After being in Trinidad for 4 consecutive carnivals, work commitments mean that I will once again have to miss the carnival. Like many of us, I smiled recently as I read the much-circulated December 29th, 2011 article on Trinidad in the Travel section of the New York Times which accurately noted that – “Partying, after all, is a national tradition in Trinidad, home to an annual Carnival that is the region’s biggest and…Trini revelers love their V.I.P. sections — not to mention their V.V.I.P. and, yes, V.V.V.I.P. sections…”. After that Channel 4 documentary on our State of Emergency, it is good to see the positive side of life on the island being echoed internationally.
Thanks to Facebook, however, I get to live vicariously through my friends and follow their quest for tickets to the more elusive fetes (like the Vale Breakfast Fete) and see who wins the race to upload pictures first from any given event. It is good to see everyone coming together as one people at this special time of the year. As the New York Times article explains – “…Unlike virtually every other Caribbean island, the oil-rich country seven miles off Venezuela is not driven by tourism — which means that in lieu of sunbathing hordes and “Yah, Mon” T-shirts, you’ll find miles of unspoiled beaches and waterfalls visited by locals; a Creole culture with roots in Africa, India, Europe and China; and a bustling capital city offering some of the Caribbean’s most electrifying nightlife.”
Nevertheless, this year my heart is feeling especially heavy at having to miss my alma mater, St Mary’s College’s fundraiser – Fete With the Saints, which celebrates its 10th year of feting excellence Kes, Roy Cape, and Dil e Nadan. There is no contest as this the best fete every season!
In the midst of my carnival tabanca, I find it helpful to remember that I am among the many many Trinis who will miss Mr. Fete. Among us overseas, Trinis is my travel and tourism industry friend – Ishwar Persad. After holding senior Tourism Ministry positions in Trinidad, the Cayman Islands, and Montserrat, in mid-2011, Ishwar moved to Zanzibar in Tanzania to work as a VSO (Voluntary Services Organisation) teacher at a Hospitality and Tourism Institute.
The media sometimes seems overrun by stories of people pursuing tokens of worldly power, fame, and prestige. Do not get me wrong – I do not think that there is anything wrong with these! It is just refreshing to hear about someone doing something that benefits others in such a meaningful way. I am sure that Ishwar is just one of the many Trinis who quietly devotes themselves to making a positive difference. Every time I hear a story like this; it reminds me that it does not matter how it sometimes seems. Positivity outweighs negativity every time.
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What makes Iswar’s story more interesting is that he leads a team of VSO volunteers who will be running in the next Kilimanjaro Marathon on Sunday, February 26th, 2012, in the town of Moshi, Tanzania. Ishwar has done 5 marathons before, including the Toronto and Montserrat ones. This time, however, he is running to raise funds to support the VSO education program in Tanzania, which the Ministry of Education manages and aims to improve the quality of education in primary and secondary schools in 6 districts of the country. Ishwar explained to me that Tanzania is one of the least developed countries in the world. Although the Government has made significant progress in improving access to education, there are still serious challenges facing the system. As a result of these challenges within the education system, there is a high drop-out rate and limited employment opportunities.
Ishwar notes that the Ministry / VSO program hopes to enhance in-service and pre-service teachers’ training by working with Teacher Centres, Teacher Training Colleges, and the Directorates of Primary and Secondary Education at the Ministry of Education. Overall the program aims to train 3 000 teachers, resulting in improved teaching for more than 42 000 children. It sounds like the money raised from this marathon will go to a very worthy cause. To follow his preparation or better yet to donate to his efforts, you can visit his blog at http://trininomad.blogspot.com/.
My name is Derren Joseph, and I love my country, and I love my region. Despite our current challenges, I continue to have the audacity of hope that we will all enjoy a brighter tomorrow.
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