Indian cricket star brings a message of hope to young people trying to rebuild their community in Port of Spain, Trinidad
By Stuart Sutton-Jones
GONZALES, PORT OF SPAIN, 15 March 2007 - They came from all over the community of Gonzales – schoolchildren, local residents, young cricketers and youth community groups – all drawn to a playing field to be present during the visit of one of the greatest batsmen of all time, Sachin Tendulkar. In this cricket-mad part of the world which is host to the Cricket World Cup, children grow up knowing the names of the great players, and everyone here knows the name Tendulkar. But as Trinidadians will tell you, many in Port of Spain also know the name Gonzales. It has a reputation as a place where children and young people are at risk from gangs, crime, drugs and HIV, a community of problems.
But in recent years the people of Gonzales have been changing things for themselves through the non-governmental organization (NGO), Pride in Gonzales that offers young people in the community the opportunity to direct their energies into the Arts, through training in video and other media. The result, say Gonzales residents, is that young people now know there are alternatives to a life of crime and drugs. And it was this changing community and its young people that Indian cricket star Sachin Tendulkar came to see and to celebrate.
Under banners proclaiming Unite for Children Unite Against AIDS, the event unfolded, hosted by young people from Gonzales. The coordinator of the Pride of Gonzales Arts program, Joyelle Cameron, led Sachin Tendulkar into the ground accompanied by the Director of UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team, Dr Karen Sealey, and UNICEF Special Envoy to the Caribbean, Karin Sham Poo.
At one point the star player left the arena to spend a private 20 minutes with four young people connected to Pride of Gonzales, among them Joyelle Cameron. Joyelle said she shared with Tendulkar her experience of growing up in a depressed community, with the gang wars and high crime rate. But she said she told Tendulkar that this had created a passion within her, a commitment to see that change must come to her community. “You see all these young people dying on the streets, shooting, HIV and Aids and so you feel that you must do something.”
Joyelle explained how together with her friends, Johanna Thomas aged 18, and Lisa Samai aged 17, they joined the Pride in Gonzales project in order to become part of the change happening in their community.
In his address to the assembled children and to the media, Sachin Tendulkar spoke of the need of the community to rebuild itself and that change can only come from within the community itself. He added that when a community works in the way that Gonzales is now beginning to work, any change is possible, including having an effect on the spread of HIV and AIDS.
For more information: www.uniteforchildren.org
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