Within the Archdiocese of Port of Spain, there are many young people who are living their Catholic faith daily, while being actively engaged in a plethora of social/political causes. Our youth are on the ground, paving the way for positive change! Today we highlight Terez Lord, a 27-year-old scholar who is socially aware and deeply passionate about International Relations and Youth Development.
Q: You recently were the CARICOM Youth Ambassador. Tell us a bit about yourself and why/how you decided on that path.
I had no idea that this was the path that God had ordained for me when I got appointed as the CARICOM Youth Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago but looking back at my early life into adolescence and even prior, it all makes sense.
Underpinned by my faithfulness in Jesus Christ by virtue of growing up in a Roman Catholic household, I felt an obligation to speak up in situations which made me feel uncomfortable, which I knew were wrong and/or unacceptable, whether I was affected directly or indirectly. That is the crux of representation.
Learning about people’s unique circumstances to get a more comprehensive appreciation of the root causes of actions is something I am passionate about. Helping young people navigate through life’s stages—through motivation and mentorship—I simply feel purposed to do.
I was morphing into someone as I was being prepared for this role. I was basically obsessed with volunteering in community-based initiatives and interventions with a social cause reflective in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations, which provide a blueprint to address the challenges people face in communities around the world. I have focused on goal 16—peace, justice and building strong institutions through my involvement with the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network (CYPAN). This is yet another unplanned but significant pillar of my journey because it provided me with practical experience relative to my postgraduate studies on peace in the international political arena in the height of the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
After completing my Master’s degree, on the day I handed in my thesis in 2016, I travelled to the European country of Macedonia where my training in diplomacy and leadership was bolstered.
Q: Do you think it is rare to see women being vocal on important subjects affecting national and regional development? What are the issues you care about the most?
I do not think it is rare to see women being vocal on critical issues that affect them and the wider population at all. Regardless of whether you are male or female, being vocal is one thing, being vocal in the right space and the right manner is everything—meaning being respectful of others and their opinion regardless of how dull and ignorant it might appear.
Being able to action a shift in paradigm or change in the status quo is critical and can only happen when we use our voices strategically, consistently, and sensibly. It is what differentiates rhetoric from action. This means educating oneself and others as a means of advocating at the human and policy levels. One can be vocal but meaningful change does not typically happen in the comment section of Instagram or Facebook. However, I have observed structural and implicit blockages that prevent women from getting involved: doubts of competence based on gender, age, and relative experience.
You do not look at age any more than you look at gender. You look at competence and contribution. Even the most aged and ‘experienced’ persons could not posture themselves to absorb the shocks of the pandemic. 2020 showed the need to diversify, digitise, have fresh new ideas and solutions and highlighted the need for intergenerational dialogue.
Q: What have you learnt through your role as Youth Ambassador?
I have learnt that the CARICOM countries share not only a historical legacy but, perhaps consequently, also share a lot of the developmental challenges and societal issues which we can resolve more effectively when we come together, pool resources, expertise and uniqueness. It was evident to me that we are more similar than we know and more similar that we might want to see. We are inherently equal and should treat each other with respect and dignity. My opinion is that a large volume of the issues such as crime, unemployment, and depression that can be resolved with a realisation of the law of reciprocity—do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Q: What roles have you taken up since that?
At present, I am involved in the Pan-American Health Organization’s Youth for Health Group which seeks to empower and engage young people to accelerate improvement of the health and wellbeing of youth in the Americas. COVID-19 has brought health and wellbeing to the forefront, not simply physical health but also mental and spiritual. They are all requisite dimensions of one whole.
Additionally, I am on the Commonwealth Youth Form Taskforce—responsible for planning and delivering the Commonwealth Youth Forum held on the margins of the (usually) biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). It is an opportunity for young people to discuss and build consensus around crucial global affairs and derive solutions and recommendations to Heads of Governments for individual and unified action. It was carded for June 2020 but because of the pandemic, it has been postponed to June 2021.
Finally, I am a board member of the Global Coalition for Youth Employment (GYCE). The GCYE is a consortium of individuals, non-governmental organisations and institutions based in London which equip young people with the fundamental skills, knowledge and abilities that empower them to find, create and establish decent livelihoods for themselves. It firmly emphasises entrepreneurship as a key solution to the eradication of unemployment, underemployment, and poverty.
Q: What are your ambitions for the future and how is your faith incorporated in that?
Man plans and God laughs! I am going where God leads me and I always try to not exclude Him. I do not have it all figured out… and that’s okay.
Q: What advice do you have for other young people who want to pursue an impact like you?
You simply cannot do anything without God, and you are wasting your ambitions on planning without Him. He knows best. He is supreme and His will has already been done. I advise young persons to ask for God for His guidance and be obedient to him as they navigate through the seasons in their life. Regardless of the path life takes you, remember that success ultimately is not measured by material acquisitions. Life is a gift from God and the manner and extent to which we live it, is our gift back to God.
Do remember that God helps those who help themselves, so discipline and consistency is at the core of success but honour your own pace and do not compare your journey to others. Mitigate distractions, nourish your goals, feed your faith, and watch yourself grow.