Laventille sheds tears of joy, hope
By MIRANDA LA ROSE Monday, August 25 2014
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OVERCOME: Teineisha Thomas, cousin of slain soldier Kayode Thomas is overcome with emotion as her nephews Kymani Thomas, 5, and Keylon Thomas, 3, held...
TEARS flowed freely in Laventille on Friday. But these were not tears of grief as residents of the area have grown accustomed to shedding as a result of the many murders at the hands of gunmen. They were tears of joy and hope. A successful three-week camp for children in Laventille and its environs was a dream come true for them, their parents and civic- minded citizens alike.
Commanding Officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment Colonel Rodney Smart who addressed the campers, parents and guardians in the forecourt of the Beverly Hills Plannings said the children were graduating from the camp because of a dream that the residents of the community had.
The camp, which catered to over 125 children between the ages of three to 16 years, was a joint collaboration among the TT Defence Force, TT Police Service, Office of Law Enforcement Police, Marcano Quarry Rising Committee, Housing Development Corporation and the Ministry of Health.
It was an initiative that residents of the Beverley Hills community initiated with the Inter Agency Task Force and came about after the death of soldier Kayode Thomas who, while off duty, was gunned down in a hail of bullets on June 29 by unknown assailants near Plaisance Quarry Road, John John.
The camp’s participants included four of Thomas’ children, two of whom paid tribute to their father who held photos of him during an emotional presentation by children between the ages of three to five.
In their presentation, the children displayed on posters what they want to be, to the background of R Kelly’s “World’s Greatest.” During and at the end of the presentation many wept.
The participants, who were drawn from communities where children and adults do not cross border lines, converged daily from August 4 to August 22 on Beverly Hills.
They came from places such as St Paul’s, Canada, Straker Village, Silk Cotton Alley, Africa, Picton, John John and Desperlie Crescent.
Camp Coordinator Sade Baptiste told Newsday that some of the participants were shuttled into the area by residents themselves who saw the need to break the barriers in the communities among the future generation.
The event itself at which the children displayed their talent in art, craft, gardening, music and dance was themed “Future Generation - Hearts and Minds.”
No one in living memory could recall when the young people came together as one from the different communities, and it was a dream came through recalled Baptiste and counsellor Roslyn Douglas-Tannis.
Asked about her arm which was encased in plaster-of-Paris, Douglas-Tannis said it was broken in a fall she sustained while running away from gun shots in the area.
Murders and shootings related to drug and gang-related activities to maintain turf, are reported to be common in Laventille. Bullets graze the walls of apartments in the Plannings.
One parent told Newsday that since the joint services have been in the area, a number of people have been repairing their homes and many can be seen relaxing in the open air.
Delivering the main address and speaking about the camp, Colonel Smart said, “This community felt it was necessary during the August vacation not to allow the gang leaders to get to their children. Not to allow the criminal elements to get to their children.”
Members of the community, he said, “felt that if they had a structured approach to the July-August vacation, they would be able to develop in their children a sense of security that would cause the drug traffickers, the arms runners to go elsewhere, because they were willing to secure their children.”
Also congratulating the children, counsellors and parents on their achievement were Director of OLEP, Keith Renauld and Assistant Commissioner of Police Carlton Alleyne. In brief remarks Renauld applauded the organisers for the passion and camaraderie they nurtured, and which were necessary to sustain the inter-agency partnership which has seen within recent weeks, the heightened presence of the law enforcement bodies and the TTDF in the area.
Alleyne said the event opened new doors into the lives of Laventille that must no longer be fragmented which could be a model community in reducing crime and violence in TT.
He was touched, he said by the children’s presentations from the various age groups and advised parents to “Never believe in never.”
The children, he said were going to need parents support to achieve their goals and the values they instilled in them will determine what society gets.