The St Martin Welfare Association’s work in East Port of Spain communities has been seriously affected by gang activity. The Association submitted the following report on its activities for 2017 and to highlight some of its challenges.
The St Martin Welfare Association (SMWA) continued its charitable and community services in the areas of John John and its environs via Picton Road, Plaisance Terrace and St Paul Street despite its many challenges.
These challenges are related to the gangs of young men who from time to time are at war with one another. The Association’s activities are unfortunately seriously hampered by the regular shootouts that take place as a result.
Verbal and written reports have been made to the Besson Street Police Station and the Ministry of National Security respectively and although there are regular police patrols in the area, the sound of gunfire is still heard with regularity. This state of affairs has severely restricted the attendance of persons who wish to take part in the proposed programmes to be put on by the Association.
The Association’s chief activity for the year is the functioning of its preschool for children 3– 5 years. We have been fortunate in having Servol partner with us and, apart from the payment of salaries to our teachers, they ensure that our teachers are kept up-to-date with the latest training methods and that they are au courant with the Ministry of Education’s guidelines.
Our preschoolers and teachers continue to face the challenges of living in a high-risk area, in that, whereas preschoolers in other areas have a fire drill, our preschoolers also have to learn to hit the floor and crawl to a safe room whenever the shooting starts.
The school has an enrolment of 40 children who graduate after a two-year course of study and primary schools are happy to have graduates from our school as they are well prepared for the transition to ‘big school’.
Every year the school holds a Sports and Family day and this is a great opportunity for the children, their parents and grandparents as well as teachers and interested members of the community to come together and have fun in a neutral setting.
The Woodwork, Welding/Fabrication and Cookery sections have not been functioning due mainly to the challenges mentioned earlier. No one is willing to come out to attend these classes which cater for young adults and adult members of the community as they are fearful for their lives.
As a result we have the equipment lying idle and some of them are in need of servicing. However, it makes no sense doing that if we can’t get anyone to attend those classes. A decision is to be taken with regard to the future of the vocational/trade school.
We were still able to provide residents with weekly prayer services on Saturdays and for the past three years or so Fr Clyde Harvey, who took over from Fr Michael Makhan, has been coming on the first Saturday of every month to say Holy Mass. Unfortunately for us Fr Harvey’s elevation as Bishop of St George’s-in-Grenada has left a void and no replacement has as yet been announced. This has also adversely affected attendance.
Distribution of foodstuff
The Association distributes basic foodstuff to the needy in the area on a bi-monthly basis.
Eighty-five children were treated with goodies and received toys at our annual Children’s Christmas Party and Toy Distribution on December 16 at the International School, Westmoorings. As usual, Annette Tillet and friends were responsible for this successful event. We are indeed grateful to these ladies who have faithfully given of their time and resources over the years to ensure that the children in our neighbourhood are well taken care of at Christmas time. May God richly bless them for their commitment.
One-hundred-and-twenty needy persons received Christmas hampers containing foodstuff and toiletries on December 20 at the Association’s premises St Paul Street.
The Association receives no funding from the State. As an NGO, we carried out one major fundraiser in 2017, our annual boat cruise. We wish to thank all those who participated by purchasing tickets. We are also appealing for donors to make contributions towards the maintenance of the Association.
We wish to thank all our benefactors and we pray God’s blessings upon all those who have assisted us.
SMWA may be contacted at 623-6318.