“Using Sports to Build Communities…” - 14 sept 2008

“Using Sports to Build Communities…”

So last Sunday morning we were heading out of Diego Martin very early in the morning and noticed that the highway was blocked.  Slowing down as we approached the police barrier, we could see that the reason was the ‘Get Moving Family and Fitness Sundays’.  
I remembered that this was a pilot project for the five Sundays in August and involved the Diego Martin Highway, (between Crystal Stream and the Wendy Fitzwilliam Boulevard) being blocked off to vehicular traffic.  This was to allow communities to come out to jog, ride their bikes, walk, roller blade etc.  Of course, I was particularly pleased to see it continuing in September as it seems like a real Vision 2020 project.  It is an initiative of cyclist Michael Phillips, the Ministry of Sports & Youth Affairs, the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago Ltd and with support from the Diego Martin Regional Cooperation.  It is Vision 2020 in that it sees citizens partnering with the state to ‘Nurture a Caring Society’.
Michael says that he saw this concept in Latin American cities while he visited for cycling competitions.  There it is called ‘ciclovilla’.  Under these initiatives, about 30 km of highway is blocked off to vehicular traffic.  Michael explains how he prepared a proposal which he took to the Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs and after reading it, Minister Hunt decided to champion it.  This weekly event is very well organized.  There are proper signs everywhere, police support, an ambulance on site and corporate sponsors ensure that refreshments are available. 
The pilot worked on several levels Michael says.   Firstly, it strengthened communities as families came out and interacted with each other, children played together – people from different walks in life, actually found out who their neighbours are.  Secondly, the various events exposed children to healthy competition and would hopefully encourage them to take up a sport.  Thirdly, it promoted exercise and a healthy lifestyle.  There is more information about this initiative at http://www.caribbeancycling.net/eventscurrent.html as well as pictures at http://www.caribbeancycling.net/photosrecent.html
Michael says that the next step is to work with stakeholders to replicate this project in San Fernando, and someday, perhaps have the entire bus route blocked off to traffic on a Sunday morning.  He encourages others with similar ideas to approach their regional corporations and the Sports Ministry.  Michael is full of praise for Minister Hunt in particular, whom he says, worked very hard to make this happen. Fatca Tax Singapore
My friend, Rashmi, is another one who moved back to Trinidad and Tobago after spending a number of years in colder climes.  We were chatting recently about every day life in Trinidad and Tobago which in so many ways, can be quite challenging to say the least.  So challenging, that some of us seriously reconsider our reasons for returning ‘home’.  This is precisely why I think it is important to highlight positive initiatives such as the Get Moving Family & Fitness Sundays.  It is about regular people working together, often with support from the state, and making a positive difference.  That’s part of what Vision 2020 has to offer us all.

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