Profile: Sapphire Carrington -Bringing the Global Goals home!
By Rikke Ronholt
Sapphire Carrington is sweating, and cursing me under her breath for dragging her out on this morning run around Soufriere a small village about 30 minutes drive from Roseau, the Capital of Dominica. In two days Roseau will host the 9th Global Goals World Cup tournament -The first in the Caribbean. After that, I have to return to freezing Denmark. So I am determined to absorb as much of the abundant beauty and warmth of this island as I can!
-As with every other challenge you put in front of Sapphire, she squares her shoulders and carries on. Climbing the steep tracks and showing me where, only a little more than a year ago, Hurricane Maria unleashed her wrath on the island, leaving total devastation.
“Over here, the water just came off the mountains and went straight through the village, taking everything with it”!
The gash through the landscape is still visible, although to the untrained eye, Dominica hides her scars well. The lush vegetation has grown back, boasting the impressive resilience that is part of why every Dominican I have met so far is fiercely proud of their “Nature Island of the Caribbean”.
But for Sapphire, the pride is also accompanied by ambition on behalf of her small nation. Counting some 70.000 citizens. She laughs –“We could all fit into a few blocks on Manhattan. -But we are unique, and our vote counts the same at the UN. –People tend to forget that! We need to become the front-runners of sustainable development. For us, the climate crisis is a constant reality. We have no choice but to adapt. The next hurricane might be even worse. –But look, they rebuilt the school in the exact same spot. Right in the path of the water!”
Although Dominica on one hand has taken impressive strides to recover from the devastation of 2017, Hurricane Maria also exposed the vulnerability of the island’s economy; Crippling the agricultural sector that employs some 40% the population and setting back the budding tourism industry that is seen as the greatest growth potential for the island. At the moment, the main source of income is financial services and offshore banking -offering favourable tax conditions to international corporations. But with youth unemployment at a soaring 75% the small nation is at risk of experiencing the characteristic “brain drain” which is the consequence when the educated and resourceful part of the population go abroad to make money to provide for their families, and often never come back.
Sapphire spent her childhood years on the island, but joined her mother in America when she was 15. Now she is going against the tendency and returning home. Bringing with her a commitment to make the Sustainable Development Goals the driver of change and progress in the country. She has even started a political party on the island, in an attempt to rally the youth to demand a new mindset from their leaders.
She gets excited when she talks about politics -unable to hide her passion for progress: “Dominica needs inclusive positive change, social progress not “politics as usual”. Dominica needs good governance; we must strengthen and develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels and stamp out corruption! We are blessed with a 280sq miles gem- It’s on each one of us as a people to take care of it and each other. In my opinion, Dominica needed a movement that unites, that has impact; one that encourages a sustainable and resilient society, one that empowers the people!”
By holding the Global Goals World Cup in Dominica, Sapphire wants to raise awareness of the Global Goals, and give the people of Dominica a sense of being part of a bigger movement. Giving them an opportunity to connect their struggle to an international mindset.
(The values of Dominica Grammar School, who has entered two teams in the GGWCup)
…When asked what they wish for their nation, the people I talk to express their dreams for quality education and a sustainable way to grow the economy without loosing the delicate natural balance of the island. In that sense, Dominica is like a microcosm of the world, echoing a universal question: How do we deliver technological advances and economic prosperity to as many people as possible without sacrificing the welfare of future generations and the sustainability of the planet?
Recovering from Hurricane Maria, Dominica has a unique opportunity to reinvent herself as a sustainable model community. But it will take some ambitious and novel thinking from the decision makers, supported by the people who vote for them.
Time will tell if Sapphire’s efforts to bring the Sustainable Development Goals into the hearts and minds of Dominicans will make the difference.