Christmas is a special time of year, a time when families and friends draw near to each other to renew personal ties and friendships and to share in the warmth of the season and embrace the joy that it brings.
Over the years, I have spent Christmas in many countries and have enjoyed the different traditions and cultural manifestations of each, from temperatures in the mid 40s Centigrade to minus 20 degrees and three feet of snow (that’s 104 and minus 4 Fahrenheit for those of you who prefer the German system); so a BVI Christmas is very much a return to my youth of a warm Christmas with the possibility of a swim on Christmas Day.
Christmas is also a time to look back over the year which will be drawing to a close. For the Virgin Islands, 2015 was certainly an eventful year. Elections were held in the spring which the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association observers qualified as free and fair, continuing the Virgin Islands proud tradition of vibrant democracy. We also have a major extension of the Cruise Pier and the Pier Park, to name but two new landmarks to the Road Town landscape. We have also renewed our links with Her Majesty the Queen with the reinstallation of the traditional gift of a pound of salt from Salt Island. And in this context, I am also pleased to confirm that following a request from the Virgin Islands Government, Her Majesty has agreed that next year we will hold the celebrations of her 90th Birthday on the actual day, namely the 21st of April rather than the usual date in June. So we hope many more people will be able to participate in that historic occasion.
Christmas is also a time to remember those that are less fortunate than we are and how we can make a positive change in their lives.
On 4th December, 2015 we held our annual Christmas party at Government House for the children of the Eslyn Henley Richez Learning Centre, the Rainbow Children’s Home, Autism Centre and Social Development’s BVI Services. It is always such a pleasure to see the genuine happiness and appreciation on the faces of young (and not so young people), particularly when Santa appears with his bag of presents.
I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the many organisations and individuals in the BVI who contribute their time, energy, and skills for the betterment of society. To the Rotary Clubs, the Lions Club, the BVI Red Cross, VISAR, the BVI Diabetes Association, HIV/AIDS Foundation, the Humane Society, the Family Support Network and all those who have supported these groups through fund-raising or donations.
I would also like to acknowledge and thank those in uniformed organisations such as the Scouts, Guides, Boys and Girls Brigade and Cadet Corps for all the community work they do. The values of giving, sharing, and caring are a part of what makes the BVI special. It is important that we recognize and celebrate those who uphold these values.
I encourage each and every one of us to be thankful and appreciative for our many blessings. Thankful to the Almighty for his faithful watch over the BVI and that we once again emerged safely through the Hurricane Season.
Thankful to all those who work in disaster management, the emergency services, the healthcare profession, law enforcement agencies, education, churches, volunteers and others who help to ensure that the BVI remains safe, and if the worst happens that we are ready to respond to the needs of our people. As the head of the public service, I express my sincere appreciation to all public officers for their continued dedication and professional services rendered throughout the year.
May I conclude by wishing all those in the Territory for Christmas--Virgin Islanders, residents, temporary visitors and holiday makers--a very Merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous 2016.
John Duncan, OBE