promote issues such as the Ratification of the Convention of the Rights for Persons with Disabilities; employment opportunities for the disabled; and fully accessible public spaces for persons with mobility challenges.

Along with her political role, Senator Kerry-Ann also wears the hat of Sunday School Superintendent at the Church of the Resurrection where her love of children manifests itself in her love of teaching them about God. She herself was a regular Sunday School student at St. Michael’s Cathedral, Bridgetown and even after she lost her sight, continued performing admirably at Sunday School plays and recitals.

Senator Kerry-Ann Ifill maintains a pragmatic approach to life with a disability stating, “I look at life this way – you do what you are supposed to do and you do it the best way you can. If you happen to be blind, well, just find a way to do it. With being blind, I do not waste time complaining over my being blind… Blindness is a part of me.” She further offers advice to young people who find themselves in similar positions of trying to achieve their dreams while overcoming the obstacle of disability, “It is perfectly natural to grieve. If you lose something or a loved one you grieve, that is the first step, but don’t wallow in grief. Look at the things you still can do. Just because you lost a limb, for instance, it doesn’t mean you can’t feed yourself anymore. It may be painful at first, [but] you can go back to driving if you have to. It is easier for people to help you, if they know you can help yourself. If you become so dependent, you are going to be unpleasant to be around.”

Variety Tent 73 is honored to hold her up as a role model for children with disabilities and to present her for the Presidential Citation Award 2014 at the Variety International World Conference held in Barbados in 2014.



Dame Olga Lopes-Seale, DA, GCM, MBE, BSS (26 December 1918 – 4 February 2011) was a Guyanese-born, Barbados-based social and community worker, radio broadcaster and singer.

She came from humble beginnings, born to Portuguese indentured field labourer parents, and was the last of nine children, six of whom died prior to Olga’s birth. From an early age, Olga acquired a habit which would serve her in good stead throughout her life, and which she recommended to children wherever she went – reading books.

Her work on behalf of children began in the public realm in 1952 when she heard of five boys who were unable to attend a Christmas concert because they didn’t have clothes to wear to it. As she put it, “I aired an appeal for garments, and received more clothes than I had needy kids. So I aired an appeal for needy children to come forward, and then had more children than clothes.” This evolved into a charity, the “Radio Demerara Needy Children’s Fund” where she helped over 1,500 poor children in Guyana using broadcast appeals.

Her charity work continued when she moved to Barbados in the early 1960s. On the island, she became known for her Saturday morning children’s radio programme where many a talent was born and cultivated. “Aunty Olga”, as she was known, resumed the Needy Children’s Fund to help children in Barbados with back to school clothes, shoes, school bags and stationery. This programme is now continued by Variety Barbados Tent 73. Aunty Olga’s aim was to give as many children as possible access to education through providing them with everything they needed from books to full tummies, but additionally, she wanted children to feel special and important as individuals. To this end, the Fund hosted an annual Christmas party where every child in attendance received a gift suitable for his or her age and sex. Aunty Olga took particular delight in seeing children happy for Christmas.

The Fund eventually developed to encompass serving not only children born into poverty, but also children with mental and physical disabilities. It raised money for expensive medical operations and equipment that would help children lead more normal lives.

Aunty Olga also extended her love for charitable work to senior citizens by visiting them in their homes and supplying spectacles, wheelchairs clothing and gifts. She also raised large sums for the Soroptomists Senior Citizen’s Village and for her Cents for Sight programme for seniors.

She was awarded Dame of St. Andrew, for extraordinary and outstanding achievement and merit in service to Barbados and humanity at large. Her honours are deservedly numerous – she was made a Member of the British Empire in1961, has a Silver Crown of Merit and a Gold Crown of Merit, is a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary South and in 1997 she was admitted to the Caribbean Broadcasting Hall of Fame – the only woman ever!

Dame Olga was a member of Variety Tent 73 and attended her last annual general meeting just a few months before she died. She is quoted as saying in an interview during her latter years about her continued charitable work, “I’m still keeping busy. I’m still involved with programmes for needy people. Why do I keep doing it? And at my age? As in the past, I don’t know that I could ever see that there is a need and not try, in word or deed, to do something about it. You just can’t turn away from it.” In her usual concern for others, she bequeathed to Tent 73 the funds from her Needy Children Fund, ensuring the continued commitment to her charges through the work of Variety.

Variety the Children’s Charity is pleased to acknowledge her work as a philanthropist through the Presidential Citation Award at the Variety International World Conference 2014 held in Barbados


PICU at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Variety Club Caribbean Barbados Inc. was officially registered under the laws of Barbados on November 25, 1994. Some years earlier, Dr. Richard Ishmael, Michael Pemberton, Cheryl Lady Forde and a few other dedicated founding members worked together to raise the necessary capital to start a Variety chapter. The first major project identified was the need for a five-bed Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to provide intensive focused care to monitor and treat the most serious conditions of children in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

On Tuesday September 16th, 1997, this vision became a reality Variety – Tent 73 was instrumental in funding the majority of equipment for a new four-bed PICU within the Paediatric Unit of the QEH. The QEH has been equipped to handle emergency admissions for young patients requiring various levels of life support and care for immediate post-operative open heart surgical patients, orthopaedic and neurological patients from Barbados and other Caribbean countries.

The unit has since seen thousands of patients and has been upgraded over the years by Variety and other local organisations. Variety Barbados has pledged its continued assistance to the PICU and by extension the children in Barbados. The volunteers and members of Variety also contribute their time and talents to the children of the PICU. Gold Hearts campaign which runs from February to early March, Variety volunteers as well as local and overseas members can be seen chatting and playing with the children during an annual visit to the unit. The children thoroughly enjoy the visit which usually comes with treats of colouring books, crayons, pencils and soft toys.

Computers bring Success in the Classroom

In the area of education, Variety continues to support the Special Needs Units with stationery and other items for their everyday usage. One new initiative or this group is the Education ICT Committee. Ashish Uttamchandani, a results-driven professional with significant technical and managerial experience within the ICT industry, chairs the committee which in its short time has donated computers at a value of over $11,000.00 for use by over 100 students.

These numbers belie the real success of this programme. The students who benefit from the programme are all challenged with learning idiosyncrasies which teachers are bound to discover and relate to. Most of them are highly sensory children who are more visual and kinesthetic than auditory and will learn better with the use of computers and other technology devices.

This was proven without a doubt within days of the placing of the first set of computers. Variety received a call from the Erdiston Special Needs School stating that one student, who ordinarily was unresponsive and did not write answers to the mathematical problems given, suddenly was showing his mathematical and English skills on the computer! Success!!

The School reports that this student, and others, continue to interact more forcefully with teachers through the use of the computer programmes that generate bonus games and other interactions for work done correctly.

This programme could not be successful without the assistance of corporate Barbados who donates the computers.

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