The Office of the President announced the names of recipients of National Awards on the eve of the Republic Day, September 24 awards ceremony held at the National Academy and Performing Arts, Port of Spain. Among the recipients were some familiar faces in the Catholic community.
Esme Raphael, of the Holy Trinity parish, Arouca, was awarded the Public Service Medal of Merit Gold. The Medal is awarded only to nationals “for outstanding and meritorious service in the Public Services, the Defence and Protective Services or service with Statutory Bodies performing national functions” (https://otp.tt/trinidad-and-tobago/national-awards/).
Raphael was recognised for her work in cooperative and credit union development; she has been involved in this field for 60 years. She is a Director on the Board of VENTURE Credit Union, and Chair of the Board’s Governance Sub-committee. In her long service she has held many senior positions with different bodies. Raphael has promoted co-operatives in T&T as a member of the Co-operative Credit Union Movement Technical Committee (CUM TC) and represents the Association of Credit Union Presidents of Trinidad and Tobago (ACUPTT) on this committee.
Raphael told the Catholic News on Monday, September 26, that being the recipient of a national award was now beginning to resonate. Calls and congratulations have been received in the days after the news was public. “I feel very humbled and were it not for the members of the credit union electing me year after year… 60-plus years, so I am grateful for that because if they had not given me the opportunity to do it, to be there, I would not be receiving this award…it’s a kind of mixed feeling.” She described it as humility and thankfulness.
Rudylynn De Four Roberts
Conservation Architect Rudylynn De Four Roberts received the Chaconia Medal Silver for her work in conservation and preservation. The recipient of the Medal (in gold, silver, or bronze), can be a citizen or non-citizen and it is conferred upon those “who has performed long and meritorious service to Trinidad and Tobago tending to promote the national welfare or strengthen the community spirit.”
She said it has been a very long journey. She graduated in 1974 from Howard University and worked in the field of preservation from her first job.
De Four Roberts said, “I am indeed grateful and humbled by the recognition, especially since Chaconia Silver is the same medal awarded to my father (Fenrick De Four, electrical and mechanical engineer). I have always tried to make him proud, and it was emotional to say the least, receiving this award.” Responding to the question, what role does architecture, play in identity/psyche of a society and why is conservation and preservation important, she said the nation’s old buildings are history which can be seen, felt, and touched. “I always ask …’Is that not more of a learning experience than just seeing a picture in a book?’.”
She identified other benefits of having built heritage, “we learn about ourselves from our past. Our old buildings teach us sociology, history of materials and industry. Preserving the best of these structures is to honour the artists and artisans of the past. Our great, great grandparents…our ancestors, who toiled and used their talents to build these structures, from the quarrying of the stone, toting the sand from the riverbed, designing, and carving the fretwork. It is all ours, and in the same way we treasure old paintings and works of Art, we preserve our built heritage for the enjoyment of future generations.
De Four Roberts was involved in preserving several national monuments. She named a few structures which are her favourite. “The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was my biggest challenge, and I am grateful to His Grace for allowing me the opportunity to work on the restoration of that monument,” she said. Among her other favourites are Killarney Castle—Stollmeyer’s Castle, and White Hall, both on Maraval Road; Cabildo building, Sackville St; The Figuera residence, Piccadilly Street; Our Lady of Montserrat Church, Tortuga; Holy Rosary Church, Port of Spain.
Gregg Mannette Jr
Sixteen-year-old Gregg Mannette Jr received the Hummingbird Medal Bronze for Gallantry. The award is given to citizens and non-citizens who have given “loyal and devoted service beneficial to Trinidad and Tobago in any field of human endeavour or for gallantry or other humane action”.
In an interview on Republic Day, prior to the awards, the St Mary’s College student said he is proud to inspire young people to do good things. Being able to save someone’s life touched him, and his action was not done with any thought of accolades or earning awards. On April 7, while on holiday with his family, he saved a man who was drowning at No Man’s Land, Tobago.
Mannette said: “I’m the same person I was before, my character hasn’t changed. I don’t think I am any more or lesser person than I was…looking back at it…and seeing I saved someone from drowning, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. I feel good I was able to help someone further their life.”
Martin ‘Terry’ Rondon
The Hummingbird Medal Gold was awarded to Martin ‘Terry’ Rondon, Councillor for Community Service. He is the Councillor for Valencia East/Toco and formerly Chairman of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation. This year, he celebrated 27 years serving the people of the Eastern region.
Rondon said he accepted his award with grace and dedicated it to the communities from Matura to Matelot. He paid tribute to the “spiritual upbringing” he received. “That gift I got from the people of Matelot, that sharing and giving, and most of all, the respect for the elderly”. He was thankful for their years of support saying the Medal was not just “Terry Rondon”. He added, “without these people I would never be accepting the award today”.
He had this advice to persons serving as councillors in local government: “make your name a household one. How to do it? You attend people’s funerals, you go to their wakes, you go to their sports, you take part in activities in the village, you are invited to a wedding, you go, you walk with a cake…”
Rondon disagreed with the idea of going to meet people in rum shops saying alcohol consumption may lead to disrespect. “Hold yourself upright, respect…” He said after elections councillors must serve all. “Don’t look at symbols, we are God’s children. I am proud to be Catholic and to have that spiritual upbringing”.