Ian Hickling is President of Manufacturing for Lenstec Corporation, a Florida-based medical device company serving the global ophthalmic surgical market. Ian manages the operations of Lenstec Inc., the company’s sole global manufacturing and production facility, which is located in Barbados. Established in 1995, with just four employees, Lenstec Barbados today employs over 200 people and designs, manufactures and distributes a wide range of intraocular lens (IOL) implants and lens injection systems to more than 60 countries around the world. Under Ian’s stewardship, Lenstec Barbados has become internationally renowned for its innovation and design of leading-edge medical device technologies.
Ian and his wife Aida have lived in Barbados for over 20 years, where they have raised their three young children.
Ian Hickling: Despite the fact that Aida and I both originate from very different geographical and cultural backgrounds to Barbados – she is Eritrean and I’m from New Zealand – I guess you really could say that we are now a modern-day Bajan family, especially as all of our three kids were born here. I met Aida when I was working for an NGO in Eritrea and Nepal, setting up medical device factories making lenses for cataract operations. As that work was coming to an end I was planning to go back home to New Zealand to find a job but, out of the blue, in 1996 I was offered a short-term position to start-up a commercial lens factory in Barbados. Aida and I were engaged by then, so we discussed it and decided to make a go of what sounded like an exciting opportunity to live in a new part of the world. We were young and ready for adventure, so relocating to Barbados and setting up home here seemed like a good next step in our life.
Aida Hickling: It was difficult when we first arrived, especially for me because it was such a big cultural change from my life in Eritrea. Everything was so different. But we made a special effort to go to as many events as possible, to meet new people and fit into the Barbados way of life. We soon discovered that Bajans are generally very welcoming and we found ourselves ‘adopted’ by several families, even being invited to their Christmas celebrations, which was a totally new experience for me. After a couple of years we had built a group of very nice friends and started to enjoy our new life a lot more. But the really big change came when our first child, Maela, was born. That was when I really started to appreciate Barbados and understand how fortunate we are to live here.
This island is a wonderful place to raise children. And once our sons, Senai and Fasil came along and we had three children, all of their different activities and going to school in different age groups introduced us to a whole new set of friends from all walks of life. The education here is excellent, and we talk of it proudly when we are overseas. All three of the children went to St. Gabriel’s primary school, while the older two are now at Harrison College secondary school, which means we have experienced both the private and public education system.
Ian Hickling: The level of education here is definitely good, but I think that the extra bonus for kids in Barbados is they benefit from international exposure – on a daily basis – and that all adds up to young people who have confidence in any culture, and who can interact with anyone. And I think that aspect of their development is reinforced by the fact that we socialize with people at all strata of society, probably more so than would ever occur in our home countries.
Aida Hickling: Our children are very happy in Barbados. They know about our New Zealand and Eritrean backgrounds, but Barbados is their home, they are Bajans. Barbados is good for children. They grow up in a happy and healthy outdoors environment. Kids here mix a lot with adults, so they learn how to handle themselves well socially and become confident and self-assured.
I find that it is easy to enjoy life in Barbados, as a family and as adults. There are so many fun and interesting things to do and places to visit, not just the beach, which of course we all love to do. I like the fact that people enjoy entertaining each other in their homes, and there is a comfortable, relaxed attitude to friends just popping in for a glass of wine. It is a very friendly and family oriented country. Perhaps that is why we feel safe here and I never have to worry about the children when we are out in public places. Our family is happy in Barbados.