By Michael Yeoman
The Oneida Daily Dispatch
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Chuck Fox of Hamilton is a name synonymous with Community Bikes – a local mission he established that has provided over 1,000 bikes to individuals and families in need throughout Madison County.
In the same spirit of giving, Fox has embarked on a new project to develop a music program for at-risk youths in the nation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Fox indicated that the mission of Community Bikes has always been to expand the program beyond Madison County.
Community Bikes became associated with the nation of St. Kitts and Nevis last year after Fox connected with Colgate University graduate Kathryn Bertine. In 2008, Bertine was granted citizenship by St. Kitts and Nevis which allows her to represent the island nation in various international cycling competitions. In return, Bertine made a commitment to help the country build a cycling federation – hoping that someday it would send a cyclist to the Olympics.
Working with Community Bikes, 75 two-wheelers were delivered with assistance of the Air Force, along with a full pallet of much-needed medical supplies.
“Last year we literally gave away over 300 bicycles in Oneida in a two hour time span, Fox said. “This bicycle giveaway in St. Kitts and Nevis was a national news event. The embassy was there, the Defense Force was there – it was a big deal”.
Through the various connections associated with this initial outreach mission, Fox grew even more committed to expanding its work and asked about other needs.
Located in the Leeward Islands, the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis is the smallest sovereign state in the Americas, in both area and population. The total population is 41,000 – about half that of Madison County, yet only two schools within the country offer any form of music education program. Fox imagined that a music program that would engage at-risk youths could have a major impact on individuals who have already begun drifting toward drugs and gang violence.
“It’s a bit of a pivot from our original project,” said Fox, “but the music project is consistent with our broader mission to foster personal and community development where there is a need.”
The project, designed by the Ministries of Culture in St. Kitts and Nevis, has three goals: to develop a community band, to expand the country’s international brass band and to preserve the country’s indigenous music, string band music. Fox explained that, like calypso and reggae, String Band music has African roots and features instruments of African origin. “There is one remaining craftsman on the islands who still makes the instruments,” said Fox. “The goal is to preserve the music, heritage and craft before the opportunity is lost.”
To succeed the program needs donations of instruments, equipment, music supplies and instruction on instrument repair. “I am sure, that, similar to our bike program, people have an instrument in their attic or closet that has not been played in years – Such a donation could have a profound impact on the lives of these young people,” Fox said.
He noted that a number of area schools including Hamilton, Morrisville-Eaton and Sherburne-Earlville have already expressed an interest in helping the project by possibly hosting instrument drives. Fox hopes that other schools will join the project as more people become aware of what the organization is trying to accomplish.
He foresees this project as having great benefits to local middle schools. Through current technology since as Skype, music students from St. Kitts and Nevis could communicate with local students and also share their concerts
“This is a three to five- year project that provides an opportunity for students to have a real impact on the lives of their peers in a neighboring country,” said Fox. “At the same time, students will engage with the international community through music and, in doing so, broaden their world view through an exciting exchange of music, culture, heritage and history. Through music, students will have an opportunity to represent their school, their community and their country.”
To get involved, and for a full list of instruments and resources needed, Fox cited the website intandempartners.org under the heading St. Kitts and Nevis Music Project, or directed those interested to call 315-824-8210.