Louisa Cumberbatch-Hunte, believed to be the oldest Barbadian-born centenarian in Canada, and Dr. Paul Steinbok, who is a renowned neurosurgeon, were celebrated at the Barbados Ball Canada Aid’s (BBCA) 11th annual fundraiser last Saturday in Brampton.
Cumberbatch-Hunte, who turns 107 in September and has attended the last four BBCA events, credits a daily consumption of Welch’s grape juice, cod liver oil and Sanatogen powder for her long life.
Born in Bel Air, St. Philip in 1907, the mother of four worked as a seamstress in Barbados before migrating to Canada in 1974 to join one of her sons.
Gwendoline Ramsay, who passed away six weeks after joining the exclusive centenarians’ club last February 7, and Lydia Richardson, who turned 100 earlier this year, were also recognized at the event. Richardson was unable to attend the function because of illness.
Six years ago, the BBCA established an award to recognize a Barbadian in the Diaspora for outstanding professional and/or community service. This year’s recipient is Vancouver-based Dr. Steinbok, who is considered a world leader in paediatric neurosurgery.
Born in Barbados in 1947 to Polish immigrant parents, Steinbok graduated from Harrison College and the University of the West Indies where he attended on a Barbados scholarship. After completing a one-year scholarship at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, he returned to Jamaica to finish medical school in 1971 and then did an internship in Toronto and his residency in neurosurgery at the University of British Columbia.
A Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada in neurosurgery, he was awarded a Medical Research Council of Canada research fellowship to the University of North Carolina and Duke University for studies in brain tumours. He was also the head of the division of neurosurgery and chair of the paediatric neurosurgery fellowship program at the British Columbia Children’s Hospital.
“I have received many different awards over the years, but they are usually from my peers for the work I have done in the medical field,” said Steinbok, who is a professor at the University of British Columbia and a 2013 recipient of the A.D. Forward Postgraduate Faculty Teaching Award. “To be recognized by the country of my birth is really very special.”
Steinbok still has fond memories of growing up in Barbados, which he visits at least once a year to reconnect with his 87-year-old mother and five siblings who reside on the island.
“We lived close to the Garrison and a fence separated our home from the beach where I would often play cricket and go fishing with my friends after school and at weekends,” said the married father of two children. “I took those things for granted. When I think of how relatively confined people are in Canada, I realize how special that was. That’s something I still look back on very fondly along with the educational system that provided the backbone for me to achieve success.”
The eldest of seven siblings, Steinbok plans to spend winter in Barbados when he retires.
His father migrated to Trinidad & Tobago while his mother and her family moved to Barbados during the German invasion. His mom met his dad while attending a wedding in T & T and the couple settled in Barbados after tying the nuptial knot in 1947.
Steinbok has returned to Jamaica to initiate a neuroendoscopy program at the University Hospital of the West Indies and has assisted neurosurgeons in Jamaica and Barbados in complex pediatric neurosurgical cases.
Former Barbados Consul General Kay McConney conceived the idea for the establishment of the BBCA to provide annual post-secondary bursaries and financial assistance to charitable organizations that offer health care services and programs and assist youth with disabilities.
“It’s wonderful to see us honour Dr. Steinbok because that says we are reaching across Canada for Barbadians who have not only had an impact in Barbados and Canada, but also globally,” said McConney, who is an executive coach and management and development consultant. “I am really excited about the way we are not only celebrating the young people through scholarships, but the excellence of our community wherever it can be found in Canada.”
The BBCA also presented a Volunteer of the Year award to Joan Hinds, who has assisted with the silent auction in the past four years. The legal assistant was employed with Barclays Bank before migrating in 1987.
In the last seven years, the organization has presented $105,000 in scholarships to 35 students and will present $15,000 to the Caribbean SickKids Paediatric Cancer & Blood Disorders Project (CSPCBDP). In February 2013, the BBCA made a $50,000 commitment to the initiative aimed at improving diagnoses and outcomes for children affected by paediatric cancers and serious blood disorders.
“We have fulfilled that goal, but we will continue to support the initiative financially,” said BBCA president Steve Kirton.
The organization has also committed to support the Barbados Olympic Association and the Paralympic Association of Barbados in their preparation for next year’s Toronto Pan Am and Parapan American Games.
Outgoing Barbados High Commissioner Evelyn Greaves attended the gala. It was his last official appearance in Toronto before he demits office on June 30.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Canada and it was an honour to serve my country,” said the 74-year-old former Democratic Labour Party Member of Parliament, who arrived here in 2008 as his country’s top diplomat.Louisa Cumberbatch-Hunte, believed to be the oldest Barbadian-born centenarian in Canada, and Dr. Paul Steinbok, who is a renowned neurosurgeon, were celebrated at the Barbados Ball Canada Aid’s (BBCA) 11th annual fundraiser last Saturday in Brampton.