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(PRESS RELEASE) – Bertram Omar Leon has been honoured in the Queen’s New Year’s Day Honours 2020 for services to the St Lucian community in the UK and Abroad.
He is a former President of the St. Lucian international overseas association with members in the USA, UK, Canada, St Croix, Barbados, and St Lucia. He is the current chairman of the Gros-Islet Community Association UK, Treasurer for the St Lucia Diabetes Project (UK) and co-director of Caribbean Skills Bank Project (to name some of his many involvements). He will receive a medal of the Order of the British Empire.
Bertram was born in the Victoria Hospital, Castries on 20th April 1960. He was brought up in Gros Islet by his grandparents, but left St Lucia in 1971 at the age 10-year-old, to join his father in London. His father – Mr Leonard Leon, was a founder member and youngest member of the first Gros-islet Town Council set up in the 1950s.
His mother was a schoolteacher from Grande Riviere, Gros Islet. Bertram completed his secondary schooling in London and higher education at the University of Surrey and Kingston University in the UK. At the ending of his academic years at Surrey University, he was elected President of one of the University’s colleges in 1986. He is one of only two known former Presidents of a university in the UK from St Lucia, the other being the late, the Hon. George Odlum.
Bertram has worked in both the public and private sector for over 35 years, holding several senior positions. He now manages his consultancy in Contract and Project Management and is also a 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 already 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 St Lucia itself.
His St Lucian community involvement started as early as 1980. He became chairman of the New Generation of Young St Lucians (UK) (NEWGEN), an offshoot of the established St Lucian Association of London (1963) around 1992, 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 St 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 church and presbytery, victims of personal disaster, donated wheelchairs to disabled residents, supporting local sports club and pupils requiring financial support and educational aids.
He later became a founder member and chairman of Unity of UK St Lucian Associations, where he was responsible for formalizing the association as a registered charity in November 2003. He also held the positions of Treasurer, PRO, 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 of representatives from local (UK) Associations of Windward Islands Nationals (Grenada, St Vincent & The Grenadines, St Lucia and Dominica) to partner with European NGOs, trade unions, Latin American banana workers, Caribbean farmers Associations and the Fairtrade Foundation, to campaigning for a better and sustainable banana trade for the Caribbean region. He also held the position as St 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 temporally suspend future rise in the ADP.
Following the destructive St Jude Hospital fire in Vieux Fort in September 2009, he, in association with the High Commission for Saint Lucia, set up an appeals committee under St Jude (St 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 St Lucian Overseas Associations (USLOA), an international group which has been in existence for over 35 years and represents St Lucian Associations from Canada, UK, USA, St Croix, Barbados and St Lucia.
He was elected President at the USLOA’s 13th Biennial Convention in 2008 in Barbados and re-elected in 2010, 2012 and 2014. He ability as a spokesperson and leader were in evidence when he delivered a passionate address at the inaugural ‘St Lucian Homecoming’ in July 2010 and at the Association’s Biennial Convention in 2012 and 2014 in St Lucia. Bertram also oversaw the adoption of the association’s constitution during his tenure and the approval of the Diaspora Policy in 2015 by the St Lucian Government. He has also delivered addresses in the presence of four Prime Ministers, including, the late Barbados PM David Thompson, an achievement that has given Mr Leon immense satisfaction.
He is also chairman of The National Committee for St 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 aids. He was also responsible for staging the hugely successful St Lucia 35 Independence Anniversary exhibition (held in the UK), which traced the history of St Lucia and saw over 600 patrons visiting on opening day. He has also supported The Northern Cluster Grassroots Cricket Programme in St Lucia with sporting equipment to enable our youths to develop their talents and fulfil their ambition.
Perhaps Mr Leon’s most valuable but unnoticeable contribution to St 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 St 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 work to support other related charities including, the French Caribbean Association (MBMB) in the UK; the St Lucia Community Healthcare & Ambulance Project (UK), the St Lucia Diabetes Project (UK) and as a mentor for disaffected youths.
Bertram’s other notable success was being the architect of the St Lucian Diaspora Policy which received cross-party support and approval in 2015 from PM 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 strengthen community spirit within St Lucia’s national and international community; and the Gros Islet Lilet Award – (Gold medal) for Community Service.