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Fr Pantin to be laid to rest tomorrow

By Rachael Espinet Wednesday, June 25 2014

SERVOL vows to continue the work of their founder, Father Gerard Pantin, who passed away on Monday at the age of 85, at Spiritan House.

The funeral for Fr Pantin will be held tomorrow at 9 am at St Theresa’s RC Church, Woodbrook, and he will be interred at Lapeyrouse Cemetery.

Executive Director of Service Volunteered For All (SERVOL), Martin Pacheco, yesterday said the first thing Fr Pantin did was ask the people of Laventille how he could help, and through his form of respectful intervention, he was able to assist. “He did not believe in handouts. If you needed help, he would assist in a way that they could assist themselves. That is the same philosophy we use in SERVOL. All the communities we have gone into are communities we have developed relationships with,” Pacheco said.

In the 1970s during the Black Power Movement, Fr Pantin walked into the hills of Laventille to help the people with the various problems they faced. Instead of going into the community to provide guidance, Fr Pantin approached people in the Laventille community to listen to their needs, and that was the beginning of SERVOL.

“SERVOL can safely say that we have had more than 100,000 students pass through our programme. A lot of these people would not have had a second chance. Nationwide Fr Pantin has done so much for the country,” Pacheco said.

To date, SERVOL has 67 early child care education centres, 15 life centres, nine junior life centres which caters for the students who did not perform well in the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) Examination, three high tech centres that teach computer literacy, and one advance skills training in La Romain.

“We still have a great part to play in those areas. We have the young people from the hot spot areas in SERVOL. We are certain we could continue Fr Pantin’s work,” Pacheco said.

Fr Pantin was an ordinary man who dedicated his life to serving others. Any person could make a difference like Fr Pantin, so said Provincial Superior of the Holy Ghost Fathers of the Province of Trinidad, Father Gregory Augustine yesterday.

Fr Augustine was reflecting on the life and accomplishments of the late priest. Fr Pantin was originally a biology teacher at St Mary’s College for 12 years, and then founded SERVOL 44 years ago.

“Anybody could do what he (Fr Pantin) did,” Father Augustine said. “It is not rocket science. He himself would say he is not a special person, and any and every citizen should help. If we are looking to the solutions to the crime problem we are facing right now, walking and listening and hearing what people have to say is what we need to do. That model I think is a very rare and useful model to adopt. Anybody can do it.”

Fr Augustine said the SERVOL model Fr Pantin made is “very useful” and should be adopted to deal with young people.

“He heard the cries for people in the 1970s. He decided to walk up the hill and listen to those who were crying. SERVOL has become known for their non-traditional model of listening to young people,” Fr Augustine said.

In SERVOL students do courses like electronics, engineering, mechanics, and nursing but before they begin that course they have to do the adolescent development programme (ADP). Fr Augustine, who is now the principal of Fatima College, recalled his brief time teaching at SERVOL for a few months. Fr Augustine said one important thing the young men had to do was go into the nursery to feed the babies.

“I keep saying now with all the cries from the people of Laventille, we need an approach like Fr Pantin’s. We need to listen to what is the heart of the pain of the people. He was that kind of person,” Fr Augustine said.

Fr Augustine said what society needs now are more people like Fr Pantin who are simple, ordinary and are willing to serve others by genuinely listening to the needs of the people.

Fr Pantin’s contribution to country was well known, and earned him the Trinity Cross, now known as the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, in a release yesterday said that the nation has lost a true and genuine humanitarian with the passing of Fr Pantin.

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