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Knot-tying skills come in handy for Scout Youth Commissioner

By Lara Pickford-Gordon

Nikoli Mohammed, 18 years, was honoured by the Scouts Association of Trinidad and Tobago for his gallantry protecting his family from an intruder.

Mohammed spoke about the experience on December 15 when he was awarded the Joe D’Arcy Award (Red Ribbon), the Scouts highest award for gallantry granted for special heroism or extraordinary action involving risk of life.

It was a year ago during the Covid-lockdown and he and his siblings and father were at home. He recalled finishing a telephone conversation and walking from his bedroom to the living room. He noticed “something wasn’t right” from his 15-year-old brother’s facial expression.

His brother told him there was a stranger on the verandah. Mohammed recounted: “I questioned him again, what does that mean? He explained, ‘just some guy and my dad had apprehended him or something like that.’ I was confused but nonetheless still went to check out what was actually taking place. When I opened the door, I saw three silhouettes. I could not make out who was who.”

He noticed one person was toppled and on the ground. He instructed his brother to turn on the lights for him to see clearer. Mohammed saw his father, uncle, and a stranger.

“After that, it was shocking to an extent because this is our second storey house upstairs, where there is a guard dog, and I was still in a state of shock but nonetheless, I was paying attention to what was going on,” he said.

Mohammed was not fearful but then the stranger started to get agitated. “I said we will have to tie him up and wait until the police arrived…I went into my bedroom again and in my hiking bag from scouts I took out a piece of rope…I passed through my kitchen to pick up a knife to cut the rope to a size and hand it over to my brother and uncle to try and tie him up.”

The man got more agitated when he heard the police was contacted so attempts were made to tie him up. “He kind of fought them off and in that moment, I realised is either now I make a move or I just let him run inside where my sister is, so I just basically tackled him, lean him over the banister and wrapped my hand around him brought him down in a rear neck chokehold…from there my brother was able to have better leverage to tie him up.”

The man was secured to the banister. Mohammed said they asked him some questions trying to understand his motives. “We realise he really was not in his right mind…he was intoxicated in some way. My intention was not to hurt him, it was just to stop the immediate threat,” he stated.

Not long after the police arrived. The Mon Repos Police station is five minutes away. Mohammed ran downstairs and directed the officers to where the man was secured.

The family later found out that he was known to the police. “We just went about our night after that; the only concern is if he was infected with Covid,” Mohammed said.

In retrospect the young man is satisfied with his actions. “I felt as if I did not react as I did, something even worse could have happened. Once again, I wasn’t sure what his true intentions were at the time.”

Mohammed has been a Scout for over ten years and been part of various leadership roles. “I was able to gather the skills that came with it, leading a team, finding my way through life with all the different skills I gathered through the years. For example, in the instance when we had to tie him up, the knots that I learned from Scouting, my brother would have learned as well because he is also in Scouting.” Mohammed said the physical fitness of being a scout also helped.

Mohammed has been appointed Youth Commissioner and with it the responsibility to Chair the National Youth Council. He will lead a team of volunteers responsible for spearheading youth Scouting.

National Scout Commissioner Mark Ainsley John said, “it is about young people working together with older, adult volunteers to shape, influence and lead the decisions made at the National Management Level. They’re aged between 18 and 25 when they are appointed.”

Youth Commissioners support volunteers to incorporate young people’s ideas and decisions into local Scout Districts and Scout Groups in communities. “They play a key role in leadership and management of ScoutsTT,” John said.  The role was introduced in 2003 as Youth Representative to the National Executive but was formalised in 2015 in the post of National Youth Commissioner “ensuring the role was given a key decision-making portfolio”.