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Scouts help in vaccination drive

By Lara Pickford-Gordon


One of the positives coming from the Covid-19 pandemic is the willingness of many individuals and groups to find ways to give their time, talent, and treasure.

Several persons volunteered through the Scout Association of Trinidad and Tobago to support medical personnel at vaccination sites managed by the regional health authorities.

National Scout Commissioner Mark Ainsley John said the Association had approached the Health Ministry offering use of its main activity centres in San Fernando, Port of Spain and Couva as vaccination sites. Also proposed was for members to provide volunteer services as ushers, administrative support, and data entry.

The offer was in recognition of the role of the Scout Association as advocates for youth and people development. Added to this was being partners in the community to provide services and helping persons to be vaccinated.

John said, “The Health Ministry had already decided on their vaccination sites and the offer of the buildings was politely declined. We then offered our services as volunteers because we have trained members of our organisation in managing large groups of persons and in setting up flow systems. Managing queues happens at all our large camps and activities so it would fit well with the mass vaccination efforts.”

On May 20, a mass broadcast, inclusive of social media was made inviting members to volunteer “to provide the same services”. There was a good response from scout members and the public interested in joining.

The first group of volunteers were assigned to the National Racquet Sports Centre, Tacarigua, operated by the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA).

The second group went to the UTT Campus, Munroe Road, Chaguanas, May 27 under the North Central RHA, and June 7, another team was assigned to the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA), supervised by the South West RHA.

Volunteers do their part

John said, “during the first two weeks we had 50 persons offering their services and the numbers continued to grow”. The volunteers are managed by team leads at the vaccination site, and they are coordinated by Deputy National Scout Commissioner Dianne Dhanpath. John provided feedback from volunteers in response to questions from the Catholic News.

Although there was some fear because of the realities of Covid, they put aside their fears, to help fellow citizens and their country. They felt happy to do their part.

Laurel Johnson, 24 years, 4th Tunapuna Scout Group worked at the National Racquet Sports Centre. “I did data entry, helped with ushering people, made phone calls and also helped with sanitisation.”

During that  time, she felt like a frontline worker. “I was coming out to help make sure that others were okay while even putting myself at risk. But being a part of the programme to help…I’m grateful and thankful.”

Richard Robinson, 48 years, of the First Queen’s Royal College Scout Troop, Port of Spain said he wanted to lead by example. Robinson was at UTT Chaguanas and coordinated all the ScoutsTT volunteers at the site to ensure positions in which the medical staff needed administrative assistance were filled.

Robinson supported with crowd and flow control at the entry to the facility. He ensured incoming clients were given information they required and forms to be completed.

“One of my duties is to ensure that the patients are put through the fastest possible route for their vaccination depending on their needs. Hence elderly and infirmed are treated with priority and everyone is queued to try to make the process completed in 8–12 mins if possible.”

“It’s been a tiring few weeks but by the end of each week, you don’t remember how tired you were each day. This programme is definitely important, having mass vaccination can help us return to days prior to mask-wearing and social distancing”, said Rohini Dabie. The 26-year-old of the Debe Secondary Scout Group worked at the SAPA site.

Anesha Sam, 26, from St Helena is not a scout. She said of her experience, “It became this weird paradox, in that I am leaving my home to help make Trinidad a safer place from a virus, and in doing so, there’s a possibility that I can infect my family with that exact same virus.

“I’ve never participated in anything like this before. It became worth it.” She added that the many people who came to get vaccinated were trying to give themselves “a fighting chance”.

“For me, getting to be a small part of helping them be at ease as they came to get a vaccine that scared them from a virus that also frightened them, was an absolute privilege.”

Another member of the public, Ashton Tambie, 25 years said, “This is an important time for our country. Covid doesn’t care about your ethnicity, money, or social status. We should all pitch in and help, no matter the circumstances.”

Some scouts worked at multiple sites, such as Mohini Seejattan, 25 years, National Youth Commissioner of ScoutsTT, Penal who along with members were at the Racquet Centre and volunteered for the UTT Campus and Centre Point Mall, Chaguanas.

A scout at the Racquet Centre