We all deserve a second chance… – 30 nov 2008

“We all deserve a second chance…”

Some Sundays back, we, the ‘Mall Crawlers’, were running in Chaguaramas as usual.  Tucker Valley road is so amazingly beautiful in the morning.  Cool breeze, sun just rising, monkeys shouting in the distance.  As usual Simone, Hollis and Celine were leading the way; most of the guys were in between, and trailing behind was Sally and I.

That was when I noticed just how much progress was being made on the large government farms in the area.  Signs of cultivation including very large green houses were evident.  Then we noticed a van pull up and some guys jump out.  What was most interesting is that the van had a Rebirth House sign on it.  At the time, I had no idea that Rebirth House was involved in agriculture.

Later on, I googled Rebirth House and found out a bit more on the Caricom website.  There is a directory of drug treatment and rehab services at –


On this site, there was a reference to a rehabilitation centre on an operating farm.

After many phone calls, I was able to speak with Vincent Mejaries – a coordinator at Rebirth House.  Like all the staff, including the Director, he is also a recovering addict – clean for 13 years now.  Vincent is so proud of the collaboration between themselves and the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA).  Their work includes refurbishing cottages, clearing trails, and maintaining the park areas.  

Vincent spoke of guys once feeling like a ‘liability’ now feeling like an ‘asset’.  Residents get to return to the routine of a regular job.  A sense of responsibility was mentioned as was a sense of ‘upliftment’.  These large farms require substantial agricultural infrastructure in the form of grow boxes, water tank stands and so on.  This means that residents also acquire new skills such as masonry, carpentry and crop management.  Kudos to the team at the CDA for championing this project.

These are men who made mistakes, have admitted as much and now need someone to give them a second chance.

I was then able to speak with someone else, in the large farm project.  He explained that before the large farms started, behind the Rebirth House facility was already some form of agriculture.  Residents were accustomed to growing their own pigeon peas, cassava etc in the hills behind their facility.  So to some extent, the large state farms were not that unfamiliar to them.

In this context, farming is seen as part of the rehabilitation process.  Residents come from varying walks of life.  Many were already skilled laborers.  So for the large farm project, this is not charity – these are guys who can and do add real value. 

One of the pillars of Vision 2020 is Nurturing a Caring Society.  This section goes onto describe a Caring Society where –

“…individuals, groups, communities and institutions are concerned about any activity deemed destructive to human life…A caring society shares the social attributes and cultural norms of trust, goodwill, honesty, respect, tolerance, integrity, benevolence and civic pride.  The societal tapestry is rich in social capital that binds the community together.  Nurturing a caring society is about sowing and growing seeds of love and patriotism and ensuring no individual, group or community is left behind and no one walks alone.”

Another pillar speaks to Governing Effectively.  Under this pillar, objective 5 encourages ‘drug demand reduction programmes’ and other efforts to address alcohol and drug abuse. 

Aside from the human element is of course, the potential for this and similar efforts to eventually contribute to a reduction in food inflation.  Vision 2020 pays special attention to agriculture under the pillar of Enabling Competitive Business.  Within this context, it would appear that this pilot project represents an opportunity to not only sustainably enhance our food security but also to achieve very useful knowledge transfer. Fatca Compliance Singapore

From what I understand, Cuba knows a thing or two about agricultural production.  A 2006 article in Britain’s Independent newspaper for example, talks about Cuba’s post-Soviet-empire success in agriculture.  Specifically there has been success in organic agriculture and a form of agriculture called organopónicos –http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/the-good-life-in-havana-cubas-green-revolution-410930.html

Despite our challenges, we are so blessed to live in a country as beautiful as Trinidad and Tobago.  There is so much uplifting work being done all around us.  These are everyday people making a positive difference.

Let us continue have the audacity of hope in our country, as we move towards Vision 2020.

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