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Youth forum at theology conference

By Kaelanne Jordan

Within our Caribbean culture, there are numerous unspoken elements of contemplation in natural everyday activities like shelling peas, cleaning sorrel, grating coconut, braiding hair, sweeping with a cocoyea broom etc., all done in the “beauty of silence”.

“We can sure admit that from 2020 to 2021, one of the effects of the pandemic is that all of us, in one way or the other, have been spending more time alone. And for many, this has caused a lot of anxiety and frustration, and for others it’s offered an experience of deeper reflection, inner thoughts and meditation and eventually, for many, contemplation, and for many of us, both.

“In these times, our youth are experiencing a sense of isolation where they are truly not able to be alone and experience the peace of silence. In this paper and presentation, I hope to offer something to turn the tide that by silence and the experience of contemplation, people of God, especially our young people, may be driven, encouraged into action to works of justice.”

So said Fr Mikhail Woodroffe O Carm as he presented virtually for the Conference on Theology in the Conference Today’s (CTCT) youth forum ‘Youthful Tide’, November 10. Fr Woodroffe’s presentation was titled ‘Towards a theology of Caribbean contemplative justice’.

He explained that the origin for his presentation was in his own background as a Carmelite friar. The Carmelite Order is known for being contemplative and active as their contemplation and way of life leads them into action and justice.

Fr Woodroffe spoke of an existing “beautiful link” of contemplation and social justice and that “before any act of justice, and action, as people of God we are called to this deep experience of contemplation especially in silence.”


Designing for the discarded

In her discourse ‘Designing for the discarded’, interior design consultant Sherette Almandoz underscored that though the tradition of a “more inclusive” family structure has “evolved” over the years—from a multigenerational household to a nuclear family— it has actually “weakened” the family structure.

She stated that the pandemic has highlighted reasons for inclusive living, with the inclusion of the elderly.

A policy brief issued by the United Nations estimated 66 per cent of persons aged 70 and over have had at least one underlying condition placing them at an increased risk of severe impact from the virus.

“Now this heightened risk has resulted in many of them preferring to stay at home with their families rather than being lodged in a long-term care facility. So perhaps the pandemic and its radical impact on the elderly can be what turns the tide in our mindset towards a more inclusive living,” Almandoz said.

Cognisant that this would require a change in  mindset and living spaces, Almandoz stressed that with the incorporation of some simple universal design principles and a bit of creativity are essential in creating livable environments that support safety, connection and beauty, resulting in an easier, comfortable transition for the elderly to age gracefully.


She shared these recommendations:

Smart homes devices. Smart home devices can easily improve the efficiency and quality of one’s home and life. They easily monitor the amount of effort one exerts for a task and improve independence for seniors. They also benefit the household at large.

Contrasting colours. Macular degeneration is a disease that causes damage to a person’s central vision. It occurs as persons age and makes it difficult for older persons to identify similarly coloured objects. Juxtaposing contrasting colours makes it easy for persons to differentiate between items and makes for a safer space for persons to move around in the household.

Choose levers over knobs. Rounded handles are more difficult to grasp and turn for persons with disabilities. Lever handles facilitate ease of use as they allow persons to open a door with as little effort as possible.

Wall-mounted dispensers. Wall-mounted dispensers can prove to be very useful for persons with impaired dexterity who may not be able to properly grasp objects such as a bar of soap.

Almandoz recognised that gardening, a common pastime for many in the Caribbean, because of our love for the environment, presents a challenge for persons with mobility issues.

She suggested accessible gardens, which can be created by raising the garden bed to at least 24” from the ground/floor. This limits the strain on the back of a seated person.

These tips, Almandoz highlighted are not strictly limited to the elderly, “but in fact they aid everyone so it can be universally applied. This makes it more accessible to the multi-generational household,” she said.

The youth forum saw presentations by American Spiritan Brother Matthew Broeren on ‘Healing land and healing lives. Ecological missiology and the mission of the Church at a time of pandemic’ and Angelo Kurbanali, a Trinbagonian graphic designer and theologian, on ‘Body of Christ, Amen; I am. Towards a Caribbean theology of Communion’.