Over the past year, lockdowns have changed the way we interact with one another. Physical meetings have been replaced by video-conferencing, and social distancing measures have meant we cannot spend time with each other the way we used to. The absence of community has made us all realise just how important community life is.
The pandemic has shown us how it is possible to come together virtually - but the sense of community that comes from being together physically, from working together, eating together and laughing together, is something that no technology can ever replace. And even when lockdowns and social distancing measures are eventually lifted, it will not necessarily come back immediately. Many will continue to be cautious of rushing back to life as it used to be. But it is down to us to make the effort to restore community. It may have been something many took for granted before, but as the famous saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder…
To bring back community life, nations need to provide the right tools for communities to thrive again. And this is not just about providing the right venues - but about re-creating community spirit itself.
We do not know, yet, for how long physical social distancing measures might remain in place around the world. In many countries, social distancing is set at 6ft apart and social gatherings are subject to restrictions. Beaches and national parks are also restricted and may be for some time.
The lockdown measures have been necessary to curb the spread of coronavirus across the world, not just for the welfare of people, but to usher in the safe return of tourists. For countries like the Bahamas, tourism alone provides a significant portion of GDP and employs about half of the workforce. The country needs to make sure that foreigners visiting the country will be safe, demonstrating that it has a firm handle on the pandemic and its spread.
But for anyone who has spent even a few days in the Caribbean, they will know that community life is one of the culture’s most important attributes. Going an entire month, let alone an entire year, without beach parties, street carnivals or simply getting together with friends and family, might make us forget the essence of Bahamian life.
Yet it could also make us remember what it really means to be Bahamian. The Bahamian culture is a social one, a friendly one, an inclusive one and a welcoming one. For the 390,000 or so who make up the population of the Bahamas, community life is a central pillar and something we will need to actively encourage when life after the pandemic resumes. And we should use this opportunity to emphasise new ways of strengthening our communities, drawing from the lessons of prolonged isolation and life under lockdown.
At the Fox Foundation, we are committed to finding new ways to bolster community building and bring about positive change to life in the Bahamas. Over six years of service, we have secured $5 million in private donations to help education, disaster relief and youth development in the Bahamas. Our community building activities to date have included organising Christmas events and Back to School initiatives for our children returning to school.
But we feel we can, and must, do more. Communities have been physically broken up as a result of the ongoing lockdowns, affecting the morale of all Bahamians. One way countries can strengthen community spirit is through youth and community centres. In the Bahamas, the Fox Foundation is exploring ways to donate and strengthen our youth and community centres which may struggle to receive funding as the government grapples with the fallout from the pandemic. We want to support them to deliver equipment to those who need it the most, and hold events which will bring that much-needed morale boost to our population. We also want to encourage sports in the country, one of the most effective ways of promoting the health of our nation and fostering community spirit.
Just as we responded to the disaster of Hurricane Dorian in 2019 by taking private vessels to Abaco to assist with evacuation efforts and partnered with the Buddy Hield Foundation to distribute food, water & generators to citizens affected by the hurricane, we must respond to the pandemic in the same way.
Lockdown may have confined us to our houses, but it will never destroy our community spirit.