Three hundred and sixty-five days.
Typically, this seems like such a short period of time to get ourselves up from where we are to making strides towards where it is we want to be. Yet, here we are, one year later, and Writing Legends has taken off and soared to heights, not even its Founder, Christy Butcher, could have imagined had you asked her about it at this same time last year.
I’ve always admired Christy. With her free spirit and calm demeanour, she’s always been that big sister figure who I could always just pick phone and call and know that I would feel both inspired and exhausted from laughter by the time I hung up. The last year has been nothing short of fascinating as I’ve watched as she transformed from just another disenchanted young professional to the CEO/Founder of what I deem one of the most appealing youth development organizations to hit the Eastern Caribbean in a while.
It all began in August 2017 when a lone, red-haired Christy left her small island St. Lucia to attend the first ever UNLEASH Innovation Lab happening in Denmark over a period of two weeks. Among 1000 attendees, she happened to be was the only one from the entire Eastern Caribbean region. This being the first global event she’d ever attended, it didn’t take long for her to be mind-blown after witnessing the degree of innovation and invention which was taking place in such a short space by young people just like her.
“There are opportunities like this out here!?” she thought to herself.
You see, in the Caribbean, it is very common to hear young people say, “There is nothing to do here” or “There are no opportunities in the Caribbean”. We exist in an environment where innovation translates to building of more hotels or other attractions to grow Tourism. We experience such high levels of youth unemployment, disillusionment and brain drain, that whenever a young person is doing significant back home one of the most frequent questions they are asked is, “How are you still in the Caribbean?”
Appalled by the depth of the experience and the realization of just how disadvantaged youth in the Eastern Caribbean were, Christy recognized the need to increase the awareness and availability of such opportunities back home and in the region at large. She knew she needed to change the stigma and poor image associated with social impact and development work among young people. Driven and catapulted by passion, Christy embarked on the journey to take on the challenge as her own.
THE BIRTH OF WRITING LEGENDS
Back in St. Lucia immediately following UNLEASH, Christy devoted all her time and resources to establishing Writing Legends.
Today, Writing Legends is a youth development social enterprise operating in the Eastern Caribbean. The BE LEGENDARY brand is built on the philosophy that the actions of today pen the tales which one day are spoken of us. With the founding quote, “TODAY is our future’s past. Let’s Write Legends”, the entity promotes intentional and purposeful actions as a means of leading lives we can be proud to reflect on.
At its core, Writing Legends acts as a conduit between global youth-centric initiatives and youth in the Eastern Caribbean. Through partnerships with various global organizations and movements, it provides opportunities whereby young people could create meaningful impact, while actively developing themselves personally and professionally. With the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework, the long-term vision is a Caribbean region where youth are motivated and possess the will, resources, and environment to achieve. This would not just help greatly to curtail the youth disenchantment and brain drain currently seen in the Caribbean but would also form the foundation for a new Caribbean generation of innovative thinkers and entrepreneurs, thereby creating a mindset towards sustainable economic growth, industry and improved infrastructure in the region.
HAVE FUN. DO GOOD. BE LEGENDARY.
More than anything else, Writing Legends is all about doing good and having fun along the way. It exists at the intersection between impact and enjoyment. This positioning is fundamental as typically in the Caribbean cultural context doing good, social development and impact are not always sexy. They are not packaged in a way suitable to be readily received by the younger generation. Throughout her own journey as a young person living in the region, what Christy also found is that development work is not usually branded as having profit potential and so it is not appealing and not something that youth usually aspire to be a part of.
Thus, this fresh concept of youth development finds opportunities to marry enjoyment, impact and entrepreneurship.
Writing Legends revolves its initiatives around three pillars - Education, Innovation, and Donation. In just one year, the entity has enjoyed many successes in alignment with these prongs.
1. Merit Eastern Caribbean (2017)
Merit Eastern Caribbean (Merit EC) is a regional council of World Merit, a global organization based in Liverpool. World Merit is a youth organization offering rewards and opportunities in exchange for young people's actions towards the achievement of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The organization is made up of a global team of creative, academic, daring, friendly, caring activists addressing the world's most pressing social issues and trying to make the world a better place.
