This year’s back-to-school giveaway event, hosted by Central and South Eleuthera’s member of parliament, Minister Clay Sweeting, for the children and parents within the constituency, was done a bit differently, which was both fun and practical.
The event which began at noon, and ran until about 3 p.m. in the afternoon, on the grounds of the Longley Newberry park in Savannah Sound, took place on Saturday, September 2nd, 2023, at the end of the first week of public schools reopening on the island.
The back-to-school giveaway had all the markings of a well-thought out, and well-planned event, with a large tent, partitioned into a number of booths. On one side volunteers commandeered areas focusing on registration, schoolbags and supplies, school snack supplies, and one booth with school underwear and socks. The remaining areas underneath the big tent on the opposite side, showcased Bahamas Wellness – doing free children’s health checkups, Social Services – providing information on its assistance and other services for families, Insurance – providing information to parents, as well as BAMSI – giving away seeds and grow kits.
Other areas of the park had booths designated for lunch and fruit refreshments, along with popcorn and cotton candy treats. While center park was populated with bouncy castles, larger than life ‘connect4’ games, and a temporary race track for sack race competitions.
The twist on the giveaway concept came after registration – which parents could have done online before the event, or after arrival at the park – when they were given $35 ‘back-to-school’ imitation dollars for each child. Parents and children were then able to go to the different giveaway booths, and rather than receiving a generic pre-packed schoolbag of supplies – they ‘bought’ items they needed or wanted.
For example, school bags in a variety of different colours were $5 ‘back-to-school’ dollars each, while $10 ‘back-to-school’ dollars could get you 10 black and white composition books. There were a wide variety of supplies on offer, in addition to the school underwear, socks, pre-packed juices and snack supplies, there were books, rulers, folder sheets, folders, pencils, pens, glue, hand sanitizer, erasers, scissors – and the list went on.
Minister Sweeting, who attended the event with his wife and young son, explained the day’s format, saying, “Today we decided to do our annual back-to-school a little differently, where we have different entities that wanted to come and help support as a community, more than just as a member of parliament. So, we had people who donated, and we did what we can to provide backpacks. So, once children got registered, we had what we called ‘Central and South Eleuthera (CSE) bucks’ – this was imitation money, where they could go to the booths and ‘buy’ what they needed, not necessarily just giving them what they already have… whether they need backpacks, school supplies, and so on.”
The pre-registration online, informed Minister Clay, as well as the registration on site, on the day, was all about getting a possible count for how many children they have in the constituency for future events – to assist planning for upcoming Christmas giveaways and the like. He explained it was more of a data-driven exercise than anything else – emphasizing that the function was for everyone, and that any child that came out, were free to take part.