Beyond her faith and family, Giavana Bain Jones ’02 has two primary passions: education and psychology. Her first visit to Saint Ben’s helped spark that love of education when she was barely 5 years old – visiting the United States from her native Bahamas and holding the hand of her grandmother, Dorothy Coakley Lockhart, of the class of 1977. And it was at Saint Ben’s that she first studied psychology, through which she has influenced the lives of many Bahamians with the by-products of hope.
Her two-pronged advocacy exemplifies many of the Benedictine values and is a shining reason why she is the recipient of the 2022 Benedictine Service Award.
Giavana came to Saint Ben’s as a junior in standing, after completing her first two years at the CSB and SJU campus in the Bahamas. Before graduating, she got involved in a volunteer drive that led to her working at the St. Cloud Children’s Home.
“That was one of the bigger seeds that was planted for me to become the person I am,” she says. “I saw the child-welfare system in America and, when I got back home, I was like ‘Wow. We don’t have anything like that.’ That had a lot to do with the direction my career path has taken.”
She immediately got her master’s in mental health counseling and later earned her Ph.D. with a focus on community psychology. In 2016, she co-founded Stories of Hope, an organization with a mission of ending the stigma around mental health in Bahamian culture. Its hallmark program, Camp Hope, is a place where kids can come who have experienced trauma and find intervention in a developmentally appropriate, fun atmosphere.
In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, which slammed the Bahamas in 2019, Camp Hope was going to be part of the recovery. Then COVID hit and not only prevented those efforts, but added new traumas to children’s lives. This summer, Camp Hope is targeting school age children in New Providence and Grand Bahama who have been negatively impacted by either the hurricane or COVID – or both.
While she uses psychology to serve the needs of Bahamian children, Giavana continues to promote education as a tool to improve the future in her philanthropic work with the Lyford Cay Foundation and the Templeton Religion Trust. Lyford Cay provides $1 million each year in scholarships to 100 students in the Bahamas. And Templeton helps support projects and storytelling related to enriching the conversation about religion.
“Education is the door that opens us to our greatest potential,” says Giavana. “For kids who never had a dream, never thought about the opportunity to go to college and, if they had, it probably wasn’t realistic because they weren’t high-flyers academically and weren’t very well off to be able to afford it, it’s life-changing to offer hope to them.”
If that’s not enough, Giavana has also served as a professor at the University of the Bahamas for the past five years – and she maintains her own private counseling practice, often seeing patients one night a week and on weekends. Unfortunately, the combination of her commitments prevented her from personally attending this year’s reunion. But her absence only means she’s working hard to improve the lives of people in her country.
“It’s our Christian duty to help others, to be kind and compassionate,” she said. “To me, work has to be meaningful. I have to have a purpose, and career-wise I always wanted to be a helper of some sort.”