The Family Centre, a Bermuda-based registered charity, dedicated to working with the most vulnerable families on the island. Martha founded "The Learning Centre" in 1990 as a tutorial organization. In 1995, the organization shifted its focus from tutoring to a more clinical service, to respond to the needs of the families and subsequently changed its name twice, to The Family Learning Centre, and then eventually to The Family Centre—with a clear focus on family.  The Family Centre's aim is to provide therapeutic, clinical, wrap-around services to children and families in crisis.  Its secondary goal is to work with government and Bermuda's mental health service providers to develop more healthy systems in order to achieve overall community health.


Everyone is either involved in a lengthy debate about it, spinning wheels trying to figure out what to do about it, or working in the field to eradicate the many problems. This debate has been going on for over 15 years. I look back over the years, and quite frankly I see that there is nothing "new under the sun".  Throughout the world, typical challenges that young people have faced are: Peer pressure to take drugs, Peer pressure to drink alcohol, Peer pressure to engage in pre-marital sex, Bombardment by television, cable programmes, and video games encouraging violence in one's interaction with others.  Children succumb to all, or some of these pressures, if they are missing important supports in their lives.   If we look further, we do need to understand the root cause of many of these societal challenges. In Bermuda, we can certainly attribute many of our social problems to the following:  High cost of living in Bermuda, and the average parent's inability to benefit from a booming economy,  A failing public education system churning out uneducated youngsters with very little self esteem,  The lack of healthy relationships that provide bonding and support when youth or families are in trouble,  Ineffective response to social challenges due to a society that is somewhat unorganized in its approach.

Social problems are also caused by individual adversity that grows to a level that begins to impact society as a whole.  Children need love, nurturance, and guidance at critical times in their development. The lack of attention on the growth and development of children leads to a community with increasing youth development problems. Children, just like adults, tend to act out their frustrations, or feelings of neglect and inattention to their needs. To add to this, if the community as a whole lacks strong leadership, sound moral values and work ethic,  strong institutions to support families in times of adversity,  and is somewhat disorganized in its' approach to getting these challenges under control, we decrease the likelihood for success for our youth and families. 

So we really do know what the problems are, the questions are "Why are we still seeing an increase in violence and youth problems" and "What is it going to take in this community to overcome these societal problems?"

We need to recognize that social problems are interconnected and often complex, that they require radical solutions that individuals are not so eager to support, and we need to recognize that we often have competing interests. If we weren't afraid to be radical, we might do some of the following:  Reward activities and events that reduce the consumption of alcohol and support healthier norms,  Take Bermuda's "weapon of mass destruction"---high powered motor bikes---out of the transportation equation,  Fill the front pages of every newspaper with stories of the good that young people and others in the community are doing,  Provide increased funding for the development of healthy family activities,  Be role models of excellence not just for the youth, but for those parents who are not demonstrating good stewardship,  Challenge the illusion of a "get rich quick" fantasy held by so many young people by requiring them to be involved in constructive and meaningful employment, and helping every family to achieve this,  We would break our own illusions of wealth and grandeur and the need to have a life full of "things", and return to a simpler lifestyle; not impressed by every million dollar yacht that comes to our shores,  We would strengthen our value system by openly rewarding members of the public for demonstrating acts of moral virtue (particularly for demonstrations of care, compassion and nurturance of children),  We would put aside differences and learn to care more for each other.

I challenge you, once again Bermuda, to rise to the occasion. We are not going to solve these problems overnight. We know what to do in the event of the approach of a hurricane. I suggest we use the same principles to stem the tide of what feels like an approaching tsunami. We must work together, work smart, have solid leadership and be caring and considerate of each other. We need to be positive examples of what is possible. Again, it is never what occurs that we have to be concerned about; it is always the response that matters. As adults we must lead by example. Our children will follow us. They already are.