Breaking Down Barriers- 19 Oct 2008

“Breaking Down Barriers…”

When I decided to move back to Tobago last year, a friend warned me not to get too caught up in the ‘scene.’  I did not fully appreciate what she meant until I really did settle back in.  Some describe a not-so-subtle pressure to ‘keep up.’  A little world where you are defined by what car you drive; or the title on your business card.  Do not get me wrong – I really do not think there is anything particularly wrong with that.  Or is there?

Personally, I try not to judge.  But it is in this context that struck me as being distinct.  D is an attorney in private practice at a relatively well known Port of Spain law chambers.  Yet he is among the most humble and down to earth people you could meet—someone who loves this country and is committed to making a positive difference wherever he can.

He works in Port of Spain and lives in central Trinidad.  So evenings are the best time to catch up with him on the phone – while he is creeping through the usual rush hour traffic.  One evening last week, we talked about a community project in East Port of Spain that is going quite well. 

For me, this community initiative was a ‘youth project,’ D helped me see things differently.  He explained that in his village in central Trinidad, everybody knows everybody.  So young people routinely go to him for guidance.  Guidance, especially in terms of the world of work, academic qualifications, and so on.  D has what he calls a ‘willing ear.’  He joked that if his car shut down on the highway by Chaguanas at night, he would feel safe walking all the way home as he knew the young people in the area. USA Tax Singapore

D emphasized his amazement that the East Port of Spain community project only required one hour per week to reap such big returns for everyone involved – particularly the young people on the area.

D is one of those who break down barriers.  Not just because he is Indo Trinidadian involved in a project in a predominantly Afro Trinidadian community.  But also because he may also live in a gated community in his village, yet he can connect with the communities on the other side of the wall.  As he explained to me, he is interested in going ‘beyond stereotypes.’  D reminded me that what I may consider a ‘youth project,’ others may consider – as simply playing your part in your community.  I acknowledge his point.

On Sundays, I look out for my regular email from my friend Nasser.  Last Sunday, he related that like too many of us, someone close to him was a crime victim.  Obviously, he was upset.  He is adamant that we need to ‘come together’ if anything is to change.

And here is where I see both Nasser and D as having a somewhat similar point of view.  There is an abundance of research on the negative correlation between social capital and crime. 

In other words, the greater the barriers among social groupings and the weaker the social bonds – the worse crime gets.  Conversely, where these socioeconomic barriers are weaker and our social bonds are stronger. Crime is relatively less.  Not that crime will ever disappear.  But the argument is that it is less. 

Perhaps part of the wider problem may be the ‘I am better than you’ idea.  No matter what is printed on our business card or where we live, we should still reach out to each other.

Vision 2020 recognizes the need for us to come together-

“…In a caring society, empowered citizens should belong to vibrant community-based groups that voice their opinions, take responsibility for, and participate in the development of their communities.  The clearest evidence of such change should manifest itself in an increase in the number of active community-based and non-governmental organisations.  Such citizen driven involvement should result in increased social cohesion in our multicultural society.”

So let us get involved in our local communities and continue to break down the barriers that may separate us as we move towards Vision 2020.

Note: The above reference link was live on December 2010, but it has since been taken down.

Table of Contents: Breaking Down Barriers- 19 Oct 2008

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