By Kaelanne Jordan
Terrence Caesar first got involved as a youth member of the Scouts Association—the largest youth organisation of Trinidad and Tobago— in 1976. He then “branched” into mentorship with the then Fr Clyde Harvey, Chairman of the Morris Marshall Development Foundation, an initiative which provides educational and personal development opportunities in Laventille and East Port of Spain to young men ages 11 to 14.
“Children will be considered in need of that assistance especially those who did not have a father figure in the home. What we did, we will work with them, have them in a five-day camp in Chaguaramas …and then after that we had them assigned to adult mentors for a year….it was quite successful,” Caesar, Principal of Tunapuna Boys’ RC told Catholic News via phone.
Though successful, the programme saw challenges. A main challenge, he said, was some persons misunderstanding the role of the mentor.
“And in a way, you can understand it because I don’t want to hear about mentorship especially if I don’t have food in the house…. We had success stories and sadly, we had stories that did not end up the way we would have liked,” Caesar shared.
Caesar is a member of the Scout’s National Training team and the Deputy National Scout Commissioner, in charge of training and adult resources. He is also chairman of the parish council at St Charles Borromeo RC and a permanent deacon in training.
“As a teacher, I think you cannot get away from mentorship. Growing up with a single parent, it was important and crucial for me to have teachers and adults around me that cared and that continually guided me in the right direction. I wasn’t aware of it growing up, but as an adult, I recognise the significant impact the community made on me.”
He recalled that his teachers and principal at Tunapuna Boys’ RC never gave up on him. “I can’t come here now continuing their legacy and looking to give up on somebody. That’s not an option. I’m blessed with a staff that has bought into my vision and they have been working exceptionally well towards mentoring them.”
It’s no surprise, then, that the school has been improving in all aspects.
The role of trust in mentoring
According to Caesar, trust is not something we do well as a society.
“When we don’t do it as adults, there is no example for the young people. And we see it in the Covid where there is a large segment mistrusting others and the vaccine and the government.”
He observed that distrust is deeply “ingrained” in persons from certain segments of the country. “That’s why we always have to continue this ongoing mentorship, continually striving towards working with others.”
He continued, “That’s the crucial aspect of the mentorship and once you understand that you have people looking up to you and trusting you, then you have to be aware that your life has to be a certain calibre and we ain’t talking about sainthood.”
Caesar has mentored mainly boys, and girls from age 7 to 35 of varied economic backgrounds. The focus on mentorship, he explained, is not defined to one specific area; it is varied.
“And to me, that’s the beauty of it. Because it means then that it’s not boring. It means when we embrace the opportunity to be mentors….It’s not something that’s boring and static,” he said.
Youths, Caesar explained, are mentored based on their needs: those struggling emotionally, seeking guidance on career paths and studies, and in discerning vocations to the priesthood. Caesar said they desire respect, honesty and to feel empowered by adults.
Caesar commented that unfortunately there is an “obscene four-letter word” as it relates to mentorship—free.
“When people hear they have to do things for free, there is a high level of scepticism. And I try to tell people I do benefit….I get a sense of joy,” he said.
He shared the example of a child who said he wanted to be a gang leader when he grew up. “It’s not that he wanted to kill people; he wanted to ‘help’ others in society. When we leave children in their ignorance, we perpetuate the wrong in society. Then we want to point fingers…we need to stop….”
So, what makes a good mentor?
Well, according to Caesar, one must inculcate humility, honesty, and lead by example.
He acknowledged that youths are experiencing difficult times, especially during the pandemic. His advice to the young person who may feel lost or need some sense of support and guidance is “do not give up.”
Caesar revealed that the Scouts Association recently lost a member to suicide.
“It does not matter how bad it seems, do not give up. Find someone to talk to and if you find in your circle there is no-one then extend your circle. Because whatever it is any one of us is going through, there’s someone who’s been there, done that, overcame that.”