Bermuda’s own Neletha ‘Honey’ Butterfield is back on the literary trail, with another new book, entitled ‘Student Essays For The Soul’, featuring a heartfelt foreward by former MP Ashfield DeVent.

This marks book number eight for the author and founder of CARE Learning Centre.

In ‘Student Essays For The Soul’, she shares over 200 essays written over the years by students who either left or were expelled from public school before graduation.

A description of the book states: “Why did she save them all these years? These written expressions give us a beautiful glimpse of who these young persons and adults are and who they hoped to become.

“The essays present a before and after snapshot of their thoughts and feelings and their transformations through education.”

When contacted by Bermuda Real, Ms Butterfield, who resides in Jamaica, said: “I am in the process of completing ‘The Soul of CARE – 38 Years Of Educating The Community’.

“After completing that I am looking forward to writing about my COVID-19 journey as a survivor.

“I asked Ashfield to write the foreword because he was a former Programme Director at the learning centre and he had quite an experience there.

“I was a Minister of the Government and needed someone to run the school,” she added.

Ms Butterfield, who has taught countless students over the years, also provided this email from the mother of student who passed away:

Good Evening Dr Honorable Neletha Butterfield:

It was a pleasure to hear your voice and talk to you as well. You have been a great inspiration and pillar in our community. Your hard work and dedication has touched more people than you know.

God has used your life to reach many young men and women in the community. I remember when I was looking for somewhere for Oronde to complete his schooling and to obtain his GED.

I knew about the Adult Education program, but in my spirit I felt Oronde should be somewhere else and then I came across your school  CARE Learning Centre, I called then went to see and immediately knew this is Oronde should be.

Thank You again for being a part of my Son’s life journey, he really enjoyed his time with you and was glad he was there.  I miss Oronde so very much, he was such a beautiful and respectful Son, and I Thank God for all the wonderful memories which I cherish of him.

I will definitely pass on this information about the book to our Family, Friends and Loved ones.
May God’s Peace, Love and Protection alway be with you.

Another mother states:

You only express love and support always. I thank God for you without going too deep but I can say anyone that touched my son’s life like you did, I will forever be grateful. A sister states:This book is rich and my family really appreciates you remembering our loved one.

From an aunt:  I got my five (5) books, thanks. I sat in my car and immediately read my book for an hour. This book portrays your 38 years of teaching. The students say it all. I enjoyed reading the students’ goals, aims and ambitions, essays, graduates messages, class lists and your conclusion.

CONGRATULATIONS!  His mother is so happy that he is being remembered in this way. I purchased two more so four of the books will be shared with her Bermuda and USA families.

FOREWORD by Ashfield DeVent

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”

                                                                                                                   – President, Nelson Mandela  

The author of this book, “Student Essays for the Soul” would have first become known to me as a Bermuda Progressive Labour Party (PLP) candidate in the 1993 Bermuda General Election. Although unsuccessful in that first run for Parliament, she was appointed and served as a Senator for five years before eventually winning her Parliamentary seat in the PLP’s historic victory of November 9th, 1998. The first time in Bermuda’s history the majority of voters elected a government of mostly African descended men and women to lead a country of majority African descended people.

The Honourable Neletha Butterfield, MBE, JP, went on to enjoy a very successful political career lasting almost 20 years. During those years she served as a Government Minister under four different Premiers, being appointed as Minister without Portfolio, Minister of Environment, Minister of Education, Minister of Telecommunication and E Commerce, Minister of Culture and Social Rehabilitation Minister of Public Information Services and Minister of Government Estates and Information Services. I think she may hold the record for heading up the most ministries in the history of Bermuda.

Neletha’s political career is clear proof of her commitment to the service of her country Bermuda and its people.I was extremely blessed to become both a colleague and eventual friend of Neletha when I was elected to join her in Parliament in 2002, winning the seat in Parliament vacated following the untimely death of PLP stalwart The Honourable David Allen.  I served close to 11 years with her in Parliament. It was during those years that I grew to know her as much more than just a politician but as a trailblazer, revolutionist, educator, employer, author, business woman, mother and grandmother. A person dedicated to not just talking the talk but walking the walk. A woman of great fortitude and immense faith.

