“Pride in Laventille” - 17 aug 2008

“Pride in Laventille”

About two and a half weeks ago, an entity known as the Laventille Pride Foundation had its media launch at the Success Laventille Composite School.  It’s an initiative led by the MP for Laventille West, NiLeung Hypolite.  Also speaking at the launch were Minister Joseph Ross, Minister Gary Hunt and MP Anthony Roberts.  This foundation’s first effort is a project aimed at encouraging tourism in the Laventille area.   I saw this story on one of the dailies – actually it was the internet version of one of the local dailies, as I prefer reading the news online.  This online article was followed by a blog – i.e. comments from readers, most of which were cynical and unsupportive.
The news report and the reader comments / feedback really had me thinking about Laventille.  There is much being said about Laventille.  It sometimes feels as if more negative things are reported on Laventille than positive and when something positive is reported (such as the piece on this new foundation), the response is all too often cynical.  The reality is that if anyone compiles a list of regions in Trinbago with an image problem, Laventille will be on that list.  Of course, there is senseless criticism but there are also serious discussions.  One thing that much of the ‘serious’ discourse seems to agree on, is that we need to explore the reasons for Afro Trinidadian males dominating the wrong end of so many social indicators. 
Fr Harvey in his capacity as Chair of the Morris Marshall Foundation says that one of the underlying issues is the absence of rites of initiation.  Specifically young black males do not have a standard ritual or event that marks their passage into manhood.  Perhaps connected with this void is the absence of positive male role models in the lives of young men.  These twin voids create an opportunity for those who represent not-too-wholesome principles, to come in as ‘role’ models.  These models portray a less-than-ideal path to manhood such as (prematurely) fathering a child or initiation into a ‘gang’.
SERVOL has done some fantastic work particularly through its Adolescent Development Programme (ADP) at its many Life Centres.  Aside from ensuring literacy and numeracy, they equip young people with marketable skills, instill a sense of confidence and self awareness that makes the ADP a model that is recognized and replicated internationally. IRS Singapore
The Morris Marshall Foundation is also working on a mentoring initiative that would help address the twin voids Fr Harvey has identified.  But aside from positive initiatives, there are many, many positive stories to be told.  One of them is the story of NW.  Fr Harvey allowed NW, a 17 year old young man, to give us his story one morning.  Growing up without his biological father, NW was the victim of abuse at home which put him in the hospital on about 3 occasions, was homeless on the streets of Port of Spain for a while and was even threatened at gun point to join a gang.  Despite all this, NW resisted all temptations to stay out of trouble and remain on that straight and narrow path.  Today, he enjoys playing pan for a popular steel band in the Port of Spain area as well as having a steady job at a big construction site.  All of us who heard this young man’s story were at a loss for words.  It was a story of ‘resilience’ and of what someone can achieve, against even the worst odds.
Fr Harvey starts and ends his meetings with a prayer.  At the last meeting, I really paid attention to his words.  He prayed for God’s help and guidance in working towards what he refers to as a dream.  Some dreams may be of a future reality that is remarkably different from the present. Perhaps these dreams are unrealistic, perhaps they are not – time will tell.  Regardless, I consider it critical that we dare to dream – our present would not be the same were it not for the dreamers of the past. 
At the same time, we acknowledge that ‘work’ turns a dream into reality.  So let’s continue to work together to make Trinidad and Tobago into a country, of which we could be even prouder, as we journey towards 2020.

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