Making a positive difference- 12 Oct 2008


“Making a positive difference…”

In Trinidad and Tobago, citizens from all walks of life have so much positive work being done.  Like everyone else, I meet different people in my everyday routine.  Some do stand out for various reasons.  Through a community project, I met Reuben Mc Sween – someone who stood out for me.

Reuben does what I would term community outreach work, but he was hesitant to say anything about him.  It seems like he is one of those people who does not like talking about himself or his work too much. 

I had to do some convincing, not just because I want to respect him and others involved in efforts that strengthen local communities.  But because his approach to living may inspire others to get more involved.

Reuben is President of the Rotary Club of Central Port of Spain.  Through this organization, he got involved with several projects.  One of them is the Adopt a Child project, which sponsors books and uniforms for selected children in Laventille and Beetham Gardens. 

Other projects include work with the St Michael’s School for Boys, Goodwill Industries, and St Jude’s Home.

First through the Rotary Club and then on his own, Reuben was involved in the Beetham Gardens Organising Committee.  His most recent position was the Chairman of their Planning Committee.  The Ministry of Social Development has supported this initiative.    

Among the positive results of this project has been the work done with the All in One School – a school that caters to young people up to the age of 16 who may have slipped through the cracks in the mainstream system.  These projects also attract strong support from corporate citizens such as the Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation, National Flour Mills, and President Richards.

Reuben also works with the United Nations Association of Trinidad and Tobago.  An initiative that, among other things, promotes awareness of development issues.  We spoke about the model United Nations that saw about 189 young people involved and included ‘delegates’ from other Caribbean nations such as Antigua and Barbados.  The Ministry of Education supported this.

In Carenage, Reuben has been involved in the local football league.  He also tried to establish homework centers, but unfortunately, that initiative was not successful.  The final project we discussed was the pilot project known as the East Port of Spain mentorship project.  An initiative started with Fr Harvey and in which we are both involved.

From his background, I can see that Reuben focuses on initiatives that target young people – young males in particular.  He is among those who believe that one of the underlying problems is the absence of positive male role models—an absence of male role models both within the home and within their wider community.  Mentorship initiatives can, therefore, be effective in showing young males another way forward.  It is about helping young people to make the right choices.

However, Reuben goes further and talks about young people in the workplace and the need for efforts there.  Many people enter the workplace without an understanding of how to conduct themselves in the workplace – dress, speech, responsibility, and discipline.  There is the need for mentorship in the workplace – someone needs to tell young men that hanging their pants low with their underwear showing is not appropriate for the office.  

The first thing I like to find out when I meet someone involved in community work is ‘why.’  Reuben is simple – if we do not do it, who will?  We must try to make a positive difference.  His attitude reminded me of another saying – ‘if we are not a part of the solution, we are a part of the…problem.’  Reflecting on the Vision 2020 document, Reuben’s projects fit under ‘developing innovative people’ and ‘nurturing a caring society.’

He spoke about driving through areas that may have a reputation for being ‘hot spots’ – yet he has not had any unfortunate experiences.  Given all the crime that gets reported, it is refreshing to remember that there are so many positive initiatives around us.  A reminder that some people and institutions are working together with the state and the private sector – to make a positive difference as we move towards Vision 2020.
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