I vividly remember ‘Honey’ as she is fondly known to many, constantly preaching from the floor of the House of Parliament the importance and need for anyone able, to give back to their communities….”each one reach one, each one teach one” she would often repeat this quote on her feet in the House of Parliament.

As a woman of action she has taught and reached thousands of Bermudians, both young and mature. She has dedicated her life to teaching as many as possible. She began the journey of educating others 38 years ago in 1983, working alongside another education trailblazer Dr. Muriel Wade-Smith. At a time when many had only heard of a computer, Dr Muriel Wade-Smith ran a computer education lab at her Smith’s Parish home with a connection to Neletha via a modem and telephone line. They were practicing “distant learning” long before anyone ever heard of a covid virus.

Thirty-four-year-old, single mother Neletha soon opened her own school, CARE (Children and Adults Reaching for Education) in the basement of her Pembroke home. A computer friendly, afterschool class that’s seen many successful Bermudians pass through its door as children. I am constantly surprised to meet people who were her “CARE Bears”.

The following year in 1984, she was approached by Mr Edwin Wilson, the then and first Education Officer in the Bermuda Prison Service, asking if she would be interested in introducing the computer learning program in the local prison system. Of course, Neletha jumped at the opportunity and started the program in the female prison and Senior Training School. Following the success of the program Wilson requested that she take it to Casemate Prison, the islands’ maximum security male facility. In the first-year inmates sat the first GED examination, 20 out of 24 were successful. Many inmates have followed over the years, gaining computer skills and obtaining high school diplomas, improving their lives and reducing their chances of returning behind bars, all through the efforts and instructions of Neletha.

As government after government continues to grapple with a less than satisfactory school system, it should take a closer look at alternative institutions like CARE with a view to finding what they do that works. The government must also consider offering greater financial support to ensure their survival. Every young person that fails to reach their full potential becomes a potential burden and or threat to society.

As a former chairman of the Bermuda Parole Board, I can tell you that the majority of inmates have failed to graduate high school. Worldwide, there is a direct correlation between education levels and chances of incarceration. Less educated persons have a greater chance of a life of crime, gang involvement and landing behind prison walls. In the words of Confucius “Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace”. An uneducated man will often struggle to experience real peace in today’s world.

In this book Neletha shares over 200 of these essays written over the years by students who either left or were expelled from public school before graduating. These written expressions give us a glimpse of who these people are and hoped to become. A before and after snapshot of their thoughts and feelings. Having been personally involved with some of these students I can speak directly to the power of their transformations through education.

The lack of self-worth and confidence compared to the graduate, beaming with the pride of accomplishment and success. The difference between a “high school dropout” and a cap and gown wearing, certificate carrying, graduate.

The contrast of someone who saw no future or place in the world compared to a man or woman with a new vision of their own abilities and boundless possibilities.

Having attended numerous CARE and prison GED graduations I can confess that each time I find myself wiping away tears, overcome with emotion at seeing students taking a major step in achieving their 
life aspirations.  There can be no better feeling than watching the success of a fellow human. Neletha has assisted and watched hundreds of Bermudians make steps to a better life. Through dedication to education Neletha has lifted many from the depths of darkness and despair into the light of knowledge and self-belief.

I know, through my involvement in the day to day running of CARE that the school often struggles to meet its financial obligations, such as, rent, teacher’s salaries, support of students unable to pay fees and the general costs of operating the school have to be met. It has reached a stage where the school may no longer be able to stay open through lack of finances.

As your read these students stories, I implore you, to honestly reassess your own role in helping our at-risk young people. Might you have more to offer? How might you help Neletha continue her efforts and ensure that CARE continues to operate?

These are issues that particularly affect us as the Black community. Issues that we must confront for our very survival as a people.

It was Victor Hugo who once said “He who opens a school door, closes a prison.”

We have not yet closed a prison but we might see a school close.

Ms Butterfield has probably helped thousands of students avoid prison and many more not return behind bars through education.

Thank you Dr the Honourable Neletha Butterfield for your life’s work. If we as Black Bermudians fail to help you to continue your vision, we will have none to blame but ourselves.

Books are available at CARE Learning Centre or the BookMart at Brown and Co for $30.00.