Merit EC brings the World Merit movement to the region by operating as a coordinating mechanism to champion, reward and provide visibility to young people’s actions which help achieve the SDGs in the Eastern Caribbean. Their goal is for young people in the region to be sensitized enough about the SDGs that they incorporate their achievement into their everyday life and can experience the value of their contributions and witness the potential of their work.
1. UNLEASH Eastern Caribbean (2018)
UNLEASH is an innovation lab for the SDGs bringing 1000 of the world’s best and brightest to work on solutions to global challenges.
Ahead of the 2018 Lab, Christy approached the UNLEASH Secretariat to become a Talent Partner to facilitate more Eastern Caribbean youth taking part in the event. In 2018, two other St Lucians attended the innovation lab through Writing Legends nomination and were inducted as the first members of the entity’s UNLEASH Eastern Caribbean caucus. The aim of UNLEASH EC is to train a body of innovative thinkers with the experience and design thinking mindset to drive social innovation in the region.
Through their Talent Partnership, they hope to facilitate more Eastern Caribbean youth attending the innovation lab taking place every year until 2030.
2. Social Business Consulting (2018)
Writing Legends takes existing and emerging entrepreneurs through their 5-step design thinking innovation process to identify/create linkages between their initiatives and the SDGs and explore platforms for providing greater visibility and support for their work within the SDG space. Basically, they SDG-fy entrepreneurship!
3. BeL Fitness (2019)
Staying healthy is hard! BeL Fitness is a multidimensional approach to rebrand health & wellness through fun, innovative activities which promote physical activity, encourage healthy lifestyles and address non-communicable diseases in the Eastern Caribbean.
“BeL Fitness” represents Writing Legends’ BE LEGENDARY mantra and its philosophy of being
intentional about the journey we make of our lives, but also it speaks to a “BeL” fitness story. “BeL” in St.
Lucia’s local dialect is a derivative of the French word “belle” which means beautiful, attractive, enjoyable or nice. The BeL Fitness journey is one which you make your own, to achieve your individual, best and most enjoyable version of physical health and wellness.
‘The Writing Legends Foundation’ is the entity’s philanthropic arm which allows it to continue innovating for and supporting youth/social development in the Eastern Caribbean. The following are Writing Legends' philanthropic activities:
1. #GivingTuesday Eastern Caribbean (2018)
#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving celebrated annually on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping events. This day kicks off the charitable season when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement which celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy by harnessing the potential of social media and the generosity of people around the world to bring about real change in their communities.
As the official collaborator for the Eastern Caribbean, Writing Legends hopes to utilise this global day of Giving to support and bring visibility to the work of local organizations and causes, while providing the platform through which they may capitalise on the season of giving and solicit funding and other support for their initiatives.
Change does not happen overnight.
Having a conversation is one of the simplest things we can do to create change, yet often times it is the most difficult. For Christy, from the inception, she has chosen to find the changemakers doing the things she wants to see happening in the Caribbean and achieve common ground. As a result of this tenacity and risk-taking, aside from its own initiatives, Writing Legends is a partner on the following regional initiatives:
Caribbean Climate Smart Accelerator, an initiative launched alongside Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Unite, the Inter-American Development Bank, Usain Bolt and several the public and private stakeholders to build the Caribbean over the next five years into the world’s first climate-smart zone.
StartUp Huddle St Lucia (SHSL), an initiative of the Global Entrepreneurship Network, YLAI, and local organization SLUDTERA aimed at promoting youth entrepreneurship in the region.
The Next Big Inventor, a small scale innovation competition executed together with Joshua Esnard, creator of ‘The Cut Buddy’ as seen on Shark Tank, and local organization, SLUDTERA.
Lessons from Writing Legends
It takes strength to be vulnerable, and sometimes it takes being vulnerable to create change. But we are the youth now, and we can make today’s discomfort tomorrow's normality. There is comfort in the uncomfortable, for we know that when we go where nobody has before we are moving forward while becoming changemakers.
Here’s to having fun, doing good, and being LEGENDARY!