By Lara Pickford-Gordon
The Scout Association of Trinidad and Tobago (ScoutsTT) is doing its part to alleviate hunger in the country through ‘Scouting for Food’.
National Scout Commissioner Mark Ainsley John said ScoutsTT “often work in tandem with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the product of Scouting for Food aims to decrease the number of people in our communities who are hungry, as we strive towards SDG #2: Zero Hunger”.
John cited a Central Statistical Office figure which estimated more than 20 per cent of persons lived below the poverty line.
John wrote to Massy Stores, JTA Supermarket, and Xtra Food about the initiative asking them to partner with ScoutsTT and for food collection bins to be placed at their outlets.
“The young people and the leaders and their parents in the various communities, they volunteer during the week and weekends to stand in supermarkets, walk around with customers and ask them if they could donate. We have barrels at the exits of all the supermarkets.”
ScoutsTT designated April a Month of Service. Scouting for Food began April 1, launching at JTA Supermarket, San Fernando then it started at Massy Stores and Xtra Foods. John said the “overwhelming need” recognised in communities prompted the extension of Scouting for Food to May.
In April, the Scouts from Presentation College, San Fernando got food donations and joined with the scouts from San Fernando Boys’ RC, to prepare and distribute hampers for persons in the community.
John said, “We have encouraged our districts to partner with supermarkets in their areas…to encourage their customers and the population as a whole to turn an extra ear to the cry of those who may not be able to have something to eat on a frequent basis. The outcome as such led to bins being filled with groceries at various branches which would then be prepared to be presented to various charitable organisations and persons in need.”
Bins have also been placed at scouts’ locations to reach specific individuals in their communities. John said, achieving “Zero Hunger” in T&T was a huge task but the scouting movement through every act can move closer to achieving this goal.
“We continue to work with our scouts, our communities and even our businesses to drive home a culture of service to anyone who may be impoverished and in need of our support.”
Participants ranged from cubs 7–10 years; scouts 11–15 years; venture scouts 16–18 years; and rovers 18–23 years.
John said moving forward, ScoutsTT will encourage further partnership with schools and businesses to expand its reach “and allow as much persons to facilitate their own Scouting for Food bins”. He thanked all the supermarkets, businesses, stakeholders, well-wishers, districts, and scouts who continue to support the provision of this service.
Liam Carrington, of Marlins Patrol, First Presentation Sea Scouts said he felt compelled to take part. “Not only does this food drive call upon us as scouts but fellow human beings trying to help others in need. The benefits can only be measured by how many persons in need we reach, and we can assist in whatever way we possibly can.”
Rajeev Ghangoo, also of First Presentation said it is beneficial to help persons most in need. “I believe the benefit of this is learning how simple things such as canned food can help someone, and as scouts it is our duty to help the less fortunate.”
The boys participating in the food collection drive learned a few things. Kelon Moonisar from First Avocat Air Scouts was nervous when he began but gained confidence. “I felt very happy that I was giving the persons in need; I learned how not to be shy and talk to people.”
Andre Davis of the First D’Abadie Air Scouts said the good part was the positive feedback and seeing people put cans of food into their carts. The “bad part” was the response from some members of the public. “I asked a woman and she said ‘no’ and she give me attitude.” Davis said he learned to have patience and fun.
Members of the First St Paul Anglican Cub Pack also commented. Aidan Lee: “I felt it was fun and a good experience. Some benefits are that I did a good turn as a scout and helped those in need.” Jabez Dillon said, “my experience at JTA was good and we helped people needing groceries and the reason I came is because I love cub scouts”; and Nicolai Peru, “I attended at JTA to help the needy and see how the community helps to pitch in. This was a real benefit to me as it put me one step closer to earning my President’s Cub Pack award.”
Luke Khalu of the Fifth Naparima Scout troop said, “It helped build my bravery; it was very lovely how we can live together to help those without food.”