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Bertram Leon Recognised in Queen’s New Year’s Day Honours 2020 for services to the Saint Lucian Community in the UK and abroad

Bertram Leon Recognised in Queen’s New Year’s Day Honours 2020 for services to the Saint Lucian Community in the UK and abroad

Article Courtesy St. Lucia News Online

Bertram Omar Leon has been honoured in the Queen’s New Year’s Day Honours 2020 for services to the Saint Lucian community in the UK and abroad.

Bertram is a former President of the Saint Lucian International Overseas Association with members in the USA, UK, Canada, St. Croix, Barbados, and Saint Lucia. He is also the current Chairman of the Gros-Islet Community Association UK, Treasurer for the Saint Lucia Diabetes Project (UK) and Co-director of the Caribbean Diaspora Skills Directory - an initiative the Commission of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is currently working with Bertram to amplify.

Bertram will receive a medal of the Order of the British Empire.

Born in the Victoria Hospital, Castries on 20th April 1960. Bertram was brought up in Gros Islet by his grandparents, but left Saint Lucia in 1971 at 10-years-old, to join his father in London. His father – Mr Leonard Leon – was a founding member and youngest member of the first Gros-Islet Town Council set up in the 1950s.

His mother was a school teacher from Grande Riviere, Gros Islet. Bertram completed his secondary schooling in London and pursued higher education at the University of Surrey and Kingston University in the UK. At the end of his academic years at Surrey University, he was elected President of one of the University’s colleges in 1986. Bertram is one of only two known former Presidents of a University in the UK from Saint Lucia – the other being, the late, Hon. George Odlum.

Bertram has worked in both the public and private sectors for over 35 years, holding several senior positions. He now manages his consultancy in Contract and Project Management and is also the Director of Caribbean Diaspora Skills Directory CIC.

Bertram has spoken with wisdom, persuasiveness, and a high degree of intellect on important community and charity issues for over 25 years, and his fundraising prowess is well known. He has demonstrated exemplary leadership in his devotion to assisting his community and country, whether it is in the promotion of a cause or the development of Saint Lucia itself.

His Saint Lucian community involvement started as early as 1980. Around 1992, Bertram became chairman of the New Generation of Young Saint Lucians (UK) (NEWGEN) – an offshoot of the established Saint Lucian Association of London (1963) – where he served for seven years. He became a member and later Chairman of the Gros-Islet Community Association (UK) in 1995, (one of the oldest Saint Lucian Associations based in London). During that time, he supported local pensioners in the town of Gros Islet; the pre-schools; the renovation of the Catholic and Presbytery churches; victims of personal disasters; and local sports club and pupils requiring financial support and educational aids. He also donated wheelchairs to disabled residents.

Bertram would later become a founding member and Chairman of the Unity of UK Saint Lucian Associations, where he was responsible for formalizing the association as a registered charity in November 2003. He also held the positions of Treasurer, Public Relations Officer, Secretary, Organising Secretary and Chairman in a period that spanned over 11 years.

In 2004, he set up the Windward Islands Banana Support Group (WIBSC UK) comprising representatives from local (UK) Associations of Windward Islands Nationals (Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia and the Commonwealth of Dominica) to partner with European NGOs; trade unions; Latin American banana workers; Caribbean Farmers' Associations; and the Fairtrade Foundation, in an effort to campaign for a better and sustainable banana trade for the Caribbean region. Bertram also held the position as Saint Lucia’s UK representative on the Air Passenger Duty (APD) National Committee, where he was collectively able to articulate to a nationwide audience, the problems which the Caribbean region would face with the imposition of the APD. This national campaign was effective, and it forced the British Government at the time to temporarily suspend future rise in the ADP.

Following the destructive St Jude Hospital fire in Vieux Fort in September 2009, Bertram, in association with the High Commission for Saint Lucia, set up an appeals committee under St Jude (Saint Lucia) Hospital Restoration Fund Appeal (UK), to raise funds for the restoration effort. His fundraising skills were again in evidence, and this helped to raise substantial funds for the hospital restoration fund.

In 2000, Bertram joined the Union of Saint Lucian Overseas Associations (USLOA), an international group that has been in existence for over 35 years and represents St Lucian Associations from Canada, UK, USA, St Croix, Barbados, and Saint Lucia.

He was elected President at the USLOA’s 13th Biennial Convention in 2008 in Barbados and re-elected in 2010, 2012 and 2014. His ability as a spokesperson and leader was once again proven when he delivered a passionate address at the inaugural ‘Saint Lucian Homecoming’ in July 2010 and at the Association’s Biennial Convention in 2012 and 2014 in Saint Lucia. Bertram also supervised the adoption of the association’s constitution during his tenure and the approval of the Diaspora Policy in 2015 by the Saint Lucian Government. He has also delivered addresses in the presence of four Prime Ministers, including, the late Prime Minister of Barbados, Hon. David Thompson – an achievement that has given Bertram immense satisfaction.

In addition to the above achievements, he is also Chairman of The National Committee for the Saint Lucia Hurricane Relief (UK) and through this charity has supported several hospitals and projects on the island and other Caribbean islands with essential equipment and medical aid. Bertram was also responsible for staging the hugely successful Saint Lucia 35th Independence Anniversary exhibition (held in the UK), which traced the history of Saint Lucia and saw over 600 patrons visiting on opening day. He has also supported The Northern Cluster Grassroots Cricket Programme in Saint Lucia with sporting equipment to enable our youths to develop their talents and fulfill their ambition.

Perhaps Bertram's most valuable but unnoticeable contribution to Saint Lucia was the award of the first multi-purpose Blood Mobile Vehicle Unit. A unit that would have cost the nationals health service over £60,000. This vehicle was given to the Ministry of Health in Saint Lucia to help increase our nation’s blood supply and to act as a first response unit in any major emergency on the island. In addition to his other involvements and commitments, he has also worked to support other related charities including, the French Caribbean Association (MBMB) in the UK; the Saint Lucia Community Healthcare and Ambulance Project (UK); the Saint Lucia Diabetes Project (UK); and as a mentor for disaffected youths.

Bertram’s other notable success was being the architect of the Saint Lucian Diaspora Policy which received cross-party support and approval in 2015 from Prime Minister Dr Kenny D. Anthony and his administration.

He is also a recipient of a national honour – the Order of Saint Lucia – Les Piton Medal (Gold) for his long and meritorious service to Saint Lucia and promoting loyal public service, national welfare and strengthening community spirit within Saint Lucia’s national and international community; and the Gros Islet Lilet Award – (Gold medal) for Community Service.

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The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is an International Organisation dedicated to economic harmonisation and integration, protection of human and legal rights, and the encouragement of good governance among independent and non-independent countries in the Eastern Caribbean. The OECS came into being on June 18th 1981, when seven Eastern Caribbean countries signed a treaty agreeing to cooperate with each other while promoting unity and solidarity among its Members. The Treaty became known as the Treaty of Basseterre, so named in honour of the capital city of St. Kitts and Nevis where it was signed. The OECS today, currently has eleven members, spread across the Eastern Caribbean comprising Antigua and Barbuda, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and The Grenadines, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Martinique and Guadeloupe. 

The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States
Morne Fortune
Saint Lucia