Interview with Rosie Hodge-Adams of Children of the Caribbean

One of the goals of Embrace the Struggle (ETS) is to shed light on causes and individuals, especially women, who are making a difference in communities throughout the world.  What better way to begin ETS’s interview series than by catching up with a compatriot who has not forgotten her roots!

Rosie Hodge-Adams is a fellow Kittitian-Nevisian now living in Los Angeles who, along with her husband, Julien, has spearheaded a nonprofit organization, Children of the Caribbean, that provides support in the areas of education, health care, and social development to causes throughout the Caribbean.

As Executive Director of COTC, Rosie has been able to secure endorsements for COTC from celebrities such as Nia Long, Stacey Dash, Blair Underwood, and Eric Close.  Her organization counts among its sponsors Ziggy Marley’s Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment (URGE), the Conrad Hilton Foundation, and ONE Coconut Water.

I know that her heart for bringing lasting change to the lives of young people in the Caribbean will strike a chord with you!

You can listen to the entire interview here, but check out some excerpts below.

Alison:  What is the main focus of COTC?  Is it education, is it health, or is it more a general well-roundedness of young people? 
Rosie:  We focus on three areas:  education, health care, and social development.  We try to do as much as we can in each of those areas.  As the requests come up, we try to fulfill those requests as best we can.  I think there isn’t one area that we put more emphasis on than the next.

Alison:  One of the areas that interested me was the Cyril Ross Nursery.  Perhaps you can share a little bit about how you guys got involved there.

Rosie:  The Cyril Ross Nursery is our first major attempt at assisting children in our health care area.  Wendy Fitzwilliams  is a member of our board of directors, and she’s from Trinidad.  When she won the Miss Universe [title] in 1998, well, before she actually entered the show, Cyril Ross was one of those organizations that she, growing up in the church, she and her parents would always visit and volunteer at, so it was sort of natural after she had become a representative for Miss Universe and in fact won the title to take the home under her wing.  She was very instrumental in getting medication to the children.  And so the whole Cyril Ross notion was close to our hearts because of her.
When I visited them last summer, I was really, really saddened by the environment.  The children had beautiful smiles.  Girl, Ali, they were happy children!  Looking at them, you couldn’t tell that they were AIDS patients or HIV positive.  Lots of energy, they looked healthy, they looked really good!

But the home was very dilapidated.  It’s a private-run institution managed by the [Society of] St. Vincent de Paul, through the Catholic Church, and they do their best.  They do really, really well because all the money that they receive is put into these kids.  Now they’re getting assistance.  They have basically taken these kids on and made these children their own children.  And so they have done really, really well.  

But the little things… I’m sure any parent would choose to feed their child rather than fix the roof, so that’s where we stepped in.  Versus buying sheets for the bed, they put shoes on their feet, and so the plan is to make their lives just a little bit more comfortable.  We decided to step up, and we got immense support from people here in Los Angeles and all over, as a matter of fact!

Alison:  Excellent!  Tell us a bit about that support.  Where do you find most of your support coming from?
Rosie:  Because we’re fundraising locally here in California, over 90 percent of the support comes from our local California communities, and organizations such as the Hilton Foundation.  

You start something like this, Alison, and you have no idea who’s going to buy in and who’s going to help you and how far you’re going to be able to go.  And people start asking you for things and you want to tell everybody “yes,” but you have to be careful not to… you know?  But the support has been amazing!

One of our board members has a very close relationship with the previous owners of the Hilton Hotel group, and she contacted Mr. Hilton, and he was just “Yes, yes, yes, Marsha!” [Laughter.]  
Alison:  That’s the beauty of it!
Rosie:  Yeah, Ziggy Marley just came on board and his wife Orly.  She’s lovely, she wants to be more involved.  She has an organization called URGE, but of course he’s super busy with doing the biography movie of his dad, Bob Marley, and he’ll be travelling.  He’s already started his tour and his new CD release, but he promised later in the year to be more involved and hands on with us and the work we do across the Caribbean.
Alison: You guys have something coming up in June, don’t you?  You have a fundraiser in June.
Rosie:  We’re having what we are trying to make our signature event, our 5K run/walk in June at Loyola Marymount University.  Last year the proceeds from the run/walk went to providing education supplies for children in the Caribbean.  This year we’re anticipating a larger crowd, more participants, more sponsors. There’s more buy-in, for sure, and so we want to do more with the monies that we raise.
There’s a hospital in Saint Lucia that was destroyed by fire, and we have committed to providing them things for their neonatal ward–incubators and things like that.  Of course, a brand new organization such as ours has extremely limited resources, and so we raise enough money through the run/walk so that we can provide incubators. 
We have friends also on the medical side who have offered us equipment.  We have now become a friend of Medtronics, and hopefully we’re gonna tap them to see if we can get some beds for the pediatric wing.
So the run/walk is really a very important fundraiser for us this year.  Not only do we use it to spread the word about the foundation and what it does by having such a large gathering of people, but we’re going to use the funds to push our education/back-to-school drive and help other areas that really need help: child care, health care, and social development.  
Listen to the full interview here for more details on the genesis of Children of the Caribbean, its scholarship program, and how you can contribute/participate.